Elisabeth Sheffield is the author of two novels: Gone (FC2, 2003) and Fort Da: A Report (FC2, 2009) and the recipient of a 2012 National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship in Literature. She is also the author of a critical monograph on James Joyce (Fairleigh Dickinson Press, 1998), and various works of short fiction, which have appeared in literary journals including Pretext, 13th Moon, Denver Quarterly, Gulf Coast and past and present issues of Gargoyle. She has lived and taught on both coasts of the US, as well as inbetween, in Northern Cyprus, and in Germany, where she was a Fulbright lecturer in 1999-2000. She lives in Boulder with the writer Jeffrey DeShell, their two young sons, and a whippet.
While working at a sleep lab in northern Germany, Rosemarie Ramee, a 38-year-old American neurologist, falls in love with Aslan, an eleven-year-old Turkish Cypriot. To get closer to the boy, RR undertakes a “marriage of convenience” to the boy’s uncle. But when the uncle suddenly disappears, Ramee, alone with Aslan, must take the boy to his relatives in northern Cyprus. A train journey ensues, chronicled in RR’s psychological reports and neurological inquiries.
But what begins as an objective “report” breaks down as the story progresses: RR’s voice, hitherto suppressed and analytical, emerges hesitantly and then erupts, splintering every conception of inner and outer lives, solipsistic reality, and the irrevocable past. Consistently surprising and unrelenting, Fort Da turns one woman’s illicit affair into a riveting exploration of language and the mind.
Gone plays a hide and seek game between desire and loss in the hills of upstate New York. The narrative alternates between the first person, sometimes stream-of-consciousness voice of Stella Vanderzee, a California freeway flyer with an unfinished dissertation on Sylvia Plath, and letters written by Judith (Juju) Vanderzee, Stella’s aunt and the one-time lover of Stella’s mother. Stella receives these letters from an old family friend early on in the novel and then loses them before she has a chance to read them.
The plot centers on Stella’s search for an inheritance, a Homer painting supposedly left to her by her rich paternal grandfather, a legacy that never existed. What Stella sees/doesn’t see becomes intertwined with the alternative version of her artist mother presented in Juju’s “communications,” as well as questions about art, perception and possession. Gone is an attempt to give form to what has been lost—the pastoral past, the feminine body—even as that attempt is inevitably the undoing of what it retrieves.