There’s a magic to Isaac Fellman’s fiction, born of his depth of perception, precise prose and straightforward sense of expression. In his second novel, Dead Collections, his characters’ earnestness and warmth make even the darkest moments beautiful, in a way that will remind the reader of the work of Anne Rice and Stephen Graham Jones. Fellman tells the tale of two souls searching the depths of their experiences for something—and seemingly finding it in each other.
Sol is a trans archivist who manages his vampirism by living among the collections in the basement of his workplace. His carefully cultivated isolation begins to shift when he meets Elsie, an alluring widow who brings in her late wife’s papers for archiving. As Sol digs into the writer’s work, he also begins to discover Elsie’s curious spirit. Elsie reciprocates, and as their spark kindles into something more, Sol must contend not just with the possibility of venturing out into the world but also with a newfound blight that seems to be seeping into his professional life.
Through a combination of Sol’s incisive narration, message board entries, script books and other formalist flights of experimentation, Fellman lays out Sol’s and Elsie’s parallel journeys with propulsive, intense focus. The prose unfolds with notable determination, and there’s not a single wasted word, even when Fellman plays with format and frame of reference.
Whether he’s conjuring the image of Sol soaking his hands in warm water to give the illusion of body heat or the way Elsie uses light to mimic the experience of daylight for her vampire friend, Fellman’s style is vivid, specific and deeply evocative. On a sentence level, Dead Collections is a sensual, tactile work, and when combined with Fellman’s confident grasp of his characters, it becomes a wonderful, bittersweet journey in which you may get happily lost.