Inside the Castle, 2019. 454 pages.

Reviewed by J S Khan

As suggested by its title, Peripatet meanders about, considering as it does the life and work of not only its author, Grant Maierhofer, but the lives and works of multiple other artists and writers. A work of ambient nonfiction, the book does not make what lies inside its pages the reader’s focal point, but rather draws its primary affect from the contextual experience that informs the event of its inscription. Maierhofer’s eighth book-length work in the last decade (as far as I can count), Peripatet builds its central concerns around its author’s feelings of guilt and despondence—especially concerning his turbulent adolescence, father’s death, and fears of inadequacy as a father and husband—and ruminates with an obsessive recurrence on anxiety, depression, and the struggle to live and create in the face of death and (likely) failure.

While the author has explored similar subject matter in previous publications—mostly novels or works that act as experimental prose poems—here he approaches the same ideas in a full-length nonfiction setting. This choice of genre only makes the writing—bleak, erratic, and often compulsive in its repetitions—more arresting, strange yet relatable:

“Attention. Pay attention. Still. Focus your attention on the matters at hand, a youth looking out the window in his parents’ room long before any issues present themselves, any depressions. My parents divorced. So what. I’m depressed. So what. I’m angry. So what. Still. It never ends and it’s always moving. I remember rewinding video-tapes.”

The taut fragmentary phrasing, poetic leaps in thought, and repetitions of syntax and individual words all work to make Maierhofer’s anxieties leap off the book’s page into the reader’s mind. The word and sentence fragment “Still” becomes an ironic refrain throughout, especially considering the way Peripatet roves in unexpected ways only to circle back and gnaw the same old wounds.

True to the aesthetic of its publisher, Inside the Castle, Peripatet challenges its reader’s preconceptions of what literature is and what it can do. As an aesthetic object, the physical book is something to behold. It lacks page numbers, and the text changes layout and size. Its words sometimes line up in columns, shrink to an irritatingly tiny font, or enlarge to fall off the margins and spill across the pages’ divide. This arrangement is deliberate, however, seeing as each page marks a separate section or thought (often enough ending with the aforementioned “Still”). While Maierhofer himself wrote a majority of the text, quotations from other works appear throughout, primarily Herma