Teachers Have 9 Lives: An Underground to Surface Exposure

Hannah Hope

Publisher: Outskirts Press Pages: 306 Price: (paperback) $25.95 ISBN: 9781977204417 Reviewed: January, 2019 Author Website: Visit »

Teachers Have 9 Lives: An Underground to Surface Exposure, by Hannah Hope, is a sort of slipstream/postmodernist novel lauding the value of teachers in a decaying world and written in a mixture of poetic and literary experimental styles.

The first two-thirds of Teachers Have 9 Lives takes place in an unknown time and space, through poetic dialogue between future beings regarding a moment in human history when society apparently took a wrong turn largely by devaluing education. Some of these characters (their identities and physical descriptions are left to the imagination) have titles such as “Teacher”; others have symbolic names like “Sensitivia” or “Honestine”; and some are labeled with unexplained acronyms. Together, they conduct a conversational postmortem of our societal demise. About a third of the way through the novel, they abruptly transport a subject named Jill Smith from the point in society under discussion into their conversation as a proxy for readers.

The book’s final stretch takes a more traditional form, following respected eighth grade substitute teacher Mr. Vall as he inspires students and grapples with school administration in the early 1990s (as recounted in passages structured around apparent journal entries with occasional author-as-narrator commentary).

Hope’s style is eclectic, with careful composition to leave meaningful negative spaces on the page, and language characterized by stream-of-consciousness, free-association wordplay. Frequently, she challenges readers to approach the text in unconventional ways, as when conversations/content take place in multiple discrete columns or spaces, lending an illusion of simultaneity.

Unfortunately, for all of the author’s imaginative experimentation and evident talent as a wordsmith, the content is simply too meandering and fractured, frequently devolving into a disgruntled rant with disparate ideas only loosely connected by conversations or plot. It feels like a work of tremendous personal passion by a talented author whose tendency toward abstraction creates too many obstacles to instill the same passion in her readers.

Overall, the unusual work is too disjointed and demanding to attract a wide readership.

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