A review of

The Pink Institution

by Selah Saterstrom

Central question: How do decayed lands and a violent heritage affect four generations of Southern women?
Format: 135 pp., paperback; Size: 5” x 7-1/2”; Print run: 5,000; Price: $15.00; Publisher: Coffee House Press; Editor: Christopher Fischbach; Book designer: Linda Koutsky; Agent: none; Text typeface: Caslon; Cover design: Mike Devito; Type textface: Perpetua (with Madrone and Protégé); Novel is an ode to: William Faulkner (author is working on her ode to Hemingway); Cover art: Selah Saterstrom (The cover image is Selah’s own collage.) Representative sentence: “The nurse jammed me with a finger, Sweet Jesus, she wore a white latex glove.”

There is a land simultaneously outside and within the South’s most epochal places and symbols: Atlanta and its dull sprawl, Mobile’s tony white sands, Graceland’s rock-and-roll shrine, and New Orleans’s weekly excuses to party. What sometimes seems like a projection flickering on the southeast part of the nation has another side not so brochure-ready. Grubby, wild-eyed children play on tires. Yards are speckled with a rusted symphony’s worth of shapes.

Selah Saterstrom evokes this land and life in The Pink Institution, letting gusts of fresh, tart air blow into the old halls of Southern Gothic. Rustic and resourceful, The Pink Institution uses a different structure for each of its five sections. The first is fractured by excerpts from found texts; the second organized in object blocks; “Psalter: (Birth Interim),” the third and only section to be titled, is a small group of prose poems centered around a prayer; the fourth features prose passages occasionally mediated by semi-colons; while the fifth fittingly unravels into “Scene” and “Gesticulations.” This structural costume-changing is pursued with just the right combination of play, gravity, and restraint. Photographs of a little girl’s poofy-dressed back and two blurry figures by a house, unattributed quotes like “The day the war began is known as Ruination Day”—all compellingly test this rotted tableau of four generations of Mississippi women.

We hope you enjoy this excerpt.

To read the full piece, please visit our store to purchase a copy of the magazine.

—Margaret Wappler

Margaret Wappler lives in Los Angeles. Her favorite places in the South are New Orleans (but not during Mardi Gras) and Marion, Alabama, where she spent a good portion of her formative years.

News on Facebook Photos on Instagram Stuff on Pinterest Announcements by RSS Sounds on Soundcloud Exclusives on Tumblr Updates on Twitter

Subscribe to our mailing list