There is a certain liminality that haunts the architecture of HR Hegnauer’s first full-length book, Sir. The word liminal comes from the latin limen meaning threshold—a point of entry, a door. And when I allow the book to unfurl itself in my mind’s eye, I see separate rooms—a room of life and a room of death, a room of male and a room of female. There are so many rooms. And then I see the walls between the rooms melting. As the walls melt the threshold expands. Soon enough, the entire architecture is apart of the threshold; I don’t know when I’ve left one room and entered another.
In this vein the narrator, Hannah, writes: “I cannot always remember what it is like to stand next to another human anymore. By this I mean, what is it like to stand next to every room in their body” (36). So, there are these rooms. There are the haunted rooms of the body. There are the haunted rooms after the death of Sir, where time becomes a dissolving threshold. There are also the hauntings of bodies and the hauntings of objects. These are the thresholds, melting.
There are strange role reversals that happen like a haunting…like a melting. Like when Sir observes a man “flip his stolen car and drag his face along the freeway guardrail” and calls out to the man, “Sir, sir can you hear me?!…Dude, help me out of here! He kept yelling at us.” (16). The liminality between the bodies of the two men, between their cries, between Sir’s past, present and future, all blur in disaster. And of course there is the dissolving threshold between Hannah’s memory and experience, as this incapacitated body in need of help echoes in different iterations throughout the book.
As Sir attempts to serve as an archive for both the living dead and the dead who live on, Hannah also seems suspect of this act—the corpus is also a corpse. Perhaps this is most clear when Hannah describes the experience of working as a book designer. When zooming in and looking at the letters closely she says, “They looked something like miniature living corpses on their deathbeds” (41).
Still, fascinatingly, Hannah decides that she doesn’t want to be reincarnated as a human; she wants to be reincarnated as the word and.
And never knows any limits to its body; and knows no limits because it’s incapable of ever even thinking about no. That’s just not possible. I have to write the human narrative, but can only theorize about and because that is not my reality. What a sham. And has it made, Sir; it gets to be everything; it’s better than god or the world or love or anything (these things are just too human). I can only describe it by saying, and. And in my next life, I want to be an and, not a human. I just want to live amongst the other ands.
And actually, and is perfect. And is a threshold. And has no walls and and knows no walls. It is only inclusive. And there is so much more to this book than thresholds and hauntings and and. HR’s writing is so subtly strange that one could almost miss the wonderful weirdness of her ideas by getting swept up in the compelling story of Sir, Mrs. Alice and Hannah. But then her writing will stop you. And suddenly you will pick the book back up and you will read it again. And you’ll think, I can’t wait to read more of her.