On The Stairs by Dan Ivec
Meekling Press, 2014; 100 pp
Reviewed by Danielle Susi
Dan Ivec’s novella On The Stairs is driven not by plot but by its protagonist’s desire to escape. Throughout this nonlinear narrative, the reader finds Jürgen dreaming of the companionless serenity of the dark woods that surround his town. Ivec has proven his mastery of the unobtrusive cycle as we discover tension built on the binary of Jürgen moving up and down the stairs to run away from school bullies or his manic aunt. The stairs, offering a route of escape, also afford Jürgen a place for quiet reflection:
So he sat on the stairs with a book he’d stolen from Auntie’s library. It described the beaks and wings of the many birds found in different, vast forests. He wondered also of the colors in their eyes (44).
The novella, while void of any semblance of traditional plotline, is punctuated marvelously by acts of violence, creating a dichotomy between that struggle and Jürgen’s peaceful dreams of a solitary existence. Most often, he is being chased by his resentful aunt up and down the stairs—as in the opening lines of the book—or is beating in the face of a brute at a party.
When Jürgen is finally able to break away from the chaos of his home, he is discovered, continuing the rhythm of his mundane life lived only to transcend its banality.