book review

Book Review: Amygdala Blue

AMYGDALA BLUE by Paul Lomax is a deeply poetic and one of a kind hybrid memoir. Check out what Toni Woodruff of IBR has to say about this Atmosphere Press title.

Book Review: Amygdala Blue

Reviewed by Toni Woodruff

Deeply poetic and one of a kind

Amygdala Blue is Paul Lomax’s imagination gone wild. While categorized as creative nonfiction, it’s more of a hybrid work—one that doesn’t conform to genre requirements—including nonfiction, poetry, and fictional spins on his own real-life scenarios. 

There’s a distance between the true story and his truth in these fictional pieces, admitting obviously that it’s not the future, that his perspective isn’t that of a woman’s, but no matter what form the piece takes, it’s geared to make you think. 

How do I start talking about a book as varied and full as this? Put me in a book club to discuss Amygdala Blue, and I’m no doubt stuttering. Maybe as a whole, it’s Lomax’s questioning of sociopolitical constructs; maybe it’s the psychosocial realities of childhood through adulthood; maybe it’s God. Or maybe, we break it into three sections, like Lomax did, to help put a structure to the structureless—religion, racism, and relationships. With stories and poems making their way through each subject, with varying themes and specificity, you can expect something wildly different with each new word, sentence, and page. 

The first piece, “My Imaginary Friend,” is an excellent jumpstart to the collection, in which our young protagonist grows up in a religious house that is called by others in the neighborhood “so strange.” This piece introduces him to the prospect of other people misunderstanding him and his family, only for him to take us, after this piece, on a rollercoaster ride of creativity—a no holds barred exploration of what he knows as true and what the world knows as true.

“Why was there so much discussion about my household, when all around me, everyone else was just as guilty of testa-lying and speaking in forked tongues?”

The collection is made up of risky narratives and risky word choices. Some are speculative, some use forever long sentences, and some are written in dialect, while others are clear and direct in scene, even if a bit “strange.” I could spend time in stories like “Symphony of Clouds” and “Durn My Hide” all day long.

While the inventiveness makes this collection worthwhile as a whole, it can occasionally get in its own way. The hybrid structure of warped nonfiction doesn’t really make itself known for a while, so we are swimming in uncertainty when perspectives shift. In addition to the sometimes cloudy reading, we run into the occasional bloated metaphor and some potentially unnecessary sexualization. And some of these characters say some things that may supposed to be imperfect, but they don’t always feel that way. 

Amygdala Blue is unlike anything you’ll read this year. Dive into the wildness of truth in this inventive hybrid collection.

Publisher: Atmosphere Press

Genre: Nonfiction / Hybrid

Print Length: 120 pages

ISBN: 978-1639883318

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