Plante, Hazel Jane. “Little Blue Encyclopedia (for Vivian)”, Metonymy, 2019.
Hazel Jane Plante’s “Little Blue Encyclopedia (for Vivian)” is the story of a queer trans woman’s unrequited love for her straight trans friend who died. In effect, it is a queer love letter filled with desire, grief, and delight and interspersed with encyclopedia entries about a fictional TV show set on an isolated island. We see how pop culture can help soothe and mend us as the story explores overlooked sources of pleasure such as karaoke, birding, and butt toys. More than that, it shows with wonderful detail and “emotional nuance the straight trans woman (Vivian) the narrator loved, why she loved her, and the depths of what she has lost.”
This inventive novel is both very funny and sensitively moving. It has all of the oddities of “Twin Peaks” but without the menace. It is a look at grief but with a bit of humor and captures contemporary trans women’s communities fully. The narrator knows what it means to lose someone and writes about with skill.
We read of the relationship dynamics between a trans woman and a straight trans woman and it could have been so much sadder than it is. The story is tender and thoughtful as we get a picture of Vivian through a complex narrative that is unlike anything I have ever read before. Here is a world within a world within a world, a love letter within an encyclopedia and a journey toward healing. It’s not just a story about love, friendship, and loss– it’s about a relationship that is made so much more intimate because of a TV show that isn’t actually real.