By Barbara Danza,
Artist and documentary filmmaker Masha Savitz recently released her debut book, “Fish Eyes for Pearls: A Magical Realism Memoir.” This “experimental memoir,” as the author has categorized it, is a journey that delves into understandings of aesthetics, memory, relationships, and predestination. Its unique structure redefines what literary nonfiction can be.
Savitz is perhaps best known for her eye-opening documentary “Red Reign: The Bloody Harvest of China’s Prisoners,” which exposes the systemic practice of forced organ harvesting perpetrated by the Chinese communist regime against adherents of the peaceful spiritual practice of Falun Gong. Her experience making the film is but one of numerous experiences recalled in “Fish Eyes for Pearls.”
After traversing this tapestry of wonderfully told stories, woven in such a way that is almost impossible to stop reading, one will understand the author, yes, but more so a sense of the often forgotten richness and mystery of life that exists for everyone if only we have the wisdom to see it.
From one episode to the next, Savitz guides the reader through time and space, dropping him or her in contrasting settings and circumstances, providing a visceral experience of scents, colors, and emotions.
The book is best summed up by the Buddhist proverb that Savitz quotes in her pages:
An invisible red thread connects those who are destined to meet regardless of time, place, or circumstance. The thread may stretch or tangle but will never break.
When asked about her inspiration for writing “Fish Eyes for Pearls,” Savitz explained: “I had finished the documentary “Red Reign” in 2013, did another screenplay, … and was trying to decide on my next project. …The project that seemed to have the most energy was an old file of prose writing that was a screenplay [but one] that I could not wrangle into the rigid structure of a screenplay. I would get so frustrated trying to stay in this particular form that I just started writing freestyle.”
“The book’s nontraditional style was born from a need to match form and content. This is a story of an artist who is always doing just that—so it is an unusual form. … But it is an authentic voice of an artist, and this is her (my) story.”
I sit here my fingers desperately trying to pin down the pieces of what feels like my exploded consciousness after having read what I can only describe as what pure art would be put to page. If you took the chaotic beauty of an actual piece of art, Masha Savitz in my opinion being the actual embodiment of living art, and forced it into words it would culminate in this book.
I do not know how to best give justice to how profound I found her work. I’m fragmented by it and perhaps by sharing with you the realizations that struck me as I read it in bullet point, might somehow be the best way I can share it:
I was struck with how her prose are art unto themselves. I found myself writing down quote after quote till my fingers cramped and all I could do was notate the page number, which became almost every page.
I feel like how she describes herself, is accurately describing how I have felt, how I continue to feel, but have never known how to vocalize. I feel such a kinship to her and her ideas like she is a master artist and I a lowly pupil.
The way she moved from story to story, from self actualization to continued self actualization in all the written forms she used, (from verse to screenplay) kept me hooked throughout her entire journey.
I am at a loss and yet feel like I have gained so much insight into my own life, my own perceptions of my reality and the ones constructed around me.
I am simply in awe of her work and do not what to do with myself now that I have glimpsed her mind through these pages. I am hoping that by somehow getting to know myself better through her words and her art, it will benefit my own.
Oddly I feel like seeing this work being described as a “magical realism memoir” on Amazon somehow manages to press its finger on the shifting pulse point which is a book whose identity is hard to pin down. It is so difficult to provide the words to best describe this record of her life and artistry. All I can truly offer you with this review dear readers is to point you in the direction of this novel and hope it changes your perspective on life, identity, self-expression and consciousness whether it be your own or of those around you, as it has mine.
I heart Fish Eyes for Pearls this much: