Particulate Matter, By Felicia Luna Lemus, 144 pgs.

The word count for Particulate Matter, Felicia Luna Lemus’s book of creative non-fiction, is approximately 2,500. The word count for the “author’s statement” that comes with the review copy, and that I opted not to read, is approximately eight hundred. So someone was expecting the book to leave at least a few readers hungry.

Lemus’s story, I gather, is that a wildfire endangered the Los Angeles home she shared with her spouse, and also endangered her spouse’s health (asthma?), so her spouse had to live near the beach until it was safe to return, assuming the house was still there by that time. (I live in L.A., and we tend to ignore class issues when a wildfire is raging, so let’s ignore them here, too. We all want to be homeowners.)

Assuming Lemus carefully chose her details and wrote the book she envisioned, Particulate Matter is about how one’s mind, while waiting for a wildfire to arrive, careens all over the place, just like it always does. All pages are short. Some pages have only one sentence:

Pg. 55: “Goddamned jackhammers.”

Pg. 56: “I should probably stop scowling at people so often.”

Pg. 57: “For years I’ve thought my sunglasses were opaque. They are not.”

The effect of these pages is to raise in the reader a readiness for more pages that are actually about the threatening wildfire, but that’s not the story Lemus wanted to tell—or, better phrased, not the impressionistic portrait she wanted to create—though there are moments where we understand the limbo-like otherworld of living wildfire-adjacently. Maybe I’ll read the author’s statement. –Jim Woster (Akashic Books,