F I C T I O N & M E M O I R
From RAIN TAXI REVIEW OF BOOKS
The sentences are disarmingly short, like the plain, unaffected sentences in Gertrude Stein's Ida.
THE MIDWEST BOOK REVIEW
[A]n excellent and very much recommended read that shouldn’t be overlooked.
"Roberta Allen writes like a latterday Boccaccio."
"Particularly fascinating are her visits to the isolated villages of the Shipibo peoples..."
"This is no casual travelogue, but a woman's startling visit to the Amazon...More than most, this details the impact of cultural differences."
THE DREAMING GIRL
Published by Coffee House Press
CERTAIN PEOPLE & Other Stories
THE TRAVELING WOMAN
Excerpt from Noted With Pleasure, The New York Times Book Review
"On board the freighter, the woman sits on deck, a book in her lap. "How can a trip reverse the damage already done," she wonders. The sea, as smooth as glass, looks as hard as ice. There is no land in sight: the horizon is so clearly defined, neither a ripple nor a cloud disturb the clean divide. The ship moves -- silent -- somewhere near the Canary Islands she is told; still two more days before they dock in Casablanca. Below in his cabin, her husband ponders maps. In the glaring light, the woman searches for a sign, an omen that will offer her a shred of hope, when suddenly a school of dolphins relieves the stillness. She clings to the image as the ship passes through a stretch of water swarming with millions of Portuguese man-of-war; her hope survives despite the creatures whose slimy bladder-like sacs float on the surface as far as the eye can see."
"Quicksilver dreams...Think of these stories as koans, or comments on the human condition to which the only response can be a deeper recognition of isolation."
--The New York Times Book Review
"Allen's gift is for showing how things go sour between people unexpectedly...A quick read full of lightning-like emotional illuminations. Her evocation of the feeling of foreign places and the erotic waywardness they inspire is exactly right"
--Gary Indiana, The Village Voice
"As the taxi drives toward the center from the airport, I feel lightheaded, intoxicated. The hot, sweet-smelling air in the darkness gives me the sensation of riding through a greenhouse with my eyes closed. A piece of rope holds the cab door in place. Moths spin round yellow lights on the road. The lights multiply on the outskirts of town. Dogs and barefoot children dart in and out of shadows. Hazy figures linger in doorways and move in slow motion behind swirling clouds of yellow dust. The children's laughter seems muffled. In the soft yellow glow, the town is ephemeral, dreamlike, faint as an old film reel."
"The quintessential women's travel book. There are moments in a good travel book when the reader experiences a shock of recognition much like the traveler does -- a cloud passes and something buried comes to light. That Allen understands these moments and pursues them makes the best parts of her book very, very good."
--Tracy Johnston, Express Books Monthly Book Supplement
"It's exhilerating to see a woman seize the boy form and make it her own. Roberta Allen does just that in Amazon Dream,a chronicle of her misadventures in the Peruvian jungle. This isn't an account of conquering or even comprehending the exotic Other, it's about insects, sweat, and Shipibo Indian culture, and what right a Manhattan artist has, if any, to approach it. Allen's uncertainties about her role aren't big-deal confessions, just honest responses to circumstance."
--Katherine Dieckman, Voice Literary Supplement
"Allen is a supple, poetic writer, able to capture a scene in a few spare words. But more interesting than her descriptions of exotic flora and fauna is her desire to reconcile her experience with her dreams."
--L.A. Reader's Monthly Book Supplement
"This book is an interesting and well written account of a region in flux. Recommended."
"In the morning when they awaken, they will pass each other without a word. Or if they talk, hello and all that, they will suddenly feel strange, as though they have been stolen or else they will feel themselves thieves without knowing what it is they have taken.
"When the girl awakens she doesn’t remember anything. It is as though she is alive for the very first time. There is the sea smell of the air, the cries of the birds, the blue sky."
THE BROOKLYN RAIL
Allen captures with magnificent nuance the emotions and moments that go with the territory of relating... Read entire review>>
THE VILLAGE VOICE: “Roberta Allen's Surreal Romance’ by Ken Foster
Roberta Allen's THE DREAMING GIRL is an example of everything that shouldn't work, and yet it does. Read entire review>>
REVIEW OF CONTEMPORARY FICTION: by D. Quentin Miller
The hypnotic prose of The Dreaming Girl is effortless to read, especially once the reader gets used to the ways the author flouts convention.... Read entire review>>
The dreamlike quality of the novel’s structure and its timelessness informs the characters and the vibrant imagery. Read entire review>>
From THE BLOOMSBURY REVIEW
"The writing is extraordinary. The short journey is filled with poignant and disturbing views of the human scene, with a sometimes sobering look at our own fantasies."
From “Jungle Dreams,” THE AMERICAN BOOK REVIEW
“A choral work where there are endless variations on the same theme, each beautifully developed."
From VOICE CHOICES, VILLAGE VOICE: Michael Miller
"Roberta Allen's THE DREAMING GIRL takes the disorientation of travel to splendid extremes. Allen's spare, lulling prose evokes tangible loneliness and compelling oddness--the kind that sneaks up on you."
EXCERPT from "House Hunting:"
"There are so many houses to see. There are so many houses he never will buy. If he could release himself, he could move. He wouldn't be stuck. He could buy a house. He could take flight. He could leave the lover who left him. He could avoid his own blows. But his own fist flies in his face, and he is powerless to duck the punch. The woman would like to push him out of his own way, but she is smart enough to know better. She knows he will take away his words if she makes one false move."
"Ms. Allen depicts exotic climes with an unerring eye -- whether the rough Australian outback, the languorous tropics or the New York art world. Her stories intimately convey the spiritual malaise of people at odds with an alien environment or with their own deeply shrouded impulses."
--The New York Times Book Review
"This is a sly, edgy, shrewd book."
"Allen is a leading practitioner of the blooming genre labeled sudden fiction and micro fiction. She is also a visual artist of some renown, as one might guess from her painterly style, which delivers a slashing detail here, a dab of color there, and an economy of line that is frequently wondrous."
From a review by Stacy D'Erasmo with an excerpt from The Daughter,
Voice Literary Supplement
"In Roberta Allen's novella The Daughter, Daddy is a shadowy figure, perhaps a gangster, and the daughter is a divided traveler, lost in jungles, memories, dreams...each chapter, none more than four pages, tells a fragmentary story, a psychic skit hinting at far larger dramas...But even as the daughter dips in and out of past and present, she is subject to a countervailing desire to fly past all the nets of place and identity, of family, gender, even language itself. Secretly, this female figure appears to long to be not a book but a landscape: various, indeterminate, unending. This perverse and magical wish, like a very important guest star, is thrilling whenever it is glimpsed. In one of the most elated passages, a woman traveling through Peru imagines herself metamorphosing into a mountain:"
"Dust would fill her mouth, and satisfy her hunger...She would turn brown and gray and grayish green...Eucalyptus would take root on her darkned body, dry scrub and an occasional orchid would grow. Her hair like slender swaying branches would break in the wind. Hummingbirds would nest in her hair. Butterfly wings would graze her eyelids."
"Roberta Allen transmits the pain and compensating strangeness of living in vignettes as urgent and enigmatic as telegrams. This is a stunning memoir."
"Snapshots of the ineffable. In disquieting landscapes often distorted by the gaze of the other, Roberta Allen manages to tell with the language of subtlety the most poignant of stories."
A novel published in a new edition by Ellipsis Press with an introduction by Luisa Valenzuela
A travel memoir published by City Lights
Short short stories published by Vehicle Editions
A novella-in-short short stories published by Autonomedia
"Existing somewhere between narrative fiction and prose poetry, Allen's writings could be said to stretch the boundaries of both or bridge the narrowing gap between them."
--American Book Review