In Picnic Comma Lightning, Laurence Scott follows his first book, The Four-Dimensional Human, by exploring questions of reality in the face of both the 21st century era and his intimate experience of grief. The title derives from Vladimir Nabokov's Lolita, in which the protagonist Humbert Humbert attempts to encapsulate the death of his mother in a parenthetical aside: "(picnic, lightning)." Scott delves into the death of his own parents as the instigating event for the book and for his own existential questions: What is our experience of reality in this digital, contemporary moment? And how does the experience of sudden loss and illegible grief effect our experience and awareness of that reality?
To say anything about the book is to acknowledge how effortlessly Scott weaves together his sources and examples. Scott slips seamlessly from references to Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale, to Elizabeth Bowen, to Nietzsche, to viral tweets and political headlines. The diversity and nuance of these connections reveal the quiet brilliance of the book; Scott is not just an expert at the underrated art of noticing, but a master of recognizing larger patterns and gently revealing them to his reader. Never pedantic but endlessly insightful, Scott's noticing is always just a step ahead of the reader's associations, translating his own experiences and those of his readers at once. Whether discussing the larger implications of bedtime stories or reconsidering the thing-ness of the objects in our lives, Picnic Comma Lightning guides readers through its philosophical current with assurance, nuance and its fair share of wit. --Alice Martin, freelance writer and editor