Review by Cheyenne L. Black
Nicole Walker’s Egg, released in March as part of the “Object Lessons” series out of Bloomsbury, assembles a diverse company: reproduction and breakfast, Utah and Bosch, mess-making and light. Lightly whipped, light on a shell, light through the fog of desire. That's right, eggs are desire. And, “Desire isn’t easy,” she writes, “it’s a vacuum, a black hole—an empty egg in which someone has poked a hole and let the mucousy dreams drip out.” In Walker’s hands, eggs are a manifestation of whatever we’ve always wanted, the fertile space for possibility.
Walker describes not so much the egg itself, though she does that, too, and with great humor and charity, but at her most poignant the egg is a carrier for both whimsy and pain. The egg embodies and emulates; the egg is a metaphoric bombshell and the original causal factor—the means by which we can hold sine qua non in our hands.
“If one of the ways one tries to understand the world,” Walker writes, “is through the things of the world, then my messy frittata is my messy story.” She then reassures, “Eggs like their fragility.” And Walker, suddenly, is the egg. A certain probity exists in these disclosures. There is a vulnerability in Walker’s stories of her own life around which all of these eggy parts coalesce, but any fragility is either imagined or brief as she rolls on and reframes the egg again, calling on myth, on anecdote, and on symbolic verve to advance the theory that the egg enjoys a level of primacy which has been overlooked and taken for granted.
There are “recipes” for eggs in various forms but also a recipe for the planet, for turtle extinction, for funeral potatoes, and an apocalyptic novel. The egg is an environment. Walker evinces the world in an egg. Our world. Every world one can think of.
In these pages, there is a witness who invites the eggs of culture to the game. In fact, she promises, “I want to make this story more than my own. So I bug people for their egg stories. […] Egg strata by petition or coercion.” Walker is inclusive, drawing from multiple cultures, time frames, and perspectives. The egg is an origin story. Reddit is an egg. The egg is a mantra, “Don't stomp on the ground outside the oven. Let the soufflé rise,” Walker writes. And isn’t that a life’s motto?
Eggs expand in water but the world gets smaller every year. Eggs bear a lot of pressure. “The egg has several layers of defense from infiltration,” she says. And just like that, Walker reminds readers that it’s okay to be vulnerable, as she has been here. Because ultimately, she has protection, people (and eggs) can handle more than it may seem, and “a little salmonella won’t kill you.” Walker is vulnerable, it’s true, but more than that, she is careful in her connections, fearless in her composition, and confident in the poignancy of the egg and its metaphoric companions. Walker provides evidence that being cooked is good for character, that being vulnerable is valuable, and that the experiences through which we are made into soufflé, into omelets, into messy frittatas, are the best of our lives as she warns, “Beware the uncooked egg, but only in prodigious quantities.”
Egg is real, rounded, and robust. Egg is sweet and funny, loving, and honest. Walker is open and caring in this book in a way which is a genuine tribute to eggs and to the people who bear them, eat them, and love them. Walker makes you wonder why an egg could ever be, has ever been, controversial. In Egg there is a companionship with Walker as she invites the reader to see that dining and witnessing are the same language. That although we consume a meal, we also consume the world. In the language of connection and contrast, Walker invites attention to detail, and without saying so directly, offers the observation that we’re all a little scrambled.
Nicole Walker is the author of two forthcoming books Sustainability: A Love Story and Where the Tiny Things Are: Feathered Essays. Her previous books include Egg, Micrograms, Quench Your Thirst with Salt, and This Noisy Egg. She also edited Bending Genre with Margot Singer. Walker is nonfiction editor at Diagram and Associate Professor at Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff, Arizona where it rains like the Pacific Northwest, but only in July.
Cheyenne L. Black serves as the editor-in-chief for Hayden's Ferry Review at Arizona State University where she is an MFA candidate and Virginia G. Piper global fellow. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in the anthologies We Will be Shelter and In Sight: An Ekphrastic Collaboration, as well as the journals 45th Parallel, Bacopa Review, Wordgathering, the American Journal of Poetry, and New Mobility among others.