Friday, August 02, 2013

On reading your text

The normality of our son’s life for this instance—
training graduation potlucks, on lunch break, going on a date—
brought a flood of relief and tears.

Yet the relief turns on a dime,
indistinguishable suffering in advance
for the next disappointment.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

The truly realistic fiction of Judy Blume

BlubberBlubber by Judy Blume
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Every time I read Blume, I wonder if on some level most/many writers since her have chickened out. So many times I was pleasantly surprised by the very real world of Jill, a 5th grader I think, who, following the lead of the head bully, bullies a girl named Linda. The realism is stark: calling a teacher a bitch, adults having a couple of bloody mary's, Jill's friend squatting to pee saying, "Ah, it feels good" AND, of course, the cruel depictions of bullying.

It was a painful read; yet a story we must be more honest about. I wasn't a 100% sold on the ending. I get it that Blume didn't want to tidy everything up: have Jill become friends with Linda or have everyone embrace in a communal hug. But...I was left somewhat emotionally flat. Maybe that's my issue as so much fiction gives a forced emotional ending.

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Saturday, January 12, 2013

Another Bullshit Night in Suck CityAnother Bullshit Night in Suck City by Nick Flynn
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

A book about a father, about Flynn's relationship with his father, even though his father is rarely present in the story, certainly never fully present. Flynn is experimental, edgy, philosophical, but still maintains a narrative arc, a comprehensible story. I like this balance. The title itself announces his edginess, his unwillingness to simply write the story down Oprah style (and there is a big payout when the reader learns the origins of the title). The chapter called "Same again" is not narrative yet is central to the narrative. It is a poetyic list of drinking terms which goes on for four page "The usual I say. Blood of Christ I say. Essence. Spirit. Medicine. A hint. A taste. A bump. A snort..." The list reads both as a meditation and confession of the devastating impact of hard drinking on his father and on the author himself.

And: I'm predestined to engage and enjoy the strained father-son relationship story, most certainly because I have as yet to figure out my relationship with my own father. He both abhors and loves is homeless, crazy father. Can't stay far enough away but can't stay completely away and is haunted by him at every turn, especially when Nick starts to work in a homeless shelter. At one point his father tells him, "You are me." Paradoxically, he can neither fully find nor completely escape his father; maybe he can't fully escape him *because* he can't actually find him. And with supreme irony NICK Flynn writes an actual book about his father to fulfill? supplant? compete? render? the mystical, non-existent book his father, Jonathon, has "written" and talked about his entire life.

A favorite quotes comes in the the "aftermath," certainly non-standard Q and A at the end, where he answers the question "Was writing the book cathartic for you?":

"Whatever happens clings to us like barnacles on the hull of a ship, slowing us slightly, both uglifying and giving us texture."

I'm with him here: this is ALL that's left when we burrow deeply into the mess we call life.

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