This is a magical text, born of love and delighted meditation. More musing than memoir, it follows, diary-style, a rainy late-fall on the coast and MaThis is a magical text, born of love and delighted meditation. More musing than memoir, it follows, diary-style, a rainy late-fall on the coast and Matt Love's ruminations on that most Oregonian of weather patterns. If it feels a little repetitive at times, well, that's what mantras do. A lovely little book....more
Grant Faulkner is a conjurer. He waves his hands over a page, a few dozen words fall, and from them whole lives echo, small and tinny but going on forGrant Faulkner is a conjurer. He waves his hands over a page, a few dozen words fall, and from them whole lives echo, small and tinny but going on for hours.
You ask most folks in the know what distinguishes a prose poem from flash fiction -- especially microfiction like these tiny 100-word stories -- and they'll tell you, not much. And truth be told, some of these pieces in Fissures do feel a bit more like poetry, or old-fashioned sketches, or vignettes, or disembodied scenes. But that doesn't deprive any of them of their immense power, and even in such impressionistic brevity, most of these stories are true stories, whole narratives tossed on the page with the minimum strokes of a pen, like some Japanese painting.
It helps that so many of the stories are connected -- I look forward to rereading this whole book and piecing together the longer narrative of Gerard and Celeste, or of Zabeth. And of course there is the central eight-story cycle of Alexander, the filmmaker.
But really, there is equal magic in the isolated, momentary lives of Stockton and Sophie postcoital on a Victorian couch, of Tom and his father in the silver LTD, of Margery and George drinking martinis in jelly jars, of all the nameless "I" narrators and "you" subjects and hes and shes of these intimate little worlds.
It's quite a feat, this book, and it serves not only as a beautiful artifact of the microfiction form but also as a kind of textbook. If ever you wanted to know how to write a full story in a mere 100 words, here are your instructions: take up Grant Faulkner, read, and read again....more
Repairable Men starts out simply enough, a terse story of brotherly conflict and maturity and domestic discord and the things men inherit from their fRepairable Men starts out simply enough, a terse story of brotherly conflict and maturity and domestic discord and the things men inherit from their fathers. But in the last paragraph the whole world shifts, signaling what the book truly is: a resonant mythology of masculinity.
You wouldn't think we needed more stories like this. Surely we have had plenty of men telling stories about men -- about our efforts at heroism and our pathetic defeats, about how hard men have it even though we live in a world of men.
But, it turns out, we do need John Carr Walker's stories. Because as hard and sometimes violent as these stories can be, Walker treats the characters with a gentle sympathy and humanity. The book has its share of abusive fathers and bumbling fuck-ups, but it also has fathers who are simultaneously sad in their clinging to old dreams but beautiful and heroic in their love for their sons. It has lost brothers returning to themselves and bringing order to the world. It has tenderness and confusion, and when it reveals that there aren't any answers in the world -- in spite of the title, very few of these characters are repairable -- it offers you the comfort of knowing that you aren't alone in that revelation.
My favorite stories in this book are the ones about fathers and sons. Some of them, like "The Atlas Show" or "Candelario" or "The Rules," are overt, the father-son relationship central to the story. Others, like "Ain't It Pretty" or "Brother Rhino," are more oblique, glancing at the father or the son from the edges of some other story, but that relationship still defines -- almost always in negative space -- the world the characters inhabit. There's something about the way Walker writes these stories that speaks to me, as though the author and I share some secret.
In the same way that nostalgia is both sickening and addictive, or that bittersweet combines opposites, Walker creates a terrific combination of unease and comfort in these stories, the two emotions always slipping past each other like two magnets of the same polarity, but doing so with that same invisible pressure. I always like to hold two opposing magnets together, to feel them push against each other with a force I can feel but can't see or fully understand -- and I like to press them together as hard as I can until they meet. That's the sort of thing Walker accomplishes in all these stories but especially in the father-son stories: that invisible pressure, and the weird delight in pushing past the pressure.
Repairable Men is a powerful little book, and I eagerly await John Carr Walker's next book....more
This is a taut, hard book. Slim as it is, it took me quite a while to finish it because I kept making the mistake of reading it at bedtime and could oThis is a taut, hard book. Slim as it is, it took me quite a while to finish it because I kept making the mistake of reading it at bedtime and could only manage a chapter a night. It weighs on the soul. It sits in your stomach. These are compliments, because what Towell is dealing with in this book -- the trauma of past child molestation and the fear of it happening again -- is gut-churning stuff and it should keep you up at night, and she handles it with such glaring honesty and realism that you find yourself almost too involved with the characters, their trauma. Towell makes you feel this book.
Despite all that, I do wish it were a bit more book here -- the characters are so compelling that I wasn't quite done with them when I'd finished the book. Which is good news, really, because this novella is actually intended as a prequel -- a preview, really, a trailer in the form of prose -- for her forthcoming series, Scars. To be honest, I'm not sure I have it in me to crawl back into the queasy horror of this world for a whole novel, let alone a series, but I also don't know if I can honestly avoid it. Her story is that compelling, and certainly that important....more