I'm glad I was patient with Mr. Purdy. I wasn't a big fan of the first book I read by him, and the stories in this collection started out painfully slI'm glad I was patient with Mr. Purdy. I wasn't a big fan of the first book I read by him, and the stories in this collection started out painfully slow. After the first four I nearly put the book down, to be done with Purdy altogether. The stories seemed light, simple, and relationship-based with little tension. But the fifth story, "Why They Can't Tell You Why," about a ruthless mother, picked up the game. Subsequent stories gained a lot in intensity, loneliness, and ruin; kitchen conversations gone to hell. Most every story after that played on the torture and despair between two or three individuals, often close family members, and how one, in the greater social setting, despised or sought to control the other.
Purdy's eye is keen: these are not stories that he simply creates from the imagination, but ones based, to some extent, on what he has lived and observed. There is a strong, general sense of Anderson and O'Connor in the stories: of a time when America has plenty of pickles, but not much on morals and meaning, unless they're the ones that are programmed or wish to dominate others.
The book ends with a bang via a 60 page novella that shares the collection's title. Nowhere more Flannery-esque than here, there are odd and suspect critters who we don't know what to make of, who don't know what to make of themselves. But there is general distrust, fever, and confusion, the results of finding society has no answer for death and chaos; gods that had us wishing and knowing are now dead. Not to mention the lead character, Fenton Riddleway, has just moved in from Ronceverte, West Virginia. Or that the names and the conversations and curious prodding of the characters have a little John Cowper Powys feel as well......more
I enjoyed a number of the lightly surrealistic poems by this little fellow, but 300 pages is a bit much on the squirrels and birds---pretty one-dimensI enjoyed a number of the lightly surrealistic poems by this little fellow, but 300 pages is a bit much on the squirrels and birds---pretty one-dimensional for thirty years of writing poetry. Nevertheless there is a joie de vivre here, and certainly some meat and quirkiness behind the light style of his writing. ...more
Is he choosing words from a poetry hat? Those vague and predictable blends that flips from the National Endowment of the Arts will perceive as most meIs he choosing words from a poetry hat? Those vague and predictable blends that flips from the National Endowment of the Arts will perceive as most meaningful and deep?
I'm not going to go picking out the worst poems. Instead, let's turn to a random page.
Here we have We Wanted to Find America (published in Boulevard.) It starts off like this:
We wanted to find America through the gasps of snow that fell like last century's angels---
Then there was snow on the plane's dead wing, over the hull that stretched like a seedpod killing the windshield, clogging the flaps, dying and dying in the pall of night.
...................poem continues and I can't even get this to save with the correct (and absurd/trivial) spacing that Prufer uses in it.........
Sad to say, this is far, far better than a number of other contemporary American poets I've read lately who are "building a name" for themselves. Far better. Prufer does not, at least, fall into the hipster poetry camp---the twin Dickmans for example (thank God there aren't triplets). He does engage with history, with empire, with meaning, with downfall. He shows some technical ability as well.
So two stars? Well, there are some good lines in the poem Apocalypse, the first poem in the book---even though it starts off rough as well....more