Matt's Reviews > Lord of Misrule

Lord of Misrule by Jaimy Gordon
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's review
Jan 15, 11

I feel like I almost know the writer too well to really respond impartially to this book; I had her as a teacher, once read almost all her works to prepare to interview her, etc. So, I'm at once really primed to like Jaimy's work, but also perversely in tune to how she sometimes repeats herself.

In this book, we get another version of the precocious female narrator, the same one we've seen in Bogeywoman, She Drove, and in one could argue, The Bend, The Lip, the Kid. It's a little awkward, too, given how closely this character Maggie physically aligns with the writer, though it's also true that the character of Maggie is unusual enough that it's not an entirely sentimental portrait, but it maybe too rosy to really hold our attention as the focal point of this novel.

There are other characters in this book, some of whom are rather sensitively portrayed-- Medicine Ed for one is really appealing, as is Two-Tie, two older characters who find themselves much closer to retirement than youth. But I think it's new territory for Jaimy, and I really like it.

Of course, it's not about character, or plot (which to me at least is a little too opaque here to be taken seriously). It's about the language-- Jaimy is known as a prose stylist, but unlike most people about whom that is said, I don't think that means every sentence Jaimy writes is especially elegant or balanced, just that every sentence is infected with a desire to move according to its own rhythm. There might, contra most prose stylists, be crude sentences here, but no boring ones.

The pleasure of Jaimy's prose is plumped by bringing in characters who speak in dialect, like Medicine Ed, which adds a richness and different flavor to the writing in those chapters he focalizes-- another way to look at it is that this adds an additional difficulty: this is a book of very dense writing.

I did really like it; I feel like the ending is a bit cursory, though maybe less so than usual. I do think the big final showdown is surprisingly composed for a work of literary fiction, esp. one that otherwise seems to casual about staging the action. But I'm less convinced that the thematic elements are really adequately worked out by that confrontation, or what follows.

Could I be any more vague? Probably. I mean, I'm not sure I really understand what brought Maggie to the track or why at the end she's left it. I don't really think that where Medicine Ed and the female trainer whose name I can't recall are left does justice to their particular storylines; I think the final treatment of Maggie's boyfriend is quite right, either, though he comes close to having a redemptive moment at the end. I feel a little like the design was lost, but knowing Jaimy, it's probably more accurate to say it was abandoned.
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Comments (showing 1-2 of 2) (2 new)

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Linda so why did you give it 4 stars???

Matt Linda wrote: "so why did you give it 4 stars???"

Mostly because I liked the writing, on a sentence level, and it has a very powerful charm to it. It's interesting, and its subject matter and setting were new to me, there's a lot of humor in it that is heartfelt and funny.

It's just that it doesn't do some things very well-- like, resolve the plots entirely, or the kind of things most novels do, even when they don't do the things in my middle paragraph.

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