Wednesday, April 12, 2006


"He tried to remember when he had last walked in the open night at such an hour. He wasn't sure he even...God, years. Seven-about sixteen, when he still thought he was Shelley, watching the river. Leaning on the bridge rail and literally praying with gratitude for being alive."

Taking a fairly common place feeling, like one being thankful for being alive, Agee transforms this basic emotion into raw poetry. The image of Andrew thinking 'he was Shelley' is so unlike the Andrew we know from the rest of the novel that it is almost a hyper reality. A reality that flies by and that we all to often miss. Or a truth that remains hidden beneath, when what we say may be the right thing to say, but isn't the truth. When the only truth is in our thoughts. I can only liken Agee's mastery of the ordinary, death, or rather coping with death and the affects of death, to Proust in the way genius storytellers articulate feelings and express everyday life with more than just a turn of a phrase. They don't merely gloss over our sadness, they say what we can't. Whether it be a child not knowing how to feel about his father's death or a mother's grief, Agee doesn't dictate their emotions, he shows us their grief. It could be as simple as a child hating the strange man for sitting in their "father's" chair or the way an aunt cooks breakfast differently than a mother. The balance of family life has shifted and Agee broaches the "now what?" question. How do we go on? How can we go on? Agee may not have had the answer, but he knew that we do. We go on.

Though it's strange for a blogger (and amateur writer) to admit that they can't actually articulate the affect a book has on them, I just can't find the words. This novel was more intense than just calling it sad, but that's maybe all it was and for now that's what it is. Sad and beautiful.

Now reading:
Heidi Julavits The Effect of Living Backwards

On deck:
Steven Heighton The Shadow Boxer
David Huddle The Story of a Million Years

Listening to:
Jazz on 89.7 FM WGBH with Eric Jackson

3 comments:

piksea said...

I understand the inability to find the words to describe some works. This book was sad and haunting and so very real, to adequately describe it seems an awfully daunting task.

I think your review was wonderful!

M. Barresi said...

Thanks piksea. Trying to write about the book at 11pm last night, looking out the window at the still barren trees, my mind wandered and I couldn't wrap myself around the novel the way I wanted to. But maybe that was the point?

I'm reading Heidi Julavits's novel The Effect of Living Backwards now, but this pales in comparison to Agee. In fact, this book is confusing and seems a knock-off of Palahniuk. But more to come...

be_zen8 said...

Its an Icelandic crime writer who is gathering quite the fanbase. Its a murder mystery, but with quite a sparse, interesting and literary style. I am not a huge fan of murder mysteries, but I really enjoyed this one.