|Genre||Collection (Short Stories) (191 pp.)|
|Keywords||Adolescence, AIDS, Body Self-Image, Children, Communication, Cross-Cultural Issues, Drug Addiction, Family Relationships, Father-Son Relationship, Human Worth, Individuality, Lesbian/Gay/Bisexual/Transgender Issues, Loneliness, Love, Memory, Men's Health, Mother-Son Relationship, Mourning, Narrative as Method, Sexuality, Suffering, Time|
This partly autobiographical collection of linked stories could, as the author notes at his web site, be considered a novel as much as a collection. There is a single first-person (unnamed) narrator throughout, a circumscribed cast of characters, a timeline of almost 30 years, and "individual stories [that speak] to each other and [gather] force as they go forward" (see interview at the author's web site). At the center of these reflections and of the narrator's life is his enigmatic, beautiful mother, "Our Mother of the Sighs and Heartaches . . . Our Mother of the Mixed Messages," "Our Mother whom I adored and whom, in adoring, I ran from, knowing it 'wrong' for a son to wish to be like his mother" (17). The book also delves significantly into the relationship between the narrator and his older brother, and to a lesser extent concerns the narrator's relationship with his father, who dies when the narrator is 11 years old. Interwoven throughout is the narrator's growing awareness and suppression of his own homosexuality.
|Commentary|| This is a beautiful and complex work by an author who is also a prize-winning poet. While the stories stand alone as worthy literature, the impact of reading the entire collection in sequence is perhaps more compelling and really like reading a fragmented contemporary novel. The book speaks poetically and powerfully to issues of identity and loss. There is more than plot and narrative: the narrator looks back on what he is narrating--questioning and reassessing what and how he is remembering. |
There are strains of Ethan Canin's short story, Batorsag and Szerelem (see this database) in the relationship of the brothers; a comparison with John Edgar Wideman's memoir, Brothers and Keepers, and John Vernon's memoir, A Book of Reasons (annotated in this database) could also be useful.
|Place Published||New York|
|Annotated by||Aull, Felice|
|Date of Entry||05/09/07|