Wednesday, January 17, 2007
CUTTY, ONE ROCK: LOW CHARACTERS AND STRANGE PLACES, GENTLY EXPLAINED by August Kleinzahler (2004)
In this creative non-fiction collection, the Griffin Poetry Prize winner (for THE STRANGE HOURS TRAVELERS KEEP) ruminates about the scope of his life: growing up in a New Jersey neighborhood where he was surrounded by gangsters and raised by his family dog; his love affair with public transit; his friendship with Beat-god Allan Ginsberg; his penchant for mid-afternoon boozing; his loathing of Garrison Keillor's homespun stories and penchant for reading bad poetry on air nationwide; and, his respect for his gay older brother who commits suicide--a complicated man whom he misses.
As one of the blurbs on the back of this memoir attests, "this is a beautiful book-- mournful, swaggering, bleak, hilarious-- full of piercing and often loving assessments of life and art." What moved me most was the title piece about Kleinzahler's doomed and big-hearted brother, which reminded me of my own brother who died young in 1994.
Eerily, I find myself in Kleinzahler's description of his own teenaged self and how he related to his only brother as I did mine: "I couldn't have made for very thrilling company. But he always acted glad to see me...'You'll be all right,' he'd say smiling. 'Let's go out and see if we can't find ourselves a drink.' I miss having someone like that in my life. I miss it like a limb."
Kleinzahler's prose is tough, unflinchingly honest and gut-wrenching.
A must read.