if you really want to write the great american poem, you have to realize that Redbox killed Blockbuster, not Netflix

Just a quickie to say thanks for some new LLF reviews: In the Emprise Review, Nathan Huffstutter has an insightful, evenhanded, and well-written look at the book. He also seems fairly familiar with the territory of the stories, as he says of I-5: "In this corridor, Red Bluff to Yreka to Talent, the weeds and speed give way to off-ramp drags of greasy spoons and grizzled beards, canned greens and un-ironic curios, potholes and slush." I can't even feel annoyed at his criticism of a few stories because he understands them so well and so eloquently. Kudos, Huffstutter! Which I've italicized because it sounds the title of a TV pilot Saul Bellow might've written in the bathtub during a fever, but here is Nathan Huffstutter saying eloquent things:
Make no mistake, this isn’t participation-ribbon or up-by-your-bootstraps trying; in these dozen stories, Young exposes character after character who are trying to trust. Trusting themselves, trusting adulthood, trusting the internet, trusting the people they just might love, all while suspecting the very suckiest, that with both sides predisposed to fuck things up, maybe the best they can do is try. These are the same twitching, fragile moments Jim Shepard engulfs in avalanche and flood and Young dares them au natural, in high school gyms and tribal casinos and Pollard Flats. And if you’ve never stopped for the restroom in Pollard Flats, let me be the first to tell you, that mannequin in the tub will haunt you way longer than any old rockslide.
Also in the eloquence department, Kimberly Ann Southwick has a review of LLF in the new Gigantic Sequins, wherein she says "Young's characters are hunter-gatherers of the fiction world, trading any normal identification of themselves or their possessions for something both more interesting to us and more useful to them." Sweet. Also she says some of the people in the book have green hearts, which is a smart thing to say. The whole issue of GS is full of poems, stories, and illustrations of naked ladies with dinosaur heads. Some of my favorite lines from the issue include Leigh Phillips's "You stole my song / by dying into it," James Caroline's "We were 14 when I tried to give him my winter coat," Adam Atkinson's "Months pass. Mongolians pass," and Michelle Cheever's "We ate our pancakes on opposite sides of the room."

In tennis news, Tsonga the butterfly defeated Federer the napper. A major upset in this riding lawnmower of a summer.


Nathan Huffstutter said...

Just back from a Fourth of July trip to Roseburg. Nothing in the world like summer in Oregon, though that’s probably true about a lot of places. Driving up I-5 from San Diego, a quick overnight in Sacto, plus a midday stop in Mt. Shasta City so my girls could get some air (by which I mean two little daughters, not a creepy euphemism). On the Fourth, jogging a bike trail along the Umpqua, I popped out from a canopy of low branches and blackberries and an old guy was out on a riding mower, cutting a random, overgrown patch on the riverbank. At that point I was backtracking a stretch I’d just run, no houses, no tool-sheds, no connecting side-paths for a half-mile in either direction, and the mower hadn’t been there when I’d passed coming the opposite way. Part of me wanted to appreciate the image, folding grass, rushing river, old-timer out on his mower, part of me wanted to know how the hell he suddenly appeared out there with a huge piece of heavy equipment.

It’s a cool world. Kudos, Young.


Nate (or so my friends call me)

Mike Young said...

Hey Nate, sounds like a terrific trip. I agree about Oregon in summer. Did you have any marionberry pie while you were there?

Your lawnmower guy reminds me of DeLillo's Paris Review interview (http://www.theparisreview.org/interviews/1887/the-art-of-fiction-no-135-don-delillo):

"Interviewer: What got you started on Americana?

DeLillo: I don’t always know when or where an idea first hits the nervous system, but I remember Americana. I was sailing in Maine with two friends, and we put into a small harbor on Mt. Desert Island. And I was sitting on a railroad tie waiting to take a shower, and I had a glimpse of a street maybe fifty yards away and a sense of beautiful old houses and rows of elms and maples and a stillness and wistfulness—the street seemed to carry its own built-in longing. And I felt something, a pause, something opening up before me. It would be a month or two before I started writing the book and two or three years before I came up with the title Americana, but in fact it was all implicit in that moment—a moment in which nothing happened, nothing ostensibly changed, a moment in which I didn’t see anything I hadn’t seen before. But there was a pause in time, and I knew I had to write about a man who comes to a street like this or lives on a street like this. And whatever roads the novel eventually followed, I believe I maintained the idea of that quiet street if only as counterpoint, as lost innocence."

It's not that weird, latitude-wise, that Vermont & Maine remind me so much of the Pac NW, but it's still a little eerie. One time way north in Maine I saw a tiny place in a strip mall that offered instruction in Brazilian jujitsu.

Nathan Huffstutter said...

The pie was actually strawberry-rhubarb, and yes, it was delicious. Funny you should mention it, too – at our community pool this morning, launching an exuberant cannonball, my two year-old hollered “I WANT MY STRAWBERRY-RHUBARB PIE!” Quality compliment for a remembered dessert, though as a non sequitur it earned her a few sideways looks.

Love Oregon. I grew up in Eugene and every year, my one or two visits north are trips I still refer to as going home. Years of road trips and I keep hoping someday someone’ll take over the vacant Shamrock Diner off Easy Street – I’m seriously dying to pull over there.

Thanks for posting the DeLillo link – I belong to the camp that thinks the Paris Review interviews are an amazing and generous resource, though there’s so much there I’m still dipping my toes here and there and I hadn’t yet made it to DeLillo. Cool quote, I dig those moments where nothing happens, nothing ostensibly changes, only it does ‘cause it does.

Wherever there’s pay-per-view access to the UFC, Brazilian Jujitsu will follow.