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Driving with Dvorak: Essays on Memory and Identity (American Lives) Hardcover – March 1, 2010
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"In 1958, maybe still, the smartest thing a church could do with thirteen year-olds was to herd them together, give them a clear regimen , and steer their sexual restlessness, at least temporarily, toward Jesus."
Maybe this was one of those points where I could relate, having been "steered" at about the same age by perhaps well-meaning nuns into a year at a Catholic seminary boarding school, an experience that made me quite miserable until I escaped.
In another essay, "Showgirls," Brown describes a soujourn in Las Vegas where she's been invited to lecture to the International Society of Poets, that infamous organization that solicits poems from unsuspecting aspiring poets and then scams them into buying the the huge volume in which their offering has been published, along with hundreds of other awful poems, for 40 or 50 bucks a whack. I remember a friend of my daughter's in high school who had been taken in by this and carried around this heavy book for weeks to show people her "published poem.Read more ›
As her poems often do, Brown's essays descend into the weirdness right when we least expect it. In "Where You Are," a piece about trying for the nth time to fathom her unreachable father, Brown cleans out his basement:
"How to calculate where limbo ends and utter damnation begins? On top, the layer as tall as I am, are limp and bent cardboard boxes stuffed with filthy rags, chenille bedspreads, unused paper cups and plates; an old mixer; a meat grinder; empty glass bottles; glass bottles filled with what used to be plum preserves; two rotten canvas tents. . .the upper reaches, disturbed, shift and collapse."
Further down, Brown continues--
"I will never get this right. He'll slip away again. I'll be as exact as his example taught me to be: I'll list the objects, touch their hard edges with the edges of my words. They'll nudge each other, winking at what's unsaid between them. They know this is about me, still trying to find a parent, some point of origin under the rubble."
The ease and subtlety with which Brown here takes a pile of junk and reshuffles it into commentary--about writing as a last-ditch effort to make sense of this baffling relationship--are both typical and astonishing.
This thorny relationship with her father is a recurrent theme throughout Driving with Dvorák.Read more ›