- Paperback: 316 pages
- Publisher: Black Scat Books (September 7, 2016)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0997777117
- ISBN-13: 978-0997777116
- Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.8 x 9 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars See all reviews (19 customer reviews)
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #888,100 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Here Lies Memory: A Pittsburgh Novel Paperback – September 7, 2016
This month's Book With Buzz: "The Silent Corner" by Dean Koontz
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How does memory write us? What fictions haunt our bodies and lives, and what truths do we construct to carry the weight of our selves? Doug Rice designs a brutally beautiful helix from dual narratives woven by and through love and loss. Between blindness and insight there live characters who, like all of us, story a way to go on in the face of buildings decaying, cities disappearing, hearts and bodies slipping toward ghost. Mother, sister, wife, grandfather, grandson, girl, boy...all identities move through desire, love, memory, and language in a place called Pittsburgh. Reading this book made my skin sing, my heart wail, a secular hymn of the body. --Lidia Yuknavitch, author of The Small Backs of Children
Covering all of the bases in this novel bent on conveying a deep love for the city and people of Pittsburgh, Doug Rice ultimately makes our lives feel more dignified, loved, no matter if our local language and essence of being have become displaced. I've got no words for what Rice accomplishes. Just that, he beautifully brings to light everything in The 'Burgh --and in places of the heart--that was done in the dark. ... In this book of urban dreamers, Doug Rice cooks up a proverbial storm, uprooting all kinds of emotions, including the terrible silence that goes with the territory. ... Here Lies Memory drudges up everything and their momma, making night terrors and the anti/reflective "mirrortalk" of frustrated cooped up characters richly front and center. I can't even think of Pittsburgh property now -- or any dialogue about it -- without this tell-it-like-it-is novel continuing to do major damage to not only my black-ish view of gentrification but also my psyche! ... Exploring the Pittsburgh cycle--the drama of perpetually dreaming of love and desperately searching for its essence that would make even Pulitzer Prize winning author August Wilson jealous, Rice holds nothing back, going all the way to the fences with this novel. -- Ricardo Cortez Cruz, author of Straight Outta Compton
In Here Lies Memory, Doug Rice loves his characters wondrously, keenly, completely, and the result is at once stunningly beautiful, brilliant, fierce, crazily imaginative, and acutely wise about how the ghosts that our memories and words invent are often the last things to leave us, no matter what, how some stay so deep in our skin they become as real as its color--especially that can damage and mend us the most. -- Lance Olsen, author of Theories of Forgetting
Mr. Rice has accomplished something incredibly difficult and done so with superlative skill. He has made the surreal feel real, he has blurred the lines between the macrocosm and the microcosm, and he has somehow managed to contribute to the conversation of trauma and abuse in a manner that is not only unprecedented, but feels entirely necessary. Here Lies Memory is a fantastic work that will require multiple reads to fully process...--John Venegas, Angel City Review
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Top Customer Reviews
In short, this novel is about memory. At least, at first. It explores the very meaning of memory. What is memory and how does it function as a mental process, sure, but as part of identity. It’s not just one person’s identity, it affects everyone, in a way. Memory as a story that we tell ourselves (of age, of gender, of sexuality, of victimhood, of love, of family, of time) but also that we tell others. People understand their world in the context of their experiences, but their experiences include our experiences, the ones that we tell them, in our stories, that are our memories.
It’s so hard to explain, and trying to makes me feel like I’m butchering it, but Doug Rice really puts it together in this weird, insane, gorgeous, sensuous story. It’s like, I don’t even know if it is a story because the characters, so rich and deeply philosophical, are, in a way only memories now. Like, I read them, and they were never real, except, maybe they were because I have memories of them now. And the author must have known someone, or himself, well enough to make these people and their memories. They aren’t from nowhere. They aren’t beyond human experience. So they are real, but not, because they are words on a page. Not real. But now I know them. … It’s really amazing what happens in this book, and I really can’t explain it very well.
I do have a few beefs with the book, which is why I’m not giving it 5 stars. I am probably being petulant or something, but there are two things that I think cost this novel a star. The first is that the author refers to “skin” so often that it becomes a character, or a setting, or something, both, maybe (like Pittsburgh does, like weather does, yet don’t frustrate me), but I can’t figure out what it means any more. What that word means in this book. It’s bigger than what it means. I accept it might be that I am too dim to see it (that is very likely, frankly), but the word is used so often in a book that examines and challenges the essential nature of words, that, I felt like the very term begged its own question. Or something. I really wish somehow I understood that better (which is why I’m going to read it again next summer). And while I do admit I might just be missing it, brilliant writing like this ought to assume dim readers and, at least once, flesh out something as essential as skin in this story. Pun intended. Draw a map for the stupid, or something.
Normally, I would never penalize an author or a book for something that is probably me missing something, but that brings me to the second complaint. And I am definitely being petulant about this, but the fact that this book doesn’t have an e-book version (at least it didn’t when I heard it was out and bought it), it just ludicrous. I’m sorry, but this is 2016. How do you not have an ebook version? I realize this is on his publisher and not the author, but come on. The only reason this book took me twenty days to read was because I couldn’t read it when I wanted to. I read on my phone (nice big phablet Note 4 phone), in every spare moment I get. But since there was no ebook, I had to buy the physical book. Don’t get me wrong, I love physical books, but I am also spoiled and like to read WHENEVER I WANT. And I can’t tote a paperback around with me in my insane life, so I was relegated to reading when I was actually home and had time to sit down and read a physical. FFS, put out an e-book, Black Scat Books. Seriously.
That said, this book is deep, and amazing. So many beautiful lines. Read it just because you like to see what happens when an artist composes sentences that make you stop and just go, “Damn, I wish I could write like that.” It’s breathtaking in places. It will piss you off. It seemed dark to me in places, but, in the end, there is this beautiful hope. It’s just epic, if not for the lazy reader.
The point of making that observation is quite simple, quite straightforward. Rice’s novel embraces, in an unusually unabashed fashion, the ties that bind us (some portion of us, at any rate) to place. In this instance, that place happens to be, from front cover to back, Pittsburgh, PA. And lest there be any doubt, the “bind” I just typed is meant to convey every bit of the pained resonance as the “lies” Rice himself has dropped smack in the middle of his novel’s title.
Absolutely remarkably (for me), Rice’s geographical commitment does not condemn his tale to the ash-pit of reactionary narrative. (One doesn’t have time, does one? But think for just a moment of all the shite that’s been said & written about “the South” & its chroniclers.) Indeed, more than one of us must react to the very idea of a geographically-committed writer in the same manner as we respond to the phrase “one-man show”--that is to say, with spine-icing revulsion. But Rice does something quite different with the city in question. It becomes the locus of philosophical meditations about any number of things (first among them being the act of remembering), and in the process becomes (I’m sorry about this Eliotic allusion, Mr. Rice, but it’s meant as a genuine compliment) “unreal.” Make no mistake: Rice’s Pittsburgh can be depended upon to deliver actual facts--actual facts about how Pittsburgh once was, and (indirectly, for the most part) how Pittsburgh no longer is what it once was. I can personally attest to the accuracy of Rice’s recollections: the streets upon which Elgin & Johnny & Clarence & so many others carry out their lives (but mainly their memories, frankly) were & are actual streets. WAMO, for example, was once an AM thing (a thing quite a few suburban white kids listened to, if you must know). But this “landscape” is quite a complicated entity, and registers in this novel more as backdrop for Rice’s endlessly diverting ruminations than it does as a “snapshot in time.” (Please take careful note, at the same time, of the photos framing the entire narrative.)
I’ll continue this “review” in a future post. I was 17-years old when The Deer Hunter was released, and watched the movie with two of my brothers in the old Warner Theater down on Fifth. Viewers walked out in complete silence, much as they should after a High Mass. They & we were numb.
Rices’s novel makes me revisit that profound moment in a new light.