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The Meager Life and Modest Times of Pop Thorndale Paperback – June 1, 2007
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Like Prufrock with his thinning hair and meager hopes, Pop Thorndale is a character who, in his very ordinariness, holds up a mirror in which we recognize our fears and follies, our dreams and desires. Pfefferle deftly chooses the moments that illuminate a life, and he renders them in clear and accurate language, transforming the ordinary voice into something pretty like the first chords in any Supertramp song. " --Beth Ann Fennelly, Author of Tender Hooks and Open House
Pop Thorndale is our contemporary American Everyman ironic, mid-life, overweight, suburban, trying, as he ages, to find some meaning in what he knows has been an unremarkable and unheroic life. --From the Foreword by Patricia Fargnoli
The Meager Life and Modest Times of Pop Thorndale explores with great complexity and psychological richness one American man's inner life. Though the details of Pop Thorndale's life may on the surface appear "modest," the language Pfefferle uses is wonderful, weirdly quirky, fresh, and pleasurable. Though Pop Thorndale himself may claim to be "no great man," the poems Pfefferle has crafted about him prove otherwise. --Paisley Rekdal, Author of The Invention of the Kaleidoscope and The Night My Mother Met Bruce Lee
About the Author
W.T. Pfefferle was born in Winnipeg, Manitoba. He moved to the U.S. in the late 1970s, did several years of college work, and then settled in Texas for more than a decade where he taught writing by day and played in bad bar bands at night. He published two books with Prentice Hall in the late 1990s, and then moved into writing program administration. He took a sabbatical from teaching in 2004 to research and write his third book, Poets on Place: Tales and Interviews from the Road (Utah State University Press), a travel memoir. His own poetry has appeared in a variety of journals, including Antioch Review, Virginia Quarterly, and North American Review.
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My hesitation is not because it doesn't include great poems: the four dozen "chapters" in this story about a man coming to terms with who he is and who he isn't as he finds himself "on the edge of 50" are clearly poetry. They're written with lines and stanzas and all the incredible attention to the effects of language that is the defining characteristic of great literature (a hidden son watches his father as he "stood for lifetimes" in their backyard; a wedding ceremony is described as "a minister reading from a mimeographed sheet/stuck in the middle of Deuteronomy"; when Pop meets the woman he will eventually marry, she is "pretty like the first smell of blueberry waffles,/ pretty like the first chords in any Supertramp song...." No, this is clearly poetry of the best kind: not written for a few hundred other poets and literature teachers who might catch vague references and hidden symbolism that would sail by most of us. The allusions in this poetry are to events and situations anyone who has lived through a decent portion of the late 20th/early 21st centuries will find readily understandable.
So my hesitation to discuss this book in terms of its "poetic" merits has nothing to do with any lack it may have in that department. If you're a fan of poetry, rest assured that this is the good stuff.
The reason I don't want readers to approach this book like "mere" poetry is because it offers so much more than the limitations that label may have in some people's minds. This is first and foremost the story of one man's life. Having grown up with an abusive father, gone through the challenges of raising a son of his own, and faced the devastation of a wife's infidelity, Pop Thorndale has earned the kind of perspective that makes what he has to say about life worth listening to. And despite the self-deprecation of the title, Pop's insights are in no way "meager" or insignificant. Reviewers' complimentary comparisons to Prufrock notwithstanding, what Pop is working through is much more heart-wrenching and important than the concern about appearances and perceptions that characterize the night-time ramblings of T. S. Eliot's middle-aged anti-hero. Pop is wondering what all thoughtful people must wonder at some point in their lives: Who am I? How did I become this person? What else am I likely to ever become? Most important, Is it enough?
Don't buy this book just because it's poetry. Even more important, don't NOT buy this book because it's poetry. Because what this really is is a novel about a person like you and me. The fact that this novel is in the form of poems in no way diminishes its clarity and accessibility. The pleasures of that form are merely extra scoops of ice cream added to one of the tastiest, most satisfying pieces of pie I have enjoyed in a long time.