Legend of a Suicide – David Vann
This collection of short stories (plus a novella in the middle) is Vann's fictional reworking of his father's suicide when he was 13. In it, we get the view from various angles, including the second part of a novella that turns the suicide upside down (along with the narrator).
Vann exhibits incredible control in the style and detail of each story, a thin narrative of life before and after his father's death. There is much here that reads true, most likely meaning it is. It can be a terrible read, not in his writing, but in the tension and anxiety his narrator experiences during life with dear old dad.
Vann does his best work looking back with the privilege of time. His stories of his adult life - which he views as marked by divorce and death - don't capture the same emotion or depth. Dare I say, he comes across as whiny, the guy you'd roll your eyes about the moment he stepped away at a party.
The intensity, though, carries the day. Much of it is hard to read, but a valuable look at one of our society's taboos. The book would have been better, though, to have ended with his novella, a fantasy of what could or might have happened with a suicide. The imagery from that story still lingers.
Dogged Pursuit – Robert Rodi
The subtitle on this book should really be: How a fabulous gay man learned about being fabulous through his not-so-fabulous dog.
If it were any more over-the-top gay, Nathan Lane would have to do a cameo.
Not that Rodi can't write about the gay archetype with humor and wit. And not that his descriptions of Dusty, the little-rescue-dog-who-couldn't, and life in the competitive dog-agility circuit aren't clever and fun.
But this breezy book is the laziest kind of memoir. Rodi ends every chapter telling how much he's learned, only to clearly not have picked up much at all. It's as if an editor were asking him, "But how do you feel," after every moment of his year, and our narcissistic friend is only to happy to oblige.
And nothing endures you to a reader than descriptions like a "Midwestern face" to portray your *friends* or your insistence on wanting to belong to something, only to lecture on the proper food, music and lifestyle one should embrace.
There is some fun stuff here to work with. And there is some real humor.
But, again, it just seems lazy. Perhaps that editor asking how Rodi felt was also wanting it done yesterday. That would explain a lot.