Monday, January 31, 2011

DDDDaddy's, a Collection of Life's Good Gristle

Whoa, Lindsay Hunter. Way to be surreal. I mean it. Way. to. be.

Like, that's awesome that you were in the ways you were.

"Daddy's" is akin to few books I've ever read; I've read a lot of books. There is a syllogism in there somewhere perhaps, but I won't go further to suss it out. The fact is, Featherproof has completely won me over, not that I was ever terribly skeptical (I had a smallish -- but positive -- familiarity with Lindsay Hunter's work before I read "Daddy's").

And though I say her writing is more than anything all her own, Lindsay Hunter definitely has a little of what I've loved about certain authors who could at least loosely be termed of the southern tradition, which as she is a southerner, herself, that stands to reason. Writers like Cormac McCarthy and what I liked best about Barry Hannah stand out. In the latter case, that's this kind of unabashed enthusiasm for the dire straits of a penniless world, i.e. a world in which you've never known a single penny, as in possessing said penny or pennies. But that doesn't change that the world in these dire straits is hard and hardly alimentary. I think that's why junk food is such a useful metaphor here: abundance without sustenance. It's in the precision of her use of such images that strokes of real and remarkably terse genius are demonstrably evident. Like Raymond Carver, she says a lot without needing too much say so.

There's also something sinister in all the jocularity inherent to most of Hunter's stories. And that's because while not all people are, some people are horrible. Some people are horrible but still they have stories, and personally, I'd rather hear them told from a person whom I think is probably a good person at heart just trying to depict a horrible person from her good person vantage, as with understanding of a kind, and also imagination!

Actually, since writing the preceding I had the opportunity to see Lindsay Hunter perform a story in person (and I don't think her readings ought to be classified as anything less than a performance). Her narrator took on a whole new life. It was the story "Peggy's Brother" -- which appears in "Daddy's." In my own personal reading of this story I was struck by how tawdry and sordid the events that unfurled had seemed. (SPOILER ALERT (with a strong possibility of more to follow, from here on out)): it is the story of a relatively naive young girl who is taken advantage of by the older brother of her friend, the eponymous "Peggy.")

In Hunter's reading, though, I was surprised by how embracing of her circumstances the unnamed narrator girl seems, how -- in a certain sense -- she maintains control of herself and circumstances. She's ostensibly as curious about sexuality as Peggy's brother. She's less interested in the childish games her friends are in the midst of (A particularly crude game of "Truth or Dare"). Surely, Peggy's brother isn't the best option for her to experiment with, but he is the most expedient. It's an odd take that spins the normative expectations of youthful female sexuality, as something entirely submissive, and typically as something that's taken from them.

Here's an exchange between the narrator and Peggy's brother that rang very differently when read by Hunter:

Have you heard of fucking? he asks, raising his voice over Danny's mother's screams ["The Shining" is on television, in the background, through the entirety of the two characters' interaction].

I think so, I tell him.

Good, he says.

Oh, definitely, I say.
"Oh, definitely" is rendered extremely comical in Hunter's reading, its effect a nice punch-line to the absurdity of Peggy's brother's comments -- which would read absurdly no matter who's providing their voice, I think.

As previously alluded -- in Hunter's fiction, junk food has never seemed so horrible. Might never seem the same again. (Although funny how as I get older, junk food just keeps losing its luster and its mystique. And makes me sick more than I find it enjoyable, on the whole.) "Food Luck" is a great example of this. It's the story of two brothers, one who's speaking to the other, describing their sordid lives together. In the story food kills, weighs one down. It's excessive, the eating. Glutinous and vile. To the point where, I dunno, it resembles something else. Resembles the terrible engrams (in the loosest definition of the term) that alter our souls and codify our DNA somewhat differently, bringing about fundamental change. I believe there is science in my previous statement somewhere. I can't promise it is sensical, though. Still, I hope in some sensical sense that makes sense, what I've said. Food kills, because it isn't food at all. It's filler.

"Fifteen" is the story of quasi-orgy. Really vivid. Like a teenage make-out party in the house from something like "Fight Club" (the movie and not the novel). Descriptions of horrible living conditions and the kids, kids probably in the age range of fifteen, wallowing in it. Mothers sleep with teenage boys, boys "nearly eighteen so it was alright." The house has nooks filled with cat feces and wrappers for everything that comes in a wrapper. Then there's the subtly unseemly line that might have been a good alternative title, "the room smelled like breath."

"That Baby" is among my favorites of the collection. It's such a good idea for a story it makes you wish you'd thought of it sooo badly. I mean, it just clicks. I won't say anything more about it. You ought to read it yourself. Read it here, in fact. Then go buy (or somehow acquire) and read all of "Daddy's."


  1. matt rowan you are quite the gentleman. thank you for saying all of these words about daddy's.

  2. Easy to be when the writing is so good, Lindsay.