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Jamie Iredell on Jamie Iredell.

June 9, 2010 \am\30 9:45 am

Jamie Iredell, author of Prose. Poems. A Novel.

reviews Prose. Poems. A Novel. by Jamie Iredell 

“. . . they danced down the street like dingledodies, and I shambled after as I’ve been doing all my life after people who interest me . . .”

—Jack Kerouac, On the Road

 

Kerouac may not have been the first to pen a slacker novel, but he popularized it. Iredell may not have popularized the novel-in-prose poems, or the poem, or the short short, flash fiction, whatever-you-want-to-call-it. Whatever this book is—the title, tellingly, tells us everything and nothing—it is a slacker story, more than a slacker story. What I mean is, the story is like that: full of slackers.

Larry is the subject. The predicate is is a slacker. Somewhere, somehow, along the way this slacker got him some lit knowledge.

We’re told up front that this story is a western. A western slacker story with a “whiskered goon at a notepad,” that’s not a novel. It is a reverse western. Larry goes from West to East, from the sticks to a big city, and from unruly and slovenly to somewhat civilized.

Along the way this Larry echoes him some:

  • Wallace Stevens: “Perhaps a brown cabin kitchen bear amongst these snowy mountains”;
  • T.S. Eliot: “The chili-smothered tot steam rubbed its yellow back against my nose”;
  • Carl Sandburg: “The fog lilts in like cat—perhaps a bear—as it stalks the coast and harbor”;
  • John Steinbeck: “We guzzled Zimas at a condo in Salinas”;
  • Franz Kafka: “I have spied these vermin nibbling the remains of apples . . .”;
  • Jane Kenyon: “And I hope, like I do everyday, that she will in fact come home”

There’s also mention of the following:

  • high school football
  • cabins
  • the Black Rock Desert
  • Lake Tahoe
  • The Sierra Nevada Mountains
  • Reno
  • Reader’s Digest Condensed Books
  • The Stars and Bars
  • psilocybin
  • Washoe Indians
  • .357 Maximums
  • bunnies
  • sagebrush
  • cocaine
  • The Bi Who Loved Me
  • “fucking the inside of a gumball machine”
  • Atlanta
  • Raggedy Ann
  • Huey Lewis

Along the way Larry drives through a Waffle House-studded South. Hello, Jack Kerouac.

This story is not a novel. It does not fulfill such narrative complexity. Walter Mosley says that a novel is “like a mountain—superior, vast, and immense. Its apex is in the clouds and it appears to us as a higher being—a divinity.”

Each page is laid with a single lyric prose piece; only a few go on to more than a single span of white space. When read individually, some pieces feel more poem-like than anything: a run-on sentence about fog devolves into a description of sharks with bear traps instead of teeth, then veers off about strawberries and lettuce growing in a valley. Some have narrative arcs: Larry and another character drink at a bar and lock the bar owner out, then wander in the night and find a man who’s been stabbed lying in the gutter.

When taken together, a narrative—about Larry and his slacker transition to slightly less slackerness—emerges. Perhaps this is not a novel, but novel-like. Mosley says that the short story is—if it is not a mountain—an island.

Peer through the water surrounding this island. Underneath all that, uplifting, continually growing: a mountain.

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2 Comments
  1. June 9, 2010 \am\30 10:13 am 10:13 am

    If it sells out on the Powell’s link, you can also buy it here: http://amzn.to/9YZiGr

    Book is sold out everywhere else but the ‘zon, because it’s just that fly.

  2. June 10, 2010 \am\30 7:42 am 7:42 am

    Thanks Melissa, and thanks for checking on where to buy the book, too. I didn’t know it had sold out. Shit! I should see about a second printing.

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