Thursday, November 5, 2009

review: Prose. Poems. A Novel by Jamie Iredell

Friday Five w/ Jamie tomorrow!

Prose. Poems. A Novel.
by Jamie Iredell
Orange Alert Press, 2009

Contained in three sections, Prose. Poems. A Novel is a series of loosely connected vignettes about the narrator's time "Before Nevada" "In Nevada" and "In Atlanta" heavily dependent on the surroundings and the people surrounding the narrator.

All of the tales (usually contained on one page) describe an element of growing up and aging--and how relationships change with the ages--they are stories/examples of relationships in adolescence ("Before Nevada"), as young adults ("In Nevada"), then settling to more quiet bars with mature conversations ("In Atlanta").

The stories open with a bear in a neighbor's cabin, and I didn't understand this example at first; how it RELATES--but it does, it does, the narrator is that BEAR, stumbling around trying to navigate an unfamiliar world. These are stories/examples/specific incidences of that navigation.

Don't worry, there are not broad sweeping generalizations weighing this book down like weighs this review down; nothing is heavy-handed or overanalyzed--instead it's a pleasure to read.

I'm not really fascinated by landscapes, not that this book is all about landscapes, but most of it is about the WEST which I don't know much about and there are a couple of raucous scenes of DRINKING, PARTYING, and DRUG USE but not really in the way you think about those scenes, not in an MTV/The Hills sort of way--not that Iredell discusses them passively, those events are presented as more of a way to pass the time, to deal, to understand the relationships between FRIENDS.

Connections must be sought between each story, each piece of a story, or they don't have to be sought at all because each piece stands on its own.

Most pages end not on a couplet, but with a memorable image, a phrase that turns and captures everything set before it, such as these: "Instead of trout, there are tourists, which are almost the same thing" and "It's only now that I can look back and say what kind of idiot I've become."

Those two sit only a page apart, in the first section, mostly about a cabin in the woods and the narrator's memories about cabins, and this was my favorite section. More interesting here are the strings that Iredell attaches between the first residents of Lake Tahoe and its landscape and what the landscape has now become--small cabins and Taco Bells and whatever James Michener has written about and whatever he writes about. It is change, it is not change, it always changes.

Section two is more of the same, but not: an older voice emerges, something fraught with the heave-ho give and go of the modern (or the perceived-modern) "going out" to somewhere culture, even if there is nowhere to go. And fights break out and there is a good illustration of a bitten ear, like what Mike Tyson did to Evander Holyfield.

Again, this section goes back to nature, to snakes, to trying to understand if we know anything at all, which it is generally assumed that we don't, except for where to find drugs, but even that is nonchalant in Iredell's descriptions.

Section three, I enjoyed the specific mentions of Atlanta streets, because I used to live in Atlanta. Selfish. Excellent parts about the narrator and a character named Sally trekking Kennesaw Mountain, once again landscapes and the narrator's interaction with them--always kind of sort of stumbling, like that bear again.

Don't think I really like or "get" the illustrations, but there are some funny captions and I'm glad the illustrations are there, just didn't do much for me. I want this book to go a bit longer, to explore a little more, especially section three, I feel there is more to add, more to be had in the exploration stages of Atlanta, like the other landscapes of the novel are explored, maybe that these are three chapbooks adds to that, but I'll take what is given.

Those expecting a novel, don't go into it with those eyes, go into it expecting an in-the-moment meditation on people and circumstances without context and you'll be much more satisfied. I'm against genres and classifications anyway, for the most part, and I think Iredell is too, except I don't want to speak for him, so I won't except to say, if you find yourself an opportunity to read this slim volume of goodness, I would do it.

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