Thursday, July 7, 2016

Grief Is the Thing with Feathers: A Novel

Graywolf Press (June 7, 2016) paperback, 128 pages

I looked at the author’s name on the cover and thought, “This is the Max from “Where the Wild Things Are”, and he’s all grown up and wrote this book about a crow.” 

But there was no crow in “Where the Wild Things Are”, only a cockatoo, and crows and cockatoos are almost complete opposites.

They can both talk, but the crow has sense enough not to.  Well, most cockatoos do too.  Except the ones that live with humans, and they only do it as an act of desperation.  They’re stuck in cages, you see, and there isn’t much else to do.

The wild ones – crows and cockatoos – speak (and scream) without words, the way water speaks to stones and grass to the wind.

OK.  That was before I read the book.  I read it in one night, and then had a weird dream of being elected Mayor of my city.  I’m not sure how this happened without my knowledge, but dreams are like that.  I was in an impromptu office in an apartment building carport  with all these grey-haired women with eyes like ferret-eyes.  They weren’t talking, and I couldn’t decide whether to put my dog’s Service Dog harness on her and go downtown to see if I could manage as Mayor, or just tell them all to forget the whole thing.

Which has nothing to do with the book, but is somehow connected, for me.

Oh, and I liked the book very much.

Anyway.  Here’s an actual review from an reviewer:

By Short Story Girl on June 18, 2016

This is a stunning, thought provoking loosely narrative poem. Worth reading, but you may be disappointed if you expect a novel.

What you should know about this "novel." It's a small book, thin book. Large type. White space. Quiet.

A loosely narrative poem parading the most sumptuous language. But novels sell better than poems so it's a novel and says so on the cover in case you get confused.

The structure is novel, as in new, told by Boys, Dad and Crow. Boys sections feel honest. Small boys doing boy things, telling partial truths, and thinking about them later while not at all understanding the big picture of what's been lost, but somehow able to show us what's really going on with Dad.

Dad sections are sticky with fear and anxiety, which feels right, and creates questions and doubt to slog through like thick mud. It's easy to feel what he feels.

Crow sections illuminate like a candle in the night, ethereal and dark. Crow makes up words, is bossy and seems a bit artificial to me. Unless grief attends to each of us in a different form, and maybe that's the point.

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