I Just Lately Started Buying Wings: Missives from the Other Side of Silence

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Overview

I Just Lately Started Buying Wings is a finely crafted debut, winner of the 2009 Bakeless Nonfiction Prize

Kim Dana Kupperman’s essays plumb the emotional and spiritual depths of a transitory life. Her episodic “missives” cover territory from the chaos of a frenetic childhood to love affairs, failed and otherwise, to the Chernobyl nuclear accident, to an ocean-crossing search for her Eastern European roots. In confident, lyrical prose, Kupperman leads the reader through a ...

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I Just Lately Started Buying Wings: Missives from the Other Side of Silence

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Overview

I Just Lately Started Buying Wings is a finely crafted debut, winner of the 2009 Bakeless Nonfiction Prize

Kim Dana Kupperman’s essays plumb the emotional and spiritual depths of a transitory life. Her episodic “missives” cover territory from the chaos of a frenetic childhood to love affairs, failed and otherwise, to the Chernobyl nuclear accident, to an ocean-crossing search for her Eastern European roots. In confident, lyrical prose, Kupperman leads the reader through a winding gallery—a collection of still lifes and portraits, landscapes of loneliness and love.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
“[These essays] return readers to the fundamental nonfiction experience, an immersion in real life, exquisitely rendered. Here is a world—her world—so finely observed that it becomes our world, too. Here is a voice, both smoldering and meditative, that inhabits every page like an attentive host, inviting us in and offering no choice but to step over the threshold.”—Sue Halpern, Bakeless Nonfiction Judge

 

“'Go fish, Kimche, go fish,' says her grandmother Fanya. And fish Kim Dana Kupperman does, down into the deep uncertain pool of suicide, death by AIDS, religious identity, bodies altered by the radiation poured forth at Chernobyl. These linked stories add up to a life—her life—in ways that are both harrowing and affirming, and that command our readerly respect.”—Albert Goldbarth, Author of

The Kitchen Sink and To Be Read in 500 Years

 

“Kim Dana Kupperman is many things in this collection of essays—a daughter of tumultuous parents, granddaughter in search of her Ukrainian grandmother, sister of variously troubled half-brothers, a woman trying to sort through the vagaries of her own heart. We note the many things she is and has been, but what is even more exciting in this brilliant debut is that we feel in the presence of a writer. With sensuous, precise, and superbly crafted language, Kupperman gives us what literature at its best does: compelling stories artfully told.”—Barbara Hurd, author of Walking the Wrack Line: On Tidal Shifts and What Remains

 

“In prose that is by turns lyrical and precise, Kim Kupperman examines the mystery and depth of the human heart. Generous, forceful, and compassionate, I Just Lately Started Buying Wings is a stunning debut by an essayist of the first rank.”—Michael Steinberg, Founding Editor, Fourth Genre

 

“A remarkably talented writer, Kim Dana Kupperman understands the essay first and foremost as a literary form. Yet she never ventures into craft or creativity for its own sake. I Just Lately Started Buying Wings is a high-voltage book grounded in the passionate and often messy business of living. And best of all with these essays, something vital is always at issue.”—Robert Atwan, Series Editor, The Best American Essays

Kirkus Reviews
Gettysburg Review managing editor Kupperman offers discrete, attentive autobiographical essays concerning her relationship with her mother and others in her life. Undoing the harm of years of enforced silence-"the genesis of omission"-is the author's aim in these essays about family, travel and love, published separately in literary journals, and as a collection the winner of the 2009 Bread Loaf Bakeless Prize for Nonfiction. The first part deals with the author's mother, "Dolores, a prophecy of sorrows," who died by suicide in 1989. Kupperman admits her mother had always been "foreign" to her-a glamorous presence who had once worked at Revlon and became the wife of a several-times married fundraiser for Jewish philanthropies (Kupperman's father) in the 1950s. The couple underwent a rancorous custody battle when the author was eight, although it wasn't until Kupperman's father was dying in 2004 that he allowed her access to the extensive court files. "Habeas Corpus" delineates the unsavory contents of those files, such as the mother's neglect of the daughter and entrapment by detectives in an adultery sting, ultimately necessitating both parties' need to win the girl's allegiance. In "Teeth in the Wind," the author layers reflections of her family over different time periods: The "ghosts" riding a coastal wind storm in Maine circa 1995 bring to mind her attempts to locate the story of her paternal grandmother, supposedly from Kiev, who actually hailed from the Pale of Settlement region in western Ukraine before venturing to America after the pogroms of 1905. The Chernobyl nuclear cataclysm kept Kupperman from traveling to Russia, further complicating "the business of remembering." In "The Perfect Meal," the author examines her doomed love affair with a married man, and "That Roar on the Other Side of Violence" provides eloquent anecdotes about the battered women who populated a domestic-abuse shelter where the author worked. Moving selections, somewhat disconnected but gracefully composed.
Mary Jo Murphy
It almost doesn't matter that by the end of the book we don't have a much clearer understanding of Kupperman's parents or brothers or lovers or friends or, significantly, Kupperman herself. Her sentences can be as ethereal and elusive as her subjects, but their descriptive power makes them worth the chase.
—The New York Times
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781555975609
  • Publisher: Graywolf Press
  • Publication date: 6/22/2010
  • Pages: 224
  • Product dimensions: 5.90 (w) x 8.90 (h) x 0.60 (d)

Meet the Author

Kim Dana Kupperman's work has appeared in Best American Essays and many literary journals. She is the founder of Welcome Table Press and works as a managing editor of The Gettysburg Review.

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Read an Excerpt

I’m preoccupied with how the practice of secret-keeping begins, with putting my finger on the origin of behavior as easily as I might touch a map to locate a town or a river. Perhaps pinpointing these intersections—of time and geography, the movement of ordinary lives along those continuums—will help reshape a memory fractured by omissions. —from “Teeth in the Wind”

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Customer Reviews

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Sort by: Showing all of 2 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted December 10, 2010

    An excellent example of well written essays

    Kim Dana Kupperman changed the way I think about the essay. I really enjoyed her writing style. Her voice is clear and penetrating and allows the reader to follow her thought process, helping them to see the world through her eyes. She makes no excuses for the way she feels and this gives her writing the feel of a tête-à-tête with a close friend. I love how she uses language, not only as a form of expression, but as a therapeutic tool.

    I appreciated Kim's ability to talk about the serious and emotionally charged events in her life in a productive and honest way. The suicides of her mother and friends are paramount events that took place in her life, and I enjoy how they surface in her thoughts, linger there, manifest a significance in her current situation, then quietly drift away until they are recalled again. I bought her book after hearing her give a reading at my college and I was so impressed I immediately went and bought her book right after. When I began reading, I was touched that the first story she tells is about her mother's suicide. She carefully reconstructs her memory of that event and does a wonderful job of describing even the smallest and most intricate details. Her perception is contagious. It helped me to see the world in a new way, through slightly altered eyes. As a writer, I look forward to enjoying more of Kim's work and absorbing aspects of her writing style into mine.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted September 19, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    Life and Loss, Reflections, Don't Miss this Collection!

    Disaster and loss happens to everyone at some point in their life. But in the case of Kim Dana Kupperman, it seems like she's had several lifetimes worth of grief in just a few years. This is a collection of essays she's written in response to the various sorrows she's endured-the loss of a brother to AIDS, a mother to suicide, and a father to old age. Mix in a vicious custody battle and a drug-addicted half-brother who complicates everything, and you get just a snapshot of her life. She's had it rough, but none of the essays solicit pity. Instead, she speaks in a no-nonsense voice with no embellishment, just her take on 'who' and 'what' happened to her. She leaves the 'why' up to the reader.


    In one essay, she talks about the 'arrangements' that must be made after a death-the practical aspects that are attended to in a haze of grief. Specifically, what do you do with all that stuff? Do you keep it? What makes something an heirloom? What defines a memory? In all the loss she endured, she realizes:

    "Later you touch and sort, discard or keep for another time all the artifacts that testify to a life that has passed...Eventually all these objects are not only handled more than once, they are packed into containers, some resurfacing on shelves or in drawers years later, others given to friends...So many things we once thought were useful and beautiful dissipate or are buried, as if there was no point in having them in the first place. But in the act of letting go of them, there is a relief that they no longer have to be carried, cared for, or worried about."

    How many people are willing to admit that carrying the momentos of life can be a burden? It's this unflinching honesty that draws you in, and makes her writing more touching than if she simply summarized her losses. Her unique voice is apparent early on, as she describes being the trophy in a bitter custody battle between her controlling but hypocritical father and her drug-addicted mother. She tried to please both sides, eventually creating a sense of isolation in herself. Regarding childhood, she states, "The miniature versions of who we become as adults are always available, if we pay attention. As soon as I could write, I made lists and stories. And before understanding the power of words, I drew messages." What she drew were subtle indications of her frightened isolation, and yet only one person realized her plight.

    One of the most moving essays was of her life in France when the Chernobyl disaster occurred. Her first reaction was to notice the wind blowing outside the window, and the implications of the poison heading her way was horrifying. The thought of it consumes much of her concentration, yet five years later she travelled to Kiev, in search of the history of her grandmother. There, she gathered stories of people who were there when the implications of the catastrophe were realized:

    "I visited with a journalist who told me that in May of 1986, Ukrainian radio broadcasts recommended taking showers after outdoor excursions. He walked his Afghan hound in the park, wiped off his shoes with a wet rag by the door when he came home, and showered in his clothes with the dog. He never let on if he cried through any of this. Or what he did with the towels after those showers. Or if the dog lived."

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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