This dark first-person tale of youthful initiation by Mississippi-born Saterstrom (The Pink Institution) follows a feisty narrator from public housing in a backward Southern town to the sodden grit of university life in Glasgow. The young, unnamed narrator of these detached vignettes falls into bad company as her drug-addict mother largely disappears and her older sister introduces her to sex and booze. The narrator loses her virginity early on during a drunken bout with a football player and subsequently hangs out with half-Vietnamese friend Heather and her doped-up loser pals. It's not clear how, but after being sent to reform school, the narrator distinguishes herself in English, which opens the door to college in "Big City," and later, to Scottish University, where she studies religion, delves into postmodern studies and hooks up with former "heroin freak" Ian. Her mother's death brings her home just in time for gallstones to send her to the hospital for a long stay. Through banter with night nurse Charlie (who calls her Ginger Rogers), she establishes a connection in the face of rupture and loss. Saterstrom's coming-of-age narrative is tough and unblinking, and the moments of clarity provide immense satisfaction. (Sept.)Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information
A searing coming-of-age novel set to the music of chance.
Kirkus ReviewsA fragmented novel that lurches through the life of the unnamed narrator from girlhood through adolescence to rocky young adulthood. Early on we sense the narrator's desperation to construct a meaningful life, but contemporary culture-especially in the Southern backwater of Beau Repose-gives her almost nothing to work with. She grows up (if that's the term) in a world with no periphery, where amidst the questionable "pleasures" of drugs and adolescent sex (the mysterious "world of doing it"), she drifts from one empty experience to another. She ends up in reform school, which enforces mandatory activities like basket weaving and square dancing. Eventually, her sharp mind enables her to go to college, and she makes high scores on a placement test for British universities, which leads her to study in Glasgow, city of rain and fog (and more drugs and sex). Her course of study is "The Postmodern Seminar for the Study of Interpretative Uses," in which students create "postmodern happenings in honor of Jacques Derrida," but this intellectualism also understandably fails to nourish the narrator, who becomes ill in both body and mind, the "meat and spirit plan" showing definite deficiencies. At the end of the novel, she insightfully realizes that there's a third choice beyond light and darkness, one that "includes light and dark but is not limited to either." The novel is divided into paragraphs, though Saterstrom orders these paragraphs into a loose narrative framework organized by fragments from heavy-metal bands like Metallica, Anthrax and Judas Priest ("Rock Hard, Ride Free"). Perhaps an even more basic unit of structural organization found here is the image, for image patterns (of GingerRogers, of butchering, of The Seventh Seal, of The Blue Lagoon) weave through both the reality and the dreams of the narrator. The narrator observes that one of the characters "uses language like an exacto blade"-the same can be said of Saterstrom (The Pink Institution, 2004).
- Coffee House Press
- Publication date:
- Product dimensions:
- 5.10(w) x 7.50(h) x 0.70(d)
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