Buffalo Lockjaw

Buffalo Lockjaw

by Greg Ames

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781401395315
Publisher: Hachette Books
Publication date: 04/01/2009
Sold by: Hachette Digital, Inc.
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 304
Sales rank: 929,196
File size: 576 KB
Age Range: 18 Years

About the Author

Greg Ames' stories have appeared in numerous literary journals and anthologies, including The Best American Nonrequired Reading 2007, Open City, McSweeney's, and other publications. He also received honorable mention in the 2003 Pushcart Prize Awards. He grew up in Buffalo, NY, and now lives in Brooklyn, and teaches Creative Writing at Brooklyn College.

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Buffalo Lockjaw 3.8 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 15 reviews.
Reader1122 More than 1 year ago
Buffalo Lockjaw is a debut written with as much honesty and tenderness as James Fitzroy, the well intentioned if misguided main character, possesses. At fifty-six James's mother is a resident at The Elms suffering through Alzheimer's, a disease that she was once a respected, scholarly authority on. Now, with Ellen's mental and physical capabilities barely existent, James is rushing headlong into the only viable solution he sees, and is hell-bent on garnering support from his devastated father and preoccupied sister. Yet, instead of retreating to the familiar bars that he first visited with a fake I.D. at 18, James is now determined to be fully present, to be his mother's helpful son, at last. About much more than a son coping with his mother's illness, Buffalo Lockjaw is a novel immortalizing Ellen as James remembers her. By looking through her belongings and reading her letters and documents, James's account becomes one less about the way Ellen is in The Elms' D-Unit and more about the way she was as a mother, professional nurse and wife. This is also James's coming-of-age journal, a text about his passage from selfishness to selflessness, from immaturity to maturity. It's a touching story about family, love, death, courage, duty and, eventually, acting your age. Written with humor, sadness, and compassion Buffalo Lockjaw grips the reader with a bulldog's tenacity until it punctures through knee-jerk immaturity and into a mindful, deeper resolution. Ames takes the reader into the heart of James's central conflict and delivers a story told with smart, gritty humor that, at the turn of a page, changes to tender, honest descriptions of the Fitzroy family's lost wife and mother, Buffalo, NY's people, and its history as a once-booming city. Decades past its prime, Buffalo is a city in decline, one of many examples of progress's unswerving march toward new territories and industries. Ames brings the city into sharp focus as much more than just the book's setting through clever use of brief, first person narratives sprinkled throughout the novel. These chapters - composed from a well-intentioned, ultimately damned two-year ethnographic foray on James's part - give a humorous, tangible sense of loss and nostalgia for a bigger, better Buffalo while providing just the right amount of levity to the main story's seriousness. Always memorable and entertaining, James's Buffalo experts reminisce about everything from their town's healthy past, to the Bills, to the faltering local art and music scenes. In its simple complexities, Buffalo Lockjaw achieves what every good story should, standing on its own as a novel as resolute and sharp as Ellen's mind once was, and as honest and raw as Ames's talented, poignant writing. A book about everything that makes life painful, funny, frustrating, beautiful and worth remembering, readers will root for James, hoping he'll make decisions that will lead to a happy ending - a full, miraculous recovery for Ellen, or a peaceful, smiling death - knowing all the while that life's real endings are rarely ever so. Resting at the center of the story, the true narrative of all experiences, whether James Fitzroy's or the reader's own, is the common bit of humanity that keeps us each humble and good even when beauty and happiness are buried far beneath the snows of a merciless Buffalo winter. Andrea Seastrand -The Aquarian Weekly
delphica on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I'm always eager to read novels set in Buffalo, and then really hyper-critical of them after. The narrator, James, is one of those guys in his late 20s with a job that he hates who lives in Brooklyn, and returns to his hometown (Buffalo) to visit his mother who is living in a nursing home with early onset Alzheimer's. His father is in the process of selling the family's home and moving into a smaller apartment, and his sister, the Most Favored Child, is also in town visiting.The fa...more I'm always eager to read novels set in Buffalo, and then really hyper-critical of them after. The narrator, James, is one of those guys in his late 20s with a job that he hates who lives in Brooklyn, and returns to his hometown (Buffalo) to visit his mother who is living in a nursing home with early onset Alzheimer's. His father is in the process of selling the family's home and moving into a smaller apartment, and his sister, the Most Favored Child, is also in town visiting.The family dynamics were done very well. The characters and their relationships really developed nicely over the course of the book. At first, I was a little hesitant about the mother in a nursing home bit, I felt like I've read this story a lot recently. But this was well-managed and I was soon very committed to this aspect of the plot.I was more mixed about the Can't Go Home Again threads of the plot - James's ambivalent attempts to reconnect with his Buffalo friends. There were some points that worked, I loved the writing in the passages that showed James aimlessly driving around town trying to recapture the geography of his past. However, there was something about the handling of these friends that I thought fell flat. They never took shape for me as believable characters, they felt too buffoony and their only purpose seemed to be to set up situations which were intended to be humorous but were far too forced. The difference in tone between the family episodes and James's interactions with his friends is jarring and mismatched.As always, the things that make growing up in Buffalo unique feel too contrived and expository when thrown out there on the page like that. However, I remain faithful that someday I will find the book that manages to succeed in this area.
cohenja on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
James, the book's narrator, is exploring his evolving relationships with his family and friends in the face of personal tragedy- his mother has advanced Alzheimer disease. James' love for his mother is perhaps the most unchanging attribute of his personality. He is changing from a prime example of a slacker in a group of slacker associates to someone who is starting to act like a grown-up- though maybe not so much as to call him a grown-up to his face! This is very moving, often sad, but well written tale. The book is a special treat for its Buffalo readers. It has authentic insight into life in Buffalo with all its warts.
writestuff on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Greg Ames has written a searing, all to real novel about watching someone you love slip into dementia. When James Fitzroy returns to his hometown of Buffalo at Thanksgiving, he finds himself tormented by his mother¿s mental and physical decline from Alzheimer¿s Disease. He wonders why his mother - a nurse who everyone loved and a woman whose nursing text is still being used to educate new nurses - should have to suffer this indignity, while James wastes his life drinking too much, having meaningless sex and working in a dead end job as a writer of taglines for greeting cards. He also worries about his father who is aging and alone now.It is this misdirected sense of responsibility that compels James to consider ending his mother¿s life. He agonizes over how he would do it, or if such an act is even justified.I sit beside her trying to imagine what she thinks and feels. If it¿s true that she experiences no physical pain, and that mentally she is no more cognizant of her condition than a baby is - the baby doesn¿t recognize the helplessness of her life because she has nothing to compare it to - then this is my problem and not hers. But if she is suffering with the knowledge of loss, if she recognizes the absence of dignity, which I suspect is the case, then her shame and despair must consume her. And she has nothing but time, the regulated ticking of minutes on a clock, to remind her of that. - from Buffalo Lockjaw, page 117 -James Fitzroy is not a wholly likable character - he can be crude and he drinks too much, he seems to have no aspirations to raise his life to a higher level - and yet, I found myself empathizing with him and appreciating his deep love and loyalty to his mother. In one scene, he carefully flosses his mother¿s teeth, believing she would be ashamed by her poor dental hygiene. James shows compassion even toward other residents at the care home - holding their hands, or speaking to them with empathy. One gets the feeling that here is a young man completely misunderstood for most of his life, and trying now to rectify this.Interspersed throughout the narrative are clips of other characters talking about Buffalo and the people who live there - at first I wasn¿t sure what to make of these interuptions in the novel. But the reader ultimately understands that James was an ¿urban ethnologist¿ and these snippets of narrative come from his interview tapes. They lend a surreal touch to the book and offer a glimpse at the personal stories of others living in James¿ hometown, but aside from this they seemed a distraction from the real purpose of the novel.Ames writes with black humor and irony as he explores the controversial subject of assisted suicide for the terminally ill. He does not offer an answer as to whether euthansia is morally right or wrong, but instead opens up a fertile ground for discussion. Buffalo Lockjaw would make a great book club read for this reason. Thematically the novel is about aging, loss, love and the parent/child relationship through time.Buffalo Lockjaw is a laudable debut and one which captivated me from the beginning because of its authenticity. I not only work with patients suffering dementia in my profession of Physical Therapy, but my father also suffers from progressive dementia because of small vessel disease. Greg Ames has skillfully captured the immense sadness and utter hopelessness of watching a loved one be robbed of their intellect, personality, and dignity because of a disease like Alzheimers.Recommended with a caution - Ames writes with direct, sometimes unnerving prose which may disturb some readers.
Griff on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
As a Buffalonian, I had a sudden "a-ha" experience at the midpoint of this first novel - an epiphany that profoundly changed my relationship to the book, to the story. Thus, my rating may be generous, may be biased. Hard for me to know. I do know that I enjoyed the writing immensely. I also always enjoy books that have a connection to Buffalo. This book provides great insight into the city and into the people that make this city what it is. Despite all the gallows humor and quirkiness contained within, the story proves quite serious. The final act, the act of "moving a muscle," is small, but it is a first step forward in the narrator's long journey toward understanding his history, his family, and his evolving self. This book possesses an energy that is real - an energy that is reflective of the city in which the story is set. For all Buffalonians, I recommend this book highly. In fact, I recommend it highly to all. Greg Ames thanks many within the last couple pages of the book. Greg, thanks for bringing this story to life. It is a great start to your novel writing days.
zmagic69 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
The only thing Positive I can say about this book, is it describes what a depressing, horible place Buffalo NY is. I wanted to care about this book but I just couldn't. You knew how it wouuld end for his mother, and you knew that the main character and narrarator (James) would be as much of a loser at the end of the book as in the begining.Based on other reviews I am clearly in the minority but this book just didn't work for me.
TimBazzett on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
The jacket copy for BUFFALO LOCKJAW states, "James Fitzroy isn't doing so well." I disagree. I think James is doing damn well under the circumstances. His mother is slowly dying from Alzheimers, and at far too young an age. He's still trying to connect with his emotionally distant father, the absolute personification of that title syndrome. Because Rodney Fitzroy isn't maintaining just that proverbial stiff upper lip in the face of his wife's long slow dying, he's got the lockjaw thing down too. Protagonist James, at 28 a part of that so-called 'slacker' generation, is perhaps a bit slow to mature like so many of his contemporaries, but at least he did manage to get out of Buffalo (out of the shadow of his over-achieving sister) and find a job. Writing verses and captions in the "Laffs" department of a greeting card company may not be the best of careers. Hell, maybe it's not a career at all, but at least he has a steady job, which is more than most of his toked-up beer-swilling Buffalo buddies can say.But at the very heart of BUFFALO LOCKJAW is the strong love that James feels for his dying mother, who was a career nurse who loved and believed in her work. It is breaking James's heart to watch her recede into the emptiness of Alzheimers, and in his desperation and love, he studies the possibility of some kind of intervention, reading about assisted suicide and euthanasia. The odd thing about this book is that despite such a serious and unfunny subject, Ames manages to inject a lot of humor into his first-person narrative. It is, I think, the mark of a very talented writer who can make his reader belly laugh and then nearly weep within the space of a page or two. Greg Ames is that kind of a talent, and he manages to do this repeatedly. So what do you call a book like this? Tragic? Yes. Funny? Yes again. Because this is the tale of a deep-thinking slacker, one with a heart and a soul. I guess I'll just have to call this book beautiful. I will be watching for Greg Ames's next effort. This guy can WRITE!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
A satisfying, full bodied debut written with candor and the poignant images of a son wrestling with the agony of releasing his mother from the cruel clutches of Alzheimers. Ames' writing conjures Buffalo's city living along with a handful of gritty characters to balance the oh-so-familiar family dynamic of coming home. The tension between father and son, the bleak longing of a son robbed of his once smart, loving mother and the cool stoicism of a man for his mentally absent wife are all palpable thanks to Ames' deft writing. I enjoyed the way Ames showed why Buffalo is a city both rabidly beloved by it's citizens and floundering in it's current state. The city of Buffalo is the most deeply developed character in this novel. I definitely recommend it and look forward to more from this author.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
MaryMols More than 1 year ago
Review of Buffalo Lockjaw My father was born in Buffalo in 1915, my mother from Aurora in central New York on Cayuga Lake. As a child growing up in Buffalo in the 60's and 70's, I experienced contradictions. I lived in a freezing, harsh environment with a loving, supportive family. Buffalo is a city that was prominent at the turn of the 20th century until the steel and chemical companies that built that prosperity proceeded to contaminate Lake Erie with its industrial waste. When the authorities instituted pollution controls, those industries abandoned Buffalo and its blue collar workers, leaving it in a desperate economic mess. Buffalo Lockjaw is a story which takes place in this declining town. It's about a writer coming to terms with changes in his life, and specifically dealing with his mother's Alzheimers disease. Ames is an amazing writer, vividly depicting his mother's condition so that although she speaks only a few words, she becomes a main character of the book. The book portrays a man devoted to his parents and his family home, his friends and his city. Many of the passages resonated for me, but I was particularly impressed with the ending, which Ames elevates. Some of the most memorable images: The snow looking like rhinos, patting his father's bald head, watching his aunts sitting together under harsh lighting. The writing is absolutely first rate. Greg Ames is a masterful writer. Excellent book.
Sue-Veneer More than 1 year ago
This was as easy to read as the Buffalo News, and was just as terse. The home-town atmosphere was present throughout. I grew up there, too. But I wanted MORE, and I felt that this author could have delivered it, but was short on time, or was edited harshly, who knows. Or he's as limited as the characters in the book, but the subject matter didn't suggest that.
jdm1968 More than 1 year ago
James Fitzroy is a man on a mission: to kill his mother. He is not a diabolical man, he loves is mother. He's not an assassin; he doesn't want her to suffer. He has a vague idea of who he is, his mother does not. Fifty-six year old Ellen Fitzroy, who spent a lifetime researching dementia, now lives in a nursing home, unable to care for herself, suffering from the effects of advanced Alzheimer's disease. Greg Ames boldly has chosen euthanasia, a difficult topic filled with internal and external conflicts, for his debut novel and set it in the cold winter of Buffalo, New York, a town which seems to have as much of an identity crisis as Ellen. James arrives at his mother's bedside just in time to help her celebrate Thanksgiving. His father, who visits Ellen every day and sister show up shortly there after. This isn't the holiday of James' childhood. James recognizes what everyone around him fails to see, Ellen is suffering a fate she never wanted to suffer, she wanted to die with dignity and now even that has been taken away from her. As James wrestles with the idea of helping his mother die, he makes contact with friends of his passed that are stuck in Buffalo, both literally, figuratively, and as a mindset, and as he drives through Buffalo, the past is never as far away as he once thought it was. I did not find Mr. Ames' novel "darkly comic" as blurbed on its back cover, but rather a well written, easy read. And that's about as much as can be said about it. While reading it, I felt a tangential connection to the characters, but I never really got to know them, and in that respect it was unsatisfying, I wanted to dig deeper into these characters. There was no ratcheting up of the plot, aside from Ellen's life, which as for all intents and purposes already ended; there is nothing at stake for James. In the novel's conclusion, Mr. Ames took the easy way out, Ellen is dead, and James did not kill her. It is an anticlimax that left me feeling nothing but the satisfaction of having finished reading the book.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anyone from Buffalo NY should find this book interesting. The title concept strikes to the heart of what Buffalo can be like. In the beginning, I thought it might be too much on social commentary and trying to connect too much with the local landscape. However, Ames does a wonderful job weaving local culture and embodies local struggles in which all readers can relate. It's a nice story about the struggles of family and returning home.
Nikkithescribe More than 1 year ago
I have to say that I am biased as I was born and bred in Buffalo, NY. I luckily picked up this advanced reader copy and had no idea that my hometown was a major character in this book. Ames was on point with all his references of restaurants, bars, etc. I felt for James the main character,and what he was going through with his ill mother, disconnected father, and burn out associates. I would recommend this book to anyone who has lived in or is from Buffalo. You can definitely get the jist if you are not, but it makes more sense if you can relate to the places, faces, and the unique Western New York culture. Ames writing is descriptive, colorful, with a hint of sarcasm--but I think that is what I love the most!
Aradanryl More than 1 year ago
A difficult subject told from the viewpoint of a young man within the context of his life. I'm surprised that I definitely liked the book. A ramrod-straight father, an underachieving self-medicating son are not normally such vulnerable characters. For some odd reason, this felt more like a memoir than a work of fiction.

I'll definitely be checking to see what others thought of this book. Meanwhile, I think I'll hang on to this one for a little while.

For those that like to know ahead of time: indiscriminate promiscuity, casual drug/alcohol abuse, story-appropriate use of f-word, exploration of patient-assisted euthanasia.