Robinson Alone

Robinson Alone

by Kathleen Rooney
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Robinson Alone 4.7 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 3 reviews.
E_Bell More than 1 year ago
Robinson is rich, restless, bored, and drifting. Robinson is lonely. Robinson is alone. In Kathleen Rooney's novel in poems, <i>Robinson Alone,</i> she traces the life of Robinson, an elusive character in just four of Weldon Kees's poems (and a representation of Kees himself) as he moves cross-country--and moves from disenchantment to despair. As Robinson makes haste to leave his Nebraskan hometown, to set up shop in NYC, working for <i>Time</i> magazine, we don't need a whole chapter to tell us about the town--Rooney can say so much with so little, and she does so eloquently throughout the book, &quot;This hateful small./ This hateful empty,&quot; (&quot;Robinson's Hometown&quot;). Once in NYC, as Robinson's well-to-do life, and wife, Ann, and fear of the draft progress, he finds himself growing more and more cynical and more and more disappointed with what his life has become, &quot;they sold fun &amp; we bought it. We/ bought it&quot; (&quot;What does he want? The future? When does he want it? Now!&quot;). So he and Anne pick up and leave NYC for the West, driving through state after state. And this is where Rooney excels--the way she can create a phrase that is not just original but also provides an understanding of how the character is feeling, such as, the way Robinson is &quot;Eyeing other poor saps in their rolling coffins&quot; (&quot;Robinson tears pages from <i>The Rand McNally Road Atlas</i> &quot;) while Ann reads Burma Shave ads out loud as they travel by car. It is clear that the two of them are searching for...something...though, &quot;Robinson confesses they don't know what they'll do when they reach the West Coast&quot; (&quot;Over a thousand miles from New York City&quot;). Unfortunately, making a new home in San Francisco doesn't make life much better for the couple. Ann starts drinking constantly; Robinson begins feeling inferior to his friends, as he finds out about their successes, which just serves to illuminate his failures. Their marriage rips at the seams as Ann drinks herself into anxiety and paranoia, and they divorce, with Robinson slipping into depression and trying to find solace in sex. During this deterioration, Rooney uses poems meant to be letters that Robinson is writing to his friends/family (we aren't quite sure)--a great way to illustrate how his state of mind continues to sink, especially since these poems are all in Robinson's own words, &quot;The trick/ of repeating, 'It can't get any worse,' is certainly no good,/ when all the evidence points to quite the opposite&quot; (&quot;Robinson sends a letter to someone,&quot; p 108). It's clear to us that all Robinson seems to be finding is depression, &quot;He can't get the world right,/ he can only walk around in it&quot; (&quot;Robinson understands as he stands at North Point &amp; Fillmore&quot;), and we wonder what will happen to him as &quot;Bone-/thin in a linen suit, he executes/ a slow vanishing act&quot; (&quot;Robinson dines mostly in restaurants lately&quot;) and he decides &quot;He will go out glitzed. Called a phenom. Called unstoppable&quot; (&quot;Historically, Suicides). But Rooney--paying homage to Kees himself, who disappeared in 1955--doesn't tell us. And rightly so: maybe Robinson (Kees) ran off to Mexico to see if jumpstarting his life would work there; maybe Robinson (Kees) committed suicide. We're not sure. What Rooney does leave us with is this, &quot;Seven years after a disappearance, a person can be pronounced dead./ But that's nothing compared to the size of the ocean&quot; (&quot;Robinson's telephone rings&quot;). And I think that's all we need to know.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Prof_X More than 1 year ago
In these poems, Rooney is not merely exhuming the life & times of the poet Weldon Kees through her character Robinson -- she is inhabiting Robinson, and by doing so creating her own Robinson, buzzing with ambition, paralyzed by indecision, a man of his times forever disappointed with his times and hoping to rise above them. And when the crash comes, it comes hard & painfully slow. The poems themselves are not merely historical set-pieces, though they are deeply layered and brimming with the actual stuff & meticulous detail of the worlds Robinson encounters -- pre-WW2 Nebraska; New York City just before & during the war; a post-war, post-hope, cross-country road trip filled with Burma-Shave ads & rest stops & sad homecomings; and finally, San Francisco with its light, its decadence, & its torpor. No, these poems are more than all that. Entering them is like entering a spiraling dreamworld with razor-sharp edges -- a prolonged trance in which Hope is forever fragile and Loss is as final as a thud. *Robinson Alone* is a monumental achievement.