Writing Warps the Mind a Little


Love Warps the Mind a Little CoverRequiem, Mass.: A Novel

After finishing John Dufresne’s most recent novel, Requiem, Mass., I reflected on some of its parallels to one of his earlier novels, Love Warps the Mind a LittleI suppose there aren’t so many similarities to speak of, although both novels are about writers.

I know some readers who are bothered by writers who continually write about writers.  Some readers specifically ask that the occupation of the narrator or main character be something else.  I guess I don’t mind so much, if it’s done well. A writer’s life and the act of writing fascinate me.  I am the quintessential writer’s groupie, really.

Requiem, Mass. is about the erratic, confusing and heartbreaking childhood of Johnny and Audrey at the hands of their paranoid, psychotic mother and absent trucker father.  Their mother’s mental episodes periodically cause her to believe her children are imposters, aliens that have replaced her true children.  When Johnny, as an adult, sets out to tell his story, I was initially compelled, and ultimately disappointed.  The writing is episodic, jerky, and difficult at times to track.  Johnny introduces a childhood chum only to tell you about their ultimate demise or downward spiral in two paragraphs or less.  Johnny struggles with telling his story, and starts out wanting to fictionalize it.  Ostensibly, Dufresne was trying to get at the problems inherent in autobiography, but there is little emotional resonance here.  While Dufresne is great with humor, with a light touch, it fell flat for me in this book. 

People magazine anointed Requiem, Mass. with their four-star “Pick of the Week.”  I am very happy for an author like John Dufresne who truly deserves a greater readership.

 

But for a better novel about a writer, I would suggest Love Warps the Mind a LittleIt’s funny, touching and features a wonderfully flawed writer, Laf Proulx, who will win you over even as he infuriates you. But, let me leave you with a lovely passage from another Dufresne novel, Deep in the Shade of Paradise:

There’s always at least two stories, the one you set out to tell and the one you discover along the way; the one you know about, the one you don’t.  The intentional and the actual, you could say.  (Take the New Testament, for example.  Maybe it’s the story of a God who became a man.  Or maybe it’s the story of a man who thought he was a god.)  And maybe our intentions are not as significant as our discoveries.  Maybe what you hear is more important than what we say.  At any rate, welcome (or welcome back) to northwest Louisiana and thanks for coming by to listen to our story.

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About the Author:

Misha Stone is a readers' advisory librarian with The Seattle Public Library. Follow her on Twitter at @ahsimlibrarian.

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