Sunday, June 20, 2010
He's got every right to yearn, to hope. His dad is an angry wind-up of a man; his mother is psychologically damaged and fading. And every time Art starts settling in, an actual denizen, he's picked up and moved again, from one end of the country to another, making it just so slightly frustrating and difficult for this nerdy kid to forge bridges beyond his own fracturing family. In chapters with titles like "Ranger Ringo," "Carloochieland," and "The Smell of Rain," Gridley provides nuanced details of a life that leaves his protagonist with few options but to "thrash ahead."
One of the great pleasures of Shame is the perfectly calibrated nature of its sentences; there's not a single false metaphor, poorly adjacent-ized adjective, or bit of excess in these pages (there aren't even made-up words; I only do that because this is a blog). Here, for example, is how "Ranger Ringo" begins:
It was after the baby didn't come that Art got his cowboy suit. The tan shirt had pockets tilted like smiling lips, outlined with a dark red cord that his mother called "piping" though it didn't look at all like his father's pipe. Similar stuff ran around the collar and down beside the snaps, which were perfectly milky white circles rimmed with silver. Bright flowers sewn on the front, along with lots of squiggles and loops, made the shirt stiff and heavy.
Shame, which is beautifully illustrated by Tom Jackson and will be released in September, is a production of New Door Books, a new Philadelphia-based publishing house that released its first acclaimed title, Ligia Rave's Hannah's Paradise, earlier this year.