Tag Archives: novella

The True Complexities of an Era | Review of “Real Gone” by Jim Christy (2010) Quattro Books

gone

We tend to hear about the simple things that make up a historical moment in time. Take the 1960s for example. For those of us who weren’t around to live through that era, we are bedazzled by simple images and concepts that made up that turbulent time. But we aren’t given insight of what the complexities and the difficulties of that time was like. That is the beauty of a good piece of literature. Through the eyes of a well-created protagonist, we can honestly understand what a time period was like. That is why Real Gone by Jim Christy is such a great read.

To San Francisco and back . . .  (Page 9-10)

That summer, anyone my age and Ellen’s age who considered themselves anti-establishment in any way or were inclined to adventure or who were simply after kicks would have been foolish not to go to San Francisco. Larry Demeter and his Italian girlfriend Laura Longo were all for it and so was Ted Rogel but he didn’t have a girlfriend. I suggested he drive up to New York and put an ad in the Psychedelicatessen on Tompkins Square. He showed up at my apartment on Elderidge Street and I took him over to the place; he pinned his note on the bulletin board ‘Chick wanted for trip to San Francisco! Must travel light’, and when he got back to West Chester, just outside of Philadelphia, there had been three or four calls.

The next day, Ted was again knocking on the door, and with him was a beautiful 22 year-old girl in high heels, tight black satin slacks and a flowery blouse. Her name was Dalia and she was wearing three or four necklaces, a dozen bracelets, had rings on every finger and on most of her toes. She was part Vegas showgirl, part hipster road chick. In other words, she was just my type. We looked at each other and it was like there was a magnetic field connecting us. We both said hello, got into the fishtail Plymouth, and from then on ignored each other until we got to California.

In South Carolina I’d heard music when we pulled over to get something out of the trunk and down the road saw a few black people go into the forest, followed minutes later by several more, all carrying boxes, baskets, bottles of booze. I went over and found the trail, and my companions reluctantly followed me into the piney woods. There were bonfires in a clearing, lanterns powered by car batteries and a pig turning on a spit. Four guys in suits and bib overalls were playing rhythm and blues that was fifteen years out of date and just the way I liked it. People looked but nobody hassled us. The alto sax was held together by electrician’s tape. It was as if time stood still in the woods; it was eternally 1948, and Wynonie Harris was at the top of the Race chart. But the music either bored my companions or they were afraid the darkies would get them. So we left the woods and emerged into July 1967, and back on the road. The long, long road to the coast, and all the way across the country, the big song on the radio had nothing to do with white rabbits or flowers in your hair; it was Bobbie Gentry’s “Ode to Billie Joe.” It was the summer of love.

While it is a novella, Real Gone has a complex plot nonetheless. Readers travel with the protagonist through the turmoils and excitement that was America in 1967/68. We gain an honest understanding of the feelings and emotions of the time period, not just a saccharine review of those years.

To New Orleans and back . . . (Page 29)

“No, sir. I’m not in the Army and I don’t have to do anything you say.”

“When I get you in the back room, you’ll do what I say.”

While we were having our conversation, I glanced at the line of young men beyond him, many of whom looked over their shoulders with interest. I could see the fear in some of the faces. They didn’t want any port of the whoe deal. One fellow in particular, a tall, gangly black guy seemed particularly scared. I was nervour but I wasn’t afraid. I wanted to call to him, “Hey, man. It isn’t difficult. You don’t have to go in the Army.”

But who was I to say anything? What did I know? Perhaps he had no choice. It would be presumptuous of me to tell him: “Look around you. Look down the line. Three quarters of the others are brothers.Why fight for America when you can’t even get served in most restaurants despite some bullshit civil rights legislation that isn’t enforced anyway? Hell, I can’t get served in diners in this same state. You try going in and sitting down at the counter. What did America every do for you?”

He kept looking at me, just looking in my eyes, as if wondering what they’d do to me and how I’d handle it…

The book reviews several trends and events of the 1967-68 era but it is the interpretation of those events of the gives the books it’s true feel. Christy has a very simple style that makes the novella easy to read and comprehend.

Page 122-123

I drove to Atlantic City to see Charlie Leeds. I hadn’t seen him since he pretended to be jack Ruby’s brother. He was actually at home when I telephoned, at his mother’s house at 44 South Windsor Avenue. We arranged to meet on the Boardwalk neat the Steel Pier.

The season was over and boardwalk nearly deserted. The saltwater taffy shops and souvenir stands, the tawdry lean-tos that would make a carnie blush, were all boarded up. Charlie came down the boardwalk with a kind of hobbled glide and he seemed to be listing, because of the wind, I thought, and the briefcase he held in his other hand didn’t help to balance him. But no, it wasn’t the wind, that’s just the way he was.

We leaned against the rail, looked out at the angry gray ocean and Charlie told me that he too was going to prison. I knew he’d been arrested and I’d heard the details from Nanette, Ellen’s sister, and Charlie’s long time friend. I remember how four years earlier I had made the rounds of Atlantic City bars looking for this character that had become legendary in my mind. And soon I realized was legendary in fact. He had played with famous and infamous musicians beginning at the end of the big band era. Charlie Shavers, Buddy Rich, Woody Herman, Stan Getz, Lennie Tristano and his great buddies Brew Moore and Joe Albany. Nanette and I finally ran into Charlie, two nights after we began the hunt, at a place called Cody’s Bar. He was playing his bass with a quartet on stage but he didn’t remain on the stage for long. He was so far gone into the music that he just fell over and onto the floor, working the strings the whole time. And he was a great writer, too.

Real Gone by Jim Christy is  an detailed look at life in 1967-68. The novella gives honest insight to that over-discussed era and is a insightful read.

Link to Quattro Books webpage for Real Gone

What is she thinking? | Review of “Down The Street” by Cassandra Cronenberg (2014) Quattro Books

Street

We all have that friend who starts to act dangerously irrational. We all have looked at them at wondered at what they are thinking as they act and do odd things. Cassandra Cronenberg has given us insight into one such mind as it starts to go through a mental breakdown in her novella Down The Street.

Page 7

DOWN THE STREET, on the street, these lyrics can’t be beat. This is my head don’t destroy it. “I gotta place to be to be,” he said. “I gotta place to be,” he said, bouncing along the street as he often did and always did and always did before and forever. This is the way he walks; this is the way he walks. He/she, he/she, he/she, this is where it is, the never-ending flow, why does there have to be finality? Why doe there have to be a finality? Can it not keep going? Can it not keep going?

“THIS IS SHE.”

This is a girl’s life, the life of a girl, not the life of this hustler, this hustler who is on the street doing coke, living to the beat, coughing and cursing and hurting, this is not his life this is my life. This is my life now. “What do you want?” he said to me once and I crossed my hands in front of me and back out and jutted my chin to him and he said, “I’ll remember that for next time.” A fight, I wanted a fight

While this book is only 142 pages, it is a complex novella and shouldn’t be rushed through. Cronenberg goes from one thought to the next (known as streams of consciousness) of the protagonist as she deals with not only the collapse of her marriage and the raising of her children but deals with her desires and her impulses. The language is frank and bold yet not too complex.

Page 49

That night in bed I had a fever and it was like my shoulder was dislocated. I started on antibiotics the next day.  At first I thought I had completely fucked everything up by that last visit and I could never go in and would have to move and never go in again and that destroyed me, although someday to live in the Annex would be cool, not now though, my community was here and the thought of not dating him was fine because we were already together. I am abstaining from sex anyway, so . . . I do need his music though.

My friend who has been trying to bag the boys at Terroni jinxed me by saying, “Remember when you made me that mixed tape?” to one of them. Now she just works/lives there, every meeting, etc.,  but I now know we are special to each other and a mixed tape still signifies something special, as does dinner; if he made me dinner, I would just about die. His boss was right. “I bet you want that (blank fill in the words) now don’t you?” Yes, I want the tape and the dinner, yes, yes I do. How are we going to get there?

We seek cultural items out to give us quick answers and that is a mistake. We should be engaging culture to give us an insight – if not an understanding – of subjects around us. That is what Cronenberg has done with this novella, given us an insight into a mind of somebody we have pondered about – an ex-girlfriend, a sister, a friend, a daughter, whatever. We can’t have easy answers to our complex lives but we can have a bit of insight to the thoughts of others.

Page 80

The Conversation with my ex was the first we had had that was good in a while, really good, about the girls, and I was, am, stoned. There you go, women in need or pot to get in touch with their emotions. Well, I needed that for sure.

Shit, I’m old. I’m too old. That woman at the counter, in the coffee shop, even if my coffee friend talked about me to her and the “hi” was because I was standing there and he didn’t think I would come in. He needs to be with someone young like himself. I am too old, I’m having a midlife crisis, perhaps; I mean the thought had crossed my mind. Going through all the boys and men in my life, and they are young.

“Night and day,” he said, as he followed my gaze out the window to a mother and daughter running together. Running with the girls and not.

Down The Street by Cassandra Cronenberg is a complex novella that gives insight to a confused mind to somebody we all know. A brilliant and bold read that is frank in it’s language. A great piece of literature.

Link to Cassandra Cronenberg’s website

Link to Quattro Books page for “Down The Street”