Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Big Fish

I had been meaning to introduce myself to Daniel Wallace, who lives just over the ridge from me, but it seemed like it would be polite to read one of his books before doing so.  So I snapped up a copy of Big Fish at Nice Price Books, or maybe at the thrift store.  Dunno.

But when I peaked inside, I saw that it was about the death of his father, which seemed a little close to home. So I put it aside Then, leading up to the release party for a new children's book he has out, I thought I'd read a little.  I knew I could use a little fiction.

So I looked everywhere for it, but couldn't find it, until Sunday, when I found it.... just where I thought I had put it. It was as if I had been purposefully blind to the thing.  I started to read it, and have found it relatively easy going, cast in a mythopoeic groove just this side of Carl Sandburg's Rutabaga Tales.  It didn't seem too close to home at all.

Until it did.  All of a sudden we find the narrator sitting at the side of his father's deathbed, in multiple versions, like Rashomon, or the multiple versions of Abraham and Isaac with which Kierkegaarde opens Fear and Trembling.  And his father, lying there in what promises to be the location of his last breaths, keeps his family members at a safe distance by telling jokes.  Constantly. The son tries to get him to be serious, to no avail.

Thing is, some of them are good.  Like the one about the kid who keeps dreaming that kinfolk are dead, and then the next day they die.  So one night he dreams that his father dies.  And the next day the father paces back and forth in agony, fearing his imminent demise.  At the end of the day he's fine, but he says to his wife:  "Good god, I've had the worst day of my life."  And she responds, "you think you've had a bad day, the milkman dropped dead on our porch this morning!"

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