Thursday, March 6, 2014

John the Revelator

John the RevelatorJohn the Revelator by T.J. Beitelman
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

If we remember Harry Crews or Barry Hannah or even Larry Brown, it only means that we have a choir that sings with this book, and make no mistake, it is a song. The rapture of John the Revelator is in the octaves and volumes it slides over us like clothes that change color and let us pass into unknown places. The book is these things: skin, song, color, and a taste in the mouth not unlike mud, but in a good way at first, like the pies we built as children when we were convinced of their sustenance.

As Mose says late in the book, "I had a notion something hurt and scared was headed out here." And in that way we know that the souls of this novel are out there scared and moving toward us, and that they rest inside each of us. While we are in the dirt of those broken and surviving, there rests within their story a hope. A hope that urges us to swim in the catfish ponds, or in the more pleasant waters that hide the mess of life. Once there, we can taste this truth and grasp it like the sides of a fish, which is to say momentarily and with some discomfort.

In the end the novel calls for return and visitation, whether all at once or in small bites like communion. In John the Revelator we find filth, love, revenge, and survival, which TJ Beitelman shows bleeding into one another and becoming, at times, much the same thing.









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Wednesday, January 15, 2014

I'm the Man, I'm the Man

Dear Friends,

When you’re driving a van filled with middle schoolers
and a boy in the front seat starts singing
I’m the man, I’m the man, I’m the man
let him finish.
When he’s done,
a girl from the back seat will turn and say
“E-’s the man y’all.”
You’ll all laugh together.
E-’s excitement will blind him though.
Dancing in his seat and sculpting the words
out of air, he’ll forget about calling his mom.
So, he’ll go one extra stop with you
and you’ll hear him say into his phone,
“Yeah, mom I was singing and I’m almost finished with
my short story.”
She’ll pull up in a Carola,
her gray afro more motherly
than anything you’ve ever seen,
and he’ll sprint toward her
smiling under the streetlamps.