Fascinating creatures -- men. I have had my eye on them for some time. And it has been my pleasure to read three books recently that depict men who are interesting, complex, soulful, and genuine -- in other words, real.Easter Rising by Michael Patrick MacDonald
I have raved before about MacDonald's first book All Souls,
a telling of MacDonald's family history in South Boston. Full of tragedy and dark humor, the book sheds light on the gritty details of growing up in the Southie of the '70s. In his second time out, MacDonald goes even deeper to tell his own story. MacDonald's unflinching style satisfies again as we learn more about his view from the projects, but this time we ride along as he gets out of that world and into another -- a world, MacDonald claims saved his life. That world was the Boston Punk Rock scene. Fueled by The Clash, Mission of Burma, The Buzzcocks and Gang of Four (to name a few), MacDonald, underage and determined to see something other than the Reagan for President
and Ireland Forever
signs of his neighborhood, takes us over the Broadway Bridge into makeshift clubs to hear the Dead Kenendys, Siouxie and the Bandshees, and the roots punk/reggae of Mikey Dread. The rebellion that this music and underground scene kick off in MacDonald leaves him dressing like a freak, hiding in bathrooms to sneak into shows, and somehow -- alive. His brothers and friends dying around him, Punk is his ticket out to a place in which he can feel comfortable and understood. Sounds like home to me.The World Made Straight by Ron Rash
It is interesting to imagine how a book that begins by telling the story of how a teenage boy gets caught stealing marijuana plants turns into a historical novel about the end of the American Civil War. But you don't have to, because Ron Rash does it for you. The unlikely pair who drive this story are the boy and the town drug dealer/former school teacher. The two stumble into a friendship that begins to evolve into that of parent and child, but the town in which they live has a deep and violent history that both fascinate and cripple the two men. Rash's writing is poetic and spare. A southern writer that breaks the mold, and yet somehow captures the elusive world of Appalachia.Gilead by Marilynne Robinson
Certainly other female writers have created wonderful male characters, but Robinson goes so much farther in this novel about an elderly Southern minister. Having married late in life and now facing the fact that his health is failing, he decides to write a journal to his young son. Stories unwind for the boy flowing through a voice so solid and complex, it is a wonder. Robinson allows the reader to consider what events in one's own past might summarize who you are, what lessons you might feel compelled to describe to a child who will grow up without you, and how to explain the things you haven't done or meant to do. This novel is both serene and deep, a treasure.