Friday, November 23, 2007

Breaking It Down. Rusty Barnes. ( sunnyoutside.com Buffalo, NY) $12.


Breaking It Down. Rusty Barnes. ( sunnyoutside.com Buffalo, NY) $12.

Look—Rusty Barnes lives in Revere, Mass. but don’t expect his fiction to reflect the drama of the urban environs. Barnes was born and raised in Appalachia. De Witt Henry, founder of “Ploughshares” magazine writes of Barnes: “ His characters like Robert Frost’s are mostly rural, poor and farm-bound…Voicing these inarticulate characters with image, gesture and narrative eloquence, Barnes opens the core of their imagined lives.”

In the first story in this collection of flash fiction, a rural, long-suffering wife starts the day snapping green beans with her mother-in-law, and later winds up rollicking in the carnal hay with a farm boy many years her junior. In this scene she prepares to make love to the young “Purl”, one of her mother-in-law’s younger “boys”. Barnes has the boy’s penis rise in accusation:

“Purl had laid the blanket out already, wisps of hay stuck to his hairless chest. As I loosened his jeans, it wagged like a finger, an accusation I could never answer to anyone’s satisfaction but my own.”

But this woman understands her life of quiet desperation had to be addressed:

“ Thirty years of snapping beans, of lying placid while drunken Robbie poked away at me occasionally in the dead of night…”

Barnes portrays the tragedy of this woman’s life, and perhaps in small part her redemption, in plain language. The woman justifies her affair with the matter-of- fact
attitude she would employ to shuck an ear of corn. She says:” I was doing what needed to be done.”

And in “Certitude” Barnes focuses in on a couple: Mathilde and Warren. Barnes writes of the woman:

“Mathilde knew that Warren wanted to be nothing more than to be feral… a man who might chase down a kill with great loping strides like a wolf, neatly hamstring it, and howl his success to the stars.”

It seems that Warren is in the midst of a Robert Bly moment or a bad mid-life crisis. And like some scared, wounded critter, he is licking his wounds in some warren, or in this case a finished basement. In a beautifully rendered scene Mathilde comes to him and reaches out in a primal and touchingly vulnerable way:

“ Naked, she stood before him as a sob rose in his chest. She took the phone from his hand and lowered herself onto him. Even in his pain she could feel him stir beneath her, and it was no trick at all after so many years of marriage to put him inside her with minimal effort, and less a trick to take his head and firmly press it between her breasts as he convulsed.”

Barnes writing shows a true understanding of the human condition. And what happens in these gone-to-seed, rural burgs happens, with better props in the tony homes of the Back Bay and Beacon Hill sections of Boston or Central Park West in New York city.

Doug Holder/ Ibbetson Update ing It Down. Rusty Barnes. ( sunnyoutside.com Buffalo, NY) $12.

Look—Rusty Barnes lives in Revere, Mass. but don’t expect his fiction to reflect the drama of the urban environs. Barnes was born and raised in Appalachia. De Witt Henry, founder of “Ploughshares” magazine writes of Barnes: “ His characters like Robert Frost’s are mostly rural, poor and farm-bound…Voicing these inarticulate characters with image, gesture and narrative eloquence, Barnes opens the core of their imagined lives.”

In the first story in this collection of flash fiction, a rural, long-suffering wife starts the day snapping green beans with her mother-in-law, and later winds up rollicking in the carnal hay with a farm boy many years her junior. In this scene she prepares to make love to the young “Purl”, one of her mother-in-law’s younger “boys”. Barnes has the boy’s penis rise in accusation:

“Purl had laid the blanket out already, wisps of hay stuck to his hairless chest. As I loosened his jeans, it wagged like a finger, an accusation I could never answer to anyone’s satisfaction but my own.”

But this woman understands her life of quiet desperation had to be addressed:

“ Thirty years of snapping beans, of lying placid while drunken Robbie poked away at me occasionally in the dead of night…”

Barnes portrays the tragedy of this woman’s life, and perhaps in small part her redemption, in plain language. The woman justifies her affair with the matter-of- fact
attitude she would employ to shuck an ear of corn. She says:” I was doing what needed to be done.”

And in “Certitude” Barnes focuses in on a couple: Mathilde and Warren. Barnes writes of the woman:

“Mathilde knew that Warren wanted to be nothing more than to be feral… a man who might chase down a kill with great loping strides like a wolf, neatly hamstring it, and howl his success to the stars.”

It seems that Warren is in the midst of a Robert Bly moment or a bad mid-life crisis. And like some scared, wounded critter, he is licking his wounds in some warren, or in this case a finished basement. In a beautifully rendered scene Mathilde comes to him and reaches out in a primal and touchingly vulnerable way:

“ Naked, she stood before him as a sob rose in his chest. She took the phone from his hand and lowered herself onto him. Even in his pain she could feel him stir beneath her, and it was no trick at all after so many years of marriage to put him inside her with minimal effort, and less a trick to take his head and firmly press it between her breasts as he convulsed.”

Barnes writing shows a true understanding of the human condition. And what happens in these gone-to-seed, rural burgs happens, with better props in the tony homes of the Back Bay and Beacon Hill sections of Boston or Central Park West in New York city.

Doug Holder/ Ibbetson Update

1 comment:

  1. Thanks Doug. I appreciate the look.

    ReplyDelete