I've been thinking about blogging again lately and have resigned myself (finally!) to start writing here once more vs. just posting pics.
So here we go.
I just finished Gabe Habash's Stephen Florida. It took me quite awhile to get into this book. Hanya Yanagihara (!!! - literally why I picked up the book - A Little Life is an all-time favorite) says: "[the character is] deeply troubled, vulnerable, and compellingly strange" but that the book itself is "both a dark ode to the mysteries and landscapes of the American West and a complex and convincing character study."
I'm not sure I get the "American West" bit, would prob categorize this thing very "midwestern", maybe "midwestern gothic", even. But yeah, this character, this kid, is very, very troubled.
Habash strips Florida of his whole family, tragically. Literally the kid is alone save a crazy aunt living in Austraila (of all places) who's ringing in only to pawn off of his inheritance. Sad. So the kid turns a laser focus to the 133 weight class of collegiate wrestling and resolves himself to be the greatest EVER (at least in his region).
The jacket flap says this of this kid's mania: "every practice, every match, is a step closer to greatness and a step further from sanity."
The kid is straight mad (but so is just about every other character).
It's hard at times to live inside as reader. What's often great is Habash's hand. Habash is a fine writer. Halfway through we kinda fall in love with the mad kid, start to feel for him, and not just pity, and if you're anything like me, pretty damn single-minded sometimes about the stuff you want to accomplish, you find yourself in this kid.
This makes you sad to leave off of him at the end when Habash kinda wraps the book up in a big red bow. Further torment the kid or give him happiness, finally? We're left uncertain (eh) but Habash forthrightly hints at some good for the kid. I think this is nice. I cringed at first though am happy his fate isn't something nephew Shane-ish. I felt too led to it, maybe: Linus loses of course, Stephen wins, Mary Beth is waiting. It's a triumphant book, you see, and I'm almost surprised no one proclaimed that on the back in a blurb.
pg. 154: "While the teacher summarizes the overarching important shit to know, I look around at the other students. Taking in information. Human husks, husks of humans. It becomes an all-day job not turning into everyone else, keeping myself from old, tired dreams."
pg. 218: "'Most people, I think, don't work hard enough.' I work harder for this one thing than almost anyone works in their life. I work harder than a therapist, and almost say so, but my manners are improving. 'I have little pity for anyone. Actually, I have pity for the poets. The poets have it rough.'" (Amen kid.)
pg. 241: "...I'm in control, I have his flank and when he tips over onto his face, I hook my hands together where the authorities can't see and he screams about it but they don't catch me. Deep down, I have the sense I was once the strangest man in Europe. My life is full of exceeding strangeness but very little nuance, as if a child could grasp it."
pg. 254: I wonder. If at the end. Life is a very bright light. That you just wanted turned out."
pg. 280: "I have good news and bad news! The bad news is that the abyss and the void are all the same thing and it is monumental and everywhere. The good news is you can lie still in your bed while the cursed and the unskinned walk around in it and not feel a thing. 'I want a good match you two. Good luck.' And just like that, he steps back and we head into the fuckery."
pg. 284: Identity is curious and always getting misplaced, sometimes you have to hold it pretty hard to keep it from getting away. I was never once the most talented, not even close, but I always had my single-mindedness, foolish greedy dodo single-mindedness."