Dudes, I’m so cultured. I read a book of plays.
You Can’t Win by Jack Black – I swear there is a section in the depths of Powell’s that only I visit – it’s chocked full of non-fiction accounts of old timey shipwrecks, pioneer cannibal disasters, medieval plagues, and wild west gunslingers. Basically, I should give a book talk back there every week.
This was another gem from “my” section, all about a highly intelligent early 1900s vagabond who caused trouble across the country (and a little in Canada). He got mixed up in a lot of bad business and the subculture of the “yeggs” (hobos who knew how to effectively crack safes and hide the loot). Every page is full of his accounts of riding the rails, burglarizing homes, breaking out of jail, getting addicted to opium, and making lots of friends along the way. Even though you know he’s doing terrible things, you can’t help but like him.
His story fascinated me, but I could see many people getting bored with the abundance of details included about each crime, conversation, or experience. All in all, he ends up becoming a librarian. Go figure. Two thumbs up.
Selected Plays by James Purdy – I’ve previously enjoyed James Purdy’s short stories and his plays are equally complex, strange, and unpredictable. Just when you think you have a handle of the plot, he turns it on it’s head. My favorite was “The Paradise Circus” where a father sells his disappointing sons to the circus, only to desperately want them back years later. Each story is an understated tragedy, and sometimes comedic, but mostly full of sad loneliness and regret. It makes me wonder if James Purdy is also a sad lonely guy, or he just writes that way.
While I really did love these plays, I kind of don’t want to read a play for at least a year. Maybe it’s that everyday is an existential crisis in my life, and to read about four of them in a row didn’t provide the escapism I need in reading.
Now onto June books! I’ll get all the escapism I need in my newest guide to life in the middle ages.