Thursday, July 20, 2017

Make Dust Our Paper (Joseph M Reynolds)



This book is not for all readers, so let's apply a quick litmus test to see if you should continue.

  • If you think you think you might enjoy fan fiction written by a fictional author about F. Scott Fitzgerald and his wife Zelda... Well, grab a copy. This has that.
  • 'He never drank because he was in love with his wit. And his love was loyal and unwavering.' If this description of Grandfather Carrigan pleases your soul, grab a copy.
  • If you hate the heavy nature of prose in classics, you should consider skipping this book. It isn't that you wouldn't enjoy the story, but instead the presentation. The main character eats and breathes anachronistic viewpoints. As a result, he purposefully forms thoughts and sentences to emulate the dense text that often floods high school required reading lists. 


The novel opens with narration, faceless, fatherly, and omniscient. It advises that the story contained is a series of vignettes which will culminate and seem unrelated.


To quote the narrator:
'This narrative makes one strident and correctly nondescript promise—John Carrigan is a young man worth knowing.'


This is a bold statement, one that I did not agree with until the majority of the book had passed. I was consumed with dislike for the trivial and flippant way that Carrigan observed the world. John Carrigan is kind of a dick. At twenty-one years old, he is well read and pretentious; his attitude stinks, college is a bore for him and he just had a break up with his girlfriend Jane. At twenty-one, he is filled with a bubble of angst that the world has not yet popped; that he is emotionally too stunted to get over. He is intelligent enough to hide behind brilliant authors from past generations that he seems to wish he were part of.


Make Dust Our Paper is a semi-generational story, meaning not just the tale of John but his deceased Father (and by proxy, Grandfather). They are not characters, but they are ghosts who haunt John. John is broken and wishing for a father who (depending on the teller of anecdote) was stabbed in the street, killed defending the cause, or some other undisclosed 'Truth'. Carrigan is who he is because of his Father's inability to manifest before him and share in the triviality of life.


To reiterate my perspective, John is a dick. He remains this way long enough that I nearly set this book down. Angst overload and the affectation of Human concern are not key drivers in people I want to know in life or books.


Then John went home. In the space of one night, the fragility of John became clear. His facade had a spotlight shown on it, his character grows and you can see light in the cracks of his shell as the flesh beneath expands. A single night with his mother and a surprise interaction with his dead father is all it takes for his complexity to begin unraveling. Are those cracks or veins in the cover art? Either way, I feel they are an appropriate detail only noticed afterward.


Post reading, I wholeheartedly agree with the faceless narrator. John Carrigan is worth knowing. Will this book last as long as the novels it liberally references? Who knows. Perhaps it doesn't matter though. For perspective on this comment, reference the Shakespeare quote which the title is derived from.


“Let’s talk of graves, of worms, and epitaphs;
Make dust our paper and with rainy eyes
Write sorrow on the bosom of the earth."
- Shakespeare


If you read this review and book, leave a comment with your thoughts... I can't stop wondering if Professor Liam Keating from the novel requires his own book. The chapter from his perspective was fantastic. What are your thoughts?


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Disclosure: The publisher of this book provided it to me for review purposes. This is a gamble as my reviews are honest, and not always positive. I may also read naked save the gorilla mask I bought at Goodwill, but this does not impact the integrity of the review process, it enhances it. Gorilla mask or not, if the book was shit, Minky the monkey boy would fling it and screech feedback at you.

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