DH: I’m way overdue to review Darin Strauss who is a friend of this blog. And I wanted to give a nod to Amazon’s new literary form, the Kindle Single. It’s a short form electronic download. Who knows how it will work out, and maybe it’s just a new way to pry a few cents or a couple of bucks out of you. But on the basis of Darin’s contribution, it’s sort of like buying an essay from the New Yorker without getting the whole mag with the cute cover. And since I’m writing after a snowstorm, I appreciate that I didn’t have to schlepp out to a newsstand to get it.
I loved everything about “Long Island Shaolin” but I especially loved what I’d call its interior literary form. On the surface, it’s a “guys you have to read this” story about high school kids taking a kung fu class. And if our partner Jonathan Evison is longing for manly, guy oriented literature, literature that physically MOVES…well JE, this is it.
I feel like I’m going to talk like a TV kung fu character and say that DS’s prose contains three levels of excellence. There’s the surface brightness, a symphony of thumps, kicks and punches. Then, more interior to that, the subtle matrix of how the guys are relating to each other, and being guys, they are not going to talk about it…so Darin has to find a way to show us the reality. Last, there’s the metaphysical brightness of the text. I was tremendously moved by how Darin played this. Darin gets the black slash (the top rank in kung fu arts) in writing….where, at one point, he talks about how the kung fu sifu (teacher) “Chuckie” has simplified his moves down to the most basic of forms, like a master artist or writer who strips down to nothing but the essential lines in their mature works, dropping off from all elaborate detailing.
Later, there’s another deep level remark about the sadness of being anachronistic. And I thought about all those storefront karate schools that you see dotting the working class suburban landscape….all those quixotic attempts to be an 18th century samurai in the 21th century where it’s impossible even to be a ronin.
I recently saw what’s now one of my favorite movies, Twilight Samurai. It’s about a lower ranked samurai beset with family problems. He’s a gentle guy who never wants to be a hero, just trying to cope with the burden of fading into an anachronism. It reminded me a little of Darin’s wonderful story. Someday Darin, you’ve got to show me some moves. Chopping, writing, it doesn’t matter.
You hold the black slash in both.
- Half a Life, by Darin Strauss – Open Discussion Thread (thenervousbreakdown.com)
- Darin Strauss Sells New Untitled Novel (mediabistro.com)
- Half A Life by Darin Strauss (divapat.wordpress.com)