Saturday, September 6, 2014


Gerald Nicosia is an old friend, but like many friends made as an adult, I was already an admirer of his work before we became friends (something I misunderstood when I was younger and read a positive review of someone's work who I knew was friends with the creator they were reviewing). I knew him mostly as the author of the best biography of Jack Kerouac: MEMORY BABE.

I not only loved that book but admired Gerald's attempts to secure Jan Kerouac, Jack's daughter control over Jack's archives, not only because she was ill and needed expensive medical care that a freelance writer could never afford, but also because she would not have sold off her father's legacy by taking items from his archive and selling them to the highest bidder (a la Johnny Depp spending some unheard of sum for Jack's raincoat and someone else for a letter signed by Jack etc. etc. etc.).

Nicosia also wrote HOME TO WAR: A HISTORY OF THE VIETNAM VETERANS' MOVEMENT, another worthwhile project and read. And now he's put out a new book of poems, that have the same narrative drive as his prose books, but he precision and focus of his poetry. And the story they tell is of the poet's encounters with China on several visits but mostly the one where he returned with his wife and their other child to the Chinese birthplace of his adopted daughter.

These poems are unguardedly honest and disarmingly poignant. I have never been to China but have read a lot of Chinese literature (in translation) and accounts by Westerners (both English speaking and not) but never have I felt like I was experiencing China personally the way I have reading these poems. And not only do the poems tell an engaging and enlightening story (two words I probably too often use in positive reviews, but that's because that's the kind of writing I'm attracted to and I would guess you too), but the book itself is one of those books I'd want on my shelf just because of the way they look and feel in my hands.

Highly recommended.

No comments: