Sunday, May 30, 2010

Requiem, Mass. by John Dufresne

I wish I knew how to describe John Dufresne's style, because it is my favorite kind of writing. It's fast and furious, and a little disjointed, sort of like a busy Saturday morning with lots of coffee. I devoured this book, both because I loved it, and because I felt like I had to read really fast to keep up.

Where I heard about this book: I found it on the library shelves. With a name like that, who could resist?

What I thought of this book: Terrific. 4 1/2 stars.

What this book is about: Wow. Hard to distill. It's told from the point of view of a middle-aged author, who originally writes the story as fiction, then is convinced to take the plunge, admit it's a memoir, and use real names, places and events. It follows his childhood in a wildly dysfunctional but entertaining extended family. This story is interspersed with segments of the protagonist's adult life. I must admit that I considered a few of these me-as-an-adult sections to be unwelcome distractions from the more compelling story of his childhood. My only other complaint about the novel is that there were so many characters that I had trouble keeping them all straight, particularly the family whose names are all colors. Otherwise this was a thoroughly enjoyable book.

I discovered that the main character in Requiem, Mass., Johnny, bears more than a passing resemblance to John Dufresne. I love the way the author talks, in interviews, about memoir and fiction. I'm paraphrasing here, but in essence he says that memoir is always half-truth, as memory is unreliable at best, and always biased. Fiction, he maintains, is in many respects more truthful; an author knows his characters better than he can ever know himself, and events are crisply imagined, not dulled by hazy recollection.

Here is an interview transcript I really enjoyed - John Dufresne sounds like someone who is easy to talk to; a serious writer who describes his profession in terms the rest of us can understand.

1 comment:

  1. Gosh, this does sound interesting. i am fascinated by life writing and memoir especially when it is done in an interesting way. this sounds like it really plays around with the idea of fictionalising real life which of course many authors do all the time. I like the idea of the narrative changing as you describe during the book. Thanks indeed for sharing this interesting post