Archive for March 11th, 2020

Chuck Kinder may be a metafictional wonder boy, but this book often tried my patience. I didn’t give up on it, though many times I wanted to. I would put it down, sometimes for weeks at a time, but I’d always circle back because I couldn’t quite give up on it. And these days, when I’m notorious for abandoning books because “life is too short” that’s something of a backhanded compliment.

You see, this book is what Chuck Kinder calls “faction”—that is, a memoir that’s even more loose with the facts than most memoirs. Mr. Kinder states repeatedly that he’s a storyteller above all else and never lets the facts of his life get in the way of a good story. Born and raised in West Virginia, he pays loving and cynical attention to his quirky home state, speaking of its history and its legends, everything from Matewan to Mothman. As fast and loose as he plays with the facts of his own life, when he’s talking about history and legends (as far as I can tell) he plays it fairly straight. Oh, he may insert himself into the headspace of the historical actors —which makes the narrative come alive in quite wondrous ways sometimes, if I’m honest—but he does tell the story down to its bones. In these days of the internet, it’s easy to call his bluff there, and some of these oddball characters have presences you can even look up on YouTube (Jessico White, for one).

I was good with all of that. Enjoyed that part of the ride. What Mr. Kinder had to say in these passages was often beautiful and heart-wrenching; or oddly, spookily, legendarily interesting; or downright funny. A lot of funny. When he talked about the history and legends of West Virginia (“Planet West Virginia” as he referred to it), you could feel his love for the place and its people and the craziness he grew up with.

Unfortunately, he frequently interspersed these bits with references to his own bad boy past and present, and those passages smelled of stale testosterone. I am so over reading about bad boys and posing tough guys, whether they are teenagers or fifty-somethings. He often doesn’t name the people in his life, or only by pseudonyms and nicknames—either to protect their innocence or to turn them into characters he can fudge facts about. Again, I wouldn’t have minded the faction about his relatives, but his wrenching everything back to stories about his bad boy status got tiresome, and interrupted the flow of the rest of the narrative. And that, as the saying goes, got on my last nerve.

But I did finish Last Mountain Dancer, so there is that.

Random quote of the day:

“Truth doesn’t need any furniture.”

—Tomas Tranströmer, “Preludes” (tr. Robert Bly)

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this random quote of the day do not necessarily reflect the views of the poster, her immediate family, Key and Peele, Celine Dion, or Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. They do, however, sometimes reflect the views of the Cottingley Fairies.