Wednesday, 15 May 2013

Book Review: Spread Thin and Moving Fast:

I was sent this book by a publicist. I have been reluctant to read it so far. I have found many memoirs, written by men, feature too many vignettes of vulgar, 10-year-old behaviour involving bodily functions. I was right on this account. It's way too long, primarily. An author must pick and choose his/her vignettes to further the plot, the memoir or the story. He does paint a picture of the people around him, the colours, sounds, and smells of his world, as many male memoir writers don't. That was a bonus.
And while the author's father was an angry, mean man, the young boy didn't understand why the child was beaten for no reason he can figure out. It certainly doesn't illuminate the story for the reader.

By the time the youngster reaches puberty, we must hear about each time he stole from the local store, 'jerked off' (or fantasized about this), with subsequent girlfriends. Using puerile language, from an author with a Ph.D., it seemed somewhat self-indulgent for me. Yes, he was an angry boy. Yes, he learned to play on the streets, finding work at a local golf club, sleeping in his father's garage. He was a survivor.
It was an horrific life, with the abusive father sending the child away to live with relatives, and little Eddie having minimal contact with his mother, who was alienated by the family.

This was too disconnected. A series of short chapters, vignettes, as many men seem to write in a memoir. They were not even short stories with beginning, middle, end; plot; setting and that certain something an excellent short story, like a poem, means to the reader. Like that twist in a well-written haiku, not pseudoku.

This book reminded me too much of teaching gr. 7/8 Anger Management boys! But what a life this man has lived. A 'petty, criminal life', indeed.

De Avila, Ed., Spread Thin and Moving Fast: An unlikely story.

"It is an unlikely story about the assimilation of a multicultural urban street kid, surviving the Second World War when his Irish Mother abandons him and his Mexican Father goes to war. As he wanders through the Los Angeles basin, from South Central to West LA to Beverly Hills with an innate sense of survival coupled with a wildly self-destructive streak, he turns pool hustler in adolescence, and dope dealing and petty criminal in young adulthood. With the help of felons and lowlifes, artists, pimps, actors, athletes, musicians and scientists, he manages to stay one step ahead of his demons and the law. Through unlikely events, lucky encounters and hard work, he discovers new worlds. The book is a memoir of growing up in 1950's LA, it is a lively and fast-paced story of surviving a life that could have led to a dead end in the gangs and barrio that trapped so many in those times. Instead you see a smart, tough, and tenacious kid use any means possible to get out of the net of poverty."

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