A man serving a life sentence for murder offers glimpses of his past and present in this vivid yet jumbled debut collection of essays, blog posts and poetry by Case.
Despite vehemently protesting his innocence, the author speaks sparingly of the chain of events that led to his conviction. His focus, rather, is on his formative years and, later, on his daily existence in prison. The opening essay, “A Life Amphibious,” is a tender portrait of the author’s father and his love of the sea, followed by “Jamaica, 1987,” an idyllic memory of their diving for conch in the Caribbean. The divorce of his parents sees him follow his globe-trotting mother to Australia, where he recalls playing violin for tourists on the Sydney Harbor waterfront. The author shows gratitude for the “nonsexist, nonracist, nonviolent granola home” in which he was raised, and his familial bond is palpable. With age, he experiences a growing sense of outsidership. In “Alone in the Dark,” he describes being tormented at school, his choice to dress completely in black and his gravitation toward subcultures. The sharp, atmospheric writing in “Winter Wonderland,” the author’s experience of the 1996 Kansas City ice storm, is countered by tedious, unamusing anecdotes of outsider hijinks, such as going to a pizzeria in the clothes of his recently deceased father or welding a pitchfork to the front of his jalopy. Details of the author’s life after being “abducted by the state” reveal much about prison life, from issues of comfort—being given a new mattress is “like Christmas”—to the philosophical issue of disconnection: “I am becoming a foreigner, against my will and bit by bit, to a neighborhood I once called home.” The manner in which the essays and blog articles (which appeared on The Pariah’s Syntax) are cemented together by somewhat forgettable poetry proves a serious flaw, emphasizing the disjointed nature of the work as a whole and making it read as a patchy, unfinished memoir.
Shows flashes of brilliance, but lacks cohesion.