THE HURRY-UP SONG by Clifford Chase


A Memoir of Losing My Brother
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 Chase contemplates the burdens of family in the aftermath of his brother's death from AIDS. The author, whose work has appeared in several literary journals and anthologies, was exceptionally close to his older brother Ken during their San Jose childhood, despite a six-year age difference. The brothers collaborated on cartoons and invented a cast of puppet characters, creating a private refuge against the adult world. Both brothers grew up to be gay, which served as a further point of solidarity in a family whose members (including three much older siblings) seem all to have been in continual emotional deadlock with one another. Between his mother's complaints about her job in a wig shop and his father's brooding presence hurling racist epithets at the TV, Chase gives a credible account of suburban angst: ``My parents...were often angry when we were growing up. It always frightened me, and I came to believe that the world, and everyone in it, was above all volatile.'' He tells of losing Ken not only to death but also, in another sense, to his parents: The brothers' solidarity weakens as their parents unexpectedly provide the compassionate full-time care Ken requires during a late stretch of his illness. This realignment of family alliances is presented convincingly as a wrenching dilemma. Chase weaves his memoir with thematic threads that are sometimes brilliantly chosen: Both of his parents were raised as Christian Scientists, and Chase tells of his grandmother, a diabetic who loved sweets, accepting the gift of a get-well cake from a fellow churchgoer and commenting, ``Love can't hurt me.'' The grandmother soon died because of that sort of love, of course, and the entire chapter that follows delineates the endless ironies called up by his grandmother's words, particularly, although Chase doesn't stress the point, in reference to AIDS. A quiet, eloquent memoir that admirably avoids sentimental histrionics.

Pub Date: March 1st, 1995
ISBN: 0-06-251019-3
Page count: 224pp
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1st, 1995


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