An allusive and elusive collection of meditations on being and becoming, rites of passage, boys and the men they become.
In her acknowledgements, Howe (Second Childhood, 2014, etc.), best known for her poetry, writes that these prose pieces and poems initially were published in a variety of places and that some were presented at conferences. The way they are organized, they seem to cohere as a whole, though readers’ challenge is to find similar meanings in the films the author loves and frequently references. “I have learned only recently that films are very similar to hallucinations, which are physiologically the same as experience,” she writes. In reference to a director whose influences are clear and a saint for whom she offers something of an alternative biography, Howe writes, “Rossellini’s ethic in filmmaking was Franciscan: to use little money, shoot spontaneously, and edit not much. Like the ‘first word, best word’ school of poetry, Rossellini mistrusted the process of refinement and treated his films as some might treat their notebooks, or first drafts.” There is very much a cinematic quality to the way these pieces connect and convey their meaning, and there’s also a sense that these might be notes toward something more immediately coherent. When the author writes of the “forever potential” of the child who resists yet can’t “stop its evolution into a grownup,” readers are invited to connect this with her provocative illumination of a poet’s soul of the surviving Tsarnaev brother and his reflections before the Boston Marathon bombing—and then to connect that with the life of a young rebel who would become a saint: “Francis was an idealistic teenager, an iconic candidate for today’s teenage gangs and jihads.”
A slim volume that roams across continents, genres, and centuries to convey that which is so difficult to express.