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Katrina Invades my Post-Christmas Funk

December 26th, 2009 No comments

The weather couldn’t be worse here in North New Jersey, where we’re staying. Pelting rain has melted most of the snow, and the remaining stuff is the worse kind of mushy slush. We have to drive back to Philly in few hours, and only (1) a nap; (2) liters of coffee; and (3) two dormant children will allow this to work.

I was too cold and lazy even to go out the car to drag in the Agassi biography I’ve received for Christmas. It would have been a perfectly no-brain read for a no-brain day, but…

Instead I picked up the book David had gotten (The Best American Short Stories 2009), and thought I could make at least this much of an investment in fiction. For whatever reason, I don’t read much fiction any more, and when I do I almost always read novels, not short stories. It take something to get me started, so once I’ve expended whatever energy I need to dig in, it might as well last for a few hundred pages. It’s like swimming: I’d rather do a set of four times 500 yards than, say, sixteen times 100 yards. The latter is too many “things.”

But there it was, and the kids were watching something only they could love, so I went in search of a story. Steve De Jarnatt’s “Rubiaux Rising” tells a strange, claustrophobic story of an Iraqi vet whose mutilation has led him to pain-killing addiction, and thence to apparent immurement in an attic, unless the waters from Katrina rose up to claim or free him.1 It’s one of the most sensual stories you’ll ever read, with a ripe tomato taking on a quality that will draw you in.       

Like Dave Eggers’s Zeitoun,  “Rubiaux Rising” uses the misery of one person’s struggle to captures something primal about both nature (Katrina) and the coarseness of humanity. I was reminded, a little, of Poe.

  1. You don’t think I’m going to tell you which, do you?