This was my sixth KBR review on Amazon.com.
Between Eden and the Open Road Philip Gaber
From an Unusual Point of View, almost a parallel universe.
“The greatest poverty is not to live / in a physical world, to feel that one’s desire / is too difficult to tell from despair.” (Wallace Stevens.) This large collection of poems includes some pretty harsh circumstances. There is a lot of material, and some of it may be depressing to you. The content reminds me slightly of Mordecai Richler’s ‘Saint Urbain’s Horseman.’ The chief protagonist is full of self-doubt and tends to overthink situations, generally opening up more room for self-doubt. Most of the secondary characters have negative self images, and are wracked with doubt, as well. Nevertheless within this world view, there are a lot of strange occurrences; you won’t be bored. You are bound to find some pieces that definitely speak to you.
In Just Part of this Ether you will meet, be actually, a bit of a lush coming to work late. Here there is both ambiguity/amusement (I was in a right-to-work state) and a surprise twist ending. Again in A Matter of Mathematics and Common Sense, the point of view is a man trying to get next to a woman who’s a bit of a wreck, and when she rejects him, his (compartmentalized) feelings aren’t hurt. The work is full of this sort of irony.
Depression is clearly presented in Tryin’ to Git it Back in My Soul, a poem in prose. In another favourite, There Were No Secrets Kept That Night, you will experience almost a happening, with yet another surprise ending. Final Draft is unforgettable; be sure to google ‘Follower’. If I had to make some tiny carps they would be these. Formatting could be nicer, starting each poem on its own page. Perhaps the internet gremlins got to my copy, as the table of contents at the front does not work, and there seem to be two partial tables at the back. There is a relentless mind-set which makes the work somewhat ‘of the same mood’ with few breaks for comic relief. However with this much material you are going to find some pieces of value to you, provided you are willing to check words you don’t know and move into the mind-space of this author. Within his own technique he does write with power.
This is a book you must either read from the mind-set and culture of its author, or, on your first pass through some of the pieces, have access to a very good dictionary, or better, Google. Once you’ve learned the unusual (for me, anyway) words, subsequent readings go quite smoothly. One could argue whether this is good technique or not; if you are of the same intellectual background as the author you’ll be wondering what I’m on about.
Why four stars? Not an easy decision. But the high level of intellectualization is fascinating. This is an interesting, challenging even, book. Recommended.