Sometimes we're always real same-same by Mattox Roesch

Rural Alaska provides the setting for emotional struggles between family members as violence, alcoholism, and economic hardship rock a small Inuit community.

Sometimes we're always real same-same

Publisher: Unbridled Books
Length: 336 pages
Author: Mattox Roesch
Price: $15.95
Format: Paperback
Publication Date: 2009-08

Roesch's debut novel is a riveting story about two 17-year-old cousins in rural Alaska: one who is pulling his life back together, and one who is coming completely unraveled.

Cesar, the narrator, grew up running with a gang in Los Angeles, and his brother is in jail for murdering two teenagers in a rival gang. Go-boy, his cousin in Unalakleet Alaska, has known a completely different kind of life, taking pride in village ways and community values, knowing at a glance what kind of fish are spawning in the river at any given time. The novel is sprinkled with details about the construction of traditional hunting knives, and the everyday pleasures of taking an old boat out on the river, just to drift and drink Pepsi.

Cesar's mother relocates her family to her native Alaska after her older son is jailed and her husband has left, thinking she'll return to the good life, far from the mess of southern California. When Cesar meets Go-boy, his cousin accepts him unconditionally and can't wait to show him everything in the village. At first Cesar can't believe he's stuck in rural Alaska, but his relief at escaping the gang lifestyle that he saw his brother get trapped in is bigger than his frustration with the relocation.

Once he gets settled in to village life and starts finding pleasure in learning to drum or simply riding his bike, Cesar stops thinking about how to get back to California and help his brother get out of jail. But Cesar also feels strongly that because the villagers, and the pretty girl he has his eye on, Kiana, have no idea what he was involved in in the past, he'll never really fit in. Go never pushes Cesar to talk about his past and the violence he was involved in, but in his mind Cesar keeps returning to it and wondering when his new life will fall apart.

Until they know what he has done in his past, until they know the worst thing he was capable of in Los Angeles -- participating in a gang rape -- Cesar doesn't think the people he cares about in Unalakleet can really know him. Cesar sometimes almost holds his breath, wondering when the truth will come out -- because he feels the need to share it himself.

It turns out that Go-boy will provide all the drama Cesar could hope to avoid, as Go's overwhelming love for his girlfriend turns twisted and threatening, and the villagers try to figure out what is going on.

Roesch's novel has a large spiritual component. Go-boy strives to reconcile his personal philosophy, that there is some inherently good force that guides the actions of people throughout the world, with the violence and domestic problems that plague Unalakleet. In his attempts to grab the attention of the community and share the good news that he believes that love will conquer all, Go alienates many people. Yet his misguided actions sometimes result in serendipitous successes as well, like the village pizza place that opens up because the owner gets inspired by Go's ministrations.

For a novel about rural Alaska that might seem inaccessible to someone from outside the kind of life that is described, Roesch uses Cesar's outsider point of view effectively. For someone who has never watched a river full of spawning salmon, or cut herself and gotten an infection from slicing seal meat, the details that Roesch includes are thoughtful. Just as the reader observes ordinary life in a community cut off from the outside world, accustomed to taking care of its own problems, Cesar is experiencing such a lifestyle for the first time and his point of view is fresh and engaging.

Roesch sets up a complex network of village relationships in the novel, and does a great job of representing the struggles and convictions that guide the residents of this remote Alaskan village. The struggle to survive, to hunt, to escape, even to withstand the temptation of alcoholism, it's all very real and very compelling.


Cover down, pray through: Bob Dylan's underrated, misunderstood "gospel years" are meticulously examined in this welcome new installment of his Bootleg series.

"How long can I listen to the lies of prejudice?
How long can I stay drunk on fear out in the wilderness?"
-- Bob Dylan, "When He Returns," 1979

Bob Dylan's career has been full of unpredictable left turns that have left fans confused, enthralled, enraged – sometimes all at once. At the 1965 Newport Folk Festival – accompanied by a pickup band featuring Mike Bloomfield and Al Kooper – he performed his first electric set, upsetting his folk base. His 1970 album Self Portrait is full of jazzy crooning and head-scratching covers. In 1978, his self-directed, four-hour film Renaldo and Clara was released, combining concert footage with surreal, often tedious dramatic scenes. Dylan seemed to thrive on testing the patience of his fans.

Keep reading... Show less

Inane Political Discourse, or, Alan Partridge's Parody Politics

Publicity photo of Steve Coogan courtesy of Sky Consumer Comms

That the political class now finds itself relegated to accidental Alan Partridge territory along the with rest of the twits and twats that comprise English popular culture is meaningful, to say the least.

"I evolve, I don't…revolve."
-- Alan Partridge

Alan Partridge began as a gleeful media parody in the early '90s but thanks to Brexit he has evolved into a political one. In print and online, the hopelessly awkward radio DJ from Norwich, England, is used as an emblem for incompetent leadership and code word for inane political discourse.

Keep reading... Show less

The show is called Crazy Ex-Girlfriend largely because it spends time dismantling the structure that finds it easier to write women off as "crazy" than to offer them help or understanding.

In the latest episode of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, the CW networks' highly acclaimed musical drama, the shows protagonist, Rebecca Bunch (Rachel Bloom), is at an all time low. Within the course of five episodes she has been left at the altar, cruelly lashed out at her friends, abandoned a promising new relationship, walked out of her job, had her murky mental health history exposed, slept with her ex boyfriend's ill father, and been forced to retreat to her notoriously prickly mother's (Tovah Feldshuh) uncaring guardianship. It's to the show's credit that none of this feels remotely ridiculous or emotionally manipulative.

Keep reading... Show less

If space is time—and space is literally time in the comics form—the world of the novel is a temporal cage. Manuele Fior pushes at the formal qualities of that cage to tell his story.

Manuele Fior's 5,000 Km Per Second was originally published in 2009 and, after winning the Angouléme and Lucca comics festivals awards in 2010 and 2011, was translated and published in English for the first time in 2016. As suggested by its title, the graphic novel explores the effects of distance across continents and decades. Its love triangle begins when the teenaged Piero and his best friend Nicola ogle Lucia as she moves into an apartment across the street and concludes 20 estranged years later on that same street. The intervening years include multiple heartbreaks and the one second phone delay Lucia in Norway and Piero in Egypt experience as they speak while 5,000 kilometers apart.

Keep reading... Show less

Featuring a shining collaboration with Terry Riley, the Del Sol String Quartet have produced an excellent new music recording during their 25 years as an ensemble.

Dark Queen Mantra, both the composition and the album itself, represent a collaboration between the Del Sol String Quartet and legendary composer Terry Riley. Now in their 25th year, Del Sol have consistently championed modern music through their extensive recordings (11 to date), community and educational outreach efforts, and performances stretching from concert halls and the Library of Congress to San Francisco dance clubs. Riley, a defining figure of minimalist music, has continually infused his compositions with elements of jazz and traditional Indian elements such as raga melodies and rhythms. Featuring two contributions from Riley, as well as one from former Riley collaborator Stefano Scodanibbio, Dark Queen Mantra continues Del Sol's objective of exploring new avenues for the string quartet format.

Keep reading... Show less
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

© 1999-2017 All rights reserved.
Popmatters is wholly independently owned and operated.