Books

A Skillful Writer Tackles Her Family History With Grace In 'I Just Lately Started Buying Wings'

(artist & photographer: unknown)

Read Kim Dana Kupperman’s collection of essays for the sentences; shimmering, dancing sentences that effortlessly carry a fierce weight.


I Just Lately Started Buying Wings

Publisher: Graywolf Press
Length: 224 pages
Author: Kim Dana Kupperman
Price: $15.00
Format: Paperback
Publication date: 2010-06
Amazon

Some books you read for the narrative, the story line that pulls the reader along on a journey.Some you read for the characters, falling in love with a person and getting to know them, you enjoy spending time with them. Others you read for information. Written well or badly, such a book gives you the knowledge or facts you want to know.

Kim Dana Kupperman’s collection of essays, I Just Lately Started Buying Wings, you read for the sentences. Shimmering, dancing sentences that carry a fierce weight. Sentences like this, where Kupperman, recipient of the 2009 Katherine Bakeless Nason Prize in Nonfiction, is meditating on the color orange in connection with the terror alert notification: "There was the full moon rising on the pale shimmer of a winter solstice, how it arced over the horizon. A molten annunciation of all things orange, from pale apricot to fiery vermilion." Or this one, which opens the first essay in the book: "I woke to a downpour the March morning in 1989 when I had to identify my mother’s body at the New York city morgue." Or this one" "Your voice is in another state and between the soft volume pay phone connection an the rush of the avenue you sound so light I think for a second that I’d be able to lift you, an impossibility when we stand face to face and gravity contains us."

Such gems are sprinkled liberally throughout the pages of these essays. Kupperman is a poetic and precise writer of prose, able to see and convey details with a nimble touch of emotion and concreteness. The best essays in the book, “Habeas Corpus” for example, marry the graceful rhythm of her prose to the tangible and often difficult realities of her experience. This essay tells the story of her parents custody battle over her. When she was grown and her father was dying she finally obtained from him the file outlining the epic battles her parents had fought in the court system.

Kupperman’s mother and father emerge as full blooded characters refracted through the dry court documents and the yearning of the grown child to know them. Her mothers mental illness, her father's philandering, the uproar that surrounded the family, the death of them both are all intense subjects which Kupperman tackles with skill and feeling.

Death haunts the first essays in the book. Her brothers dies of AIDS, her father of cancer, her mother by suicide. She meditates on her father’s death in "Anatomy of My Father", parsing the essay in sections: "My father’s hands, my father’s foot, my father’s remains, my father’s teeth." Her search to know her father brings her to stare at his hands: "As a child I never considered the things my fathers hands had touched: money, his own body parts, pens, guns, piano keys, hardware, womens' breasts ( including my mothers ) crap table, dice, the clarinet he tried to learn to play but then abandoned, an instrument he cleaned regularly until he sold it." Such ferocity of focus exposes not only her father’s humanity but also her own desire understand and know him.

Unfortunately, as exquisite as the marriage of sentences and subjects are in the first 60 pages or so, Kupperman does not sustain such intensity through out the remainder of the essays. The topics (her grandmother’s roots in the Ukraine, her travels there to somehow connect with her, the fleeting nature of memory, ill advised love affairs, battered women) do not carry the weight of family and divorce and death. The author turns inward and loses the reader a bit. We saw Kupperman more clearly when tried to show us her parents; when she tries to show us herself the image becomes blurry.

The sentences sparkle throughout, nonetheless, and her beautiful sentences alone are good enough reason to read this book.

7

So far J. J. Abrams and Rian Johnson resemble children at play, remaking the films they fell in love with. As an audience, however, we desire a fuller experience.

As recently as the lackluster episodes I-III of the Star Wars saga, the embossed gold logo followed by scrolling prologue text was cause for excitement. In the approach to the release of any of the then new prequel installments, the Twentieth Century Fox fanfare, followed by the Lucas Film logo, teased one's impulsive excitement at a glimpse into the next installment's narrative. Then sat in the movie theatre on the anticipated day of release, the sight and sound of the Twentieth Century Fox fanfare signalled the end of fevered anticipation. Whatever happened to those times? For some of us, is it a product of youth in which age now denies us the ability to lose ourselves within such adolescent pleasure? There's no answer to this question -- only the realisation that this sensation is missing and it has been since the summer of 2005. Star Wars is now a movie to tick off your to-watch list, no longer a spark in the dreary reality of the everyday. The magic has disappeared… Star Wars is spiritually dead.

Keep reading... Show less
6

This has been a remarkable year for shoegaze. If it were only for the re-raising of two central pillars of the initial scene it would still have been enough, but that wasn't even the half of it.

It hardly needs to be said that the last 12 months haven't been everyone's favorite, but it does deserve to be noted that 2017 has been a remarkable year for shoegaze. If it were only for the re-raising of two central pillars of the initial scene it would still have been enough, but that wasn't even the half of it. Other longtime dreamers either reappeared or kept up their recent hot streaks, and a number of relative newcomers established their place in what has become one of the more robust rock subgenre subcultures out there.

Keep reading... Show less
Theatre

​'The Ferryman': Ephemeral Ideas, Eternal Tragedies

The current cast of The Ferryman in London's West End. Photo by Johan Persson. (Courtesy of The Corner Shop)

Staggeringly multi-layered, dangerously fast-paced and rich in characterizations, dialogue and context, Jez Butterworth's new hit about a family during the time of Ireland's the Troubles leaves the audience breathless, sweaty and tearful, in a nightmarish, dry-heaving haze.

"Vanishing. It's a powerful word, that"

Northern Ireland, Rural Derry, 1981, nighttime. The local ringleader of the Irish Republican Army gun-toting comrades ambushes a priest and tells him that the body of one Seamus Carney has been recovered. It is said that the man had spent a full ten years rotting in a bog. The IRA gunslinger, Muldoon, orders the priest to arrange for the Carney family not to utter a word of what had happened to the wretched man.

Keep reading... Show less
10

Aaron Sorkin's real-life twister about Molly Bloom, an Olympic skier turned high-stakes poker wrangler, is scorchingly fun but never takes its heroine as seriously as the men.

Chances are, we will never see a heartwarming Aaron Sorkin movie about somebody with a learning disability or severe handicap they had to overcome. This is for the best. The most caffeinated major American screenwriter, Sorkin only seems to find his voice when inhabiting a frantically energetic persona whose thoughts outrun their ability to verbalize and emote them. The start of his latest movie, Molly's Game, is so resolutely Sorkin-esque that it's almost a self-parody. Only this time, like most of his better work, it's based on a true story.

Keep reading... Show less
7

There's something characteristically English about the Royal Society, whereby strangers gather under the aegis of some shared interest to read, study, and form friendships and in which they are implicitly agreed to exist insulated and apart from political differences.

There is an amusing detail in The Curious World of Samuel Pepys and John Evelyn that is emblematic of the kind of intellectual passions that animated the educated elite of late 17th-century England. We learn that Henry Oldenburg, the first secretary of the Royal Society, had for many years carried on a bitter dispute with Robert Hooke, one of the great polymaths of the era whose name still appears to students of physics and biology. Was the root of their quarrel a personality clash, was it over money or property, over love, ego, values? Something simple and recognizable? The precise source of their conflict was none of the above exactly but is nevertheless revealing of a specific early modern English context: They were in dispute, Margaret Willes writes, "over the development of the balance-spring regulator watch mechanism."

Keep reading... Show less
8
Pop Ten
Mixed Media
PM Picks

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

rating-image