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Requiem, Mass. John Dufresne takes us to Requiem, Mass heart of the Commonwealth, where Johnny s mom, Frances, is driving in the breakdown lane once again She thinks Johnny and his little sister Audrey have been replaced by aliens she s sure of it, and she s pretty certain that she herself is already dead, or she wouldn t need to cover the stink of her rotting flesh with Jean Nat Apres Bain Dad, truck driver and pathological liar, is down South somewhere living his secret life And Audrey, when she s not walking her cat Deluxe in a baby stroller, spends her time locked in a closet telling herself stories Johnny, meanwhile, is hell bent on saving the family from itselfIn his truly original voice Miami Herald and with the miraculous beauty of his tale telling New York Times Book Review , Dufresne brings his unparalleled eye for the tragic and the absurd to the dysfunctions and joys of family in this powerful new novel


10 thoughts on “Requiem, Mass.

  1. says:

    This book is fiction disguised as autobiography The author, after becoming a reasonably successful writer, decides to take the time to tell the story of his childhood, parts of which have appeared in his fiction in different guises.The book begins in a light hearted enough way, with the author recounting a childhood that has marked similarities to those related by Augusten Burroughs and David Sedaris Yes, the mother is crazy, the two kids try to hold things together while being wrapped up in t This book is fiction disguised as autobiography The author, after becoming a reasonably successful writer, decides to take the time to tell the story of his childhood, parts of which have appeared in his fiction in different guises.The book begins in a light hearted enough way, with the author recounting a childhood that has marked similarities to those related by Augusten Burroughs and David Sedaris Yes, the mother is crazy, the two kids try to hold things together while being wrapped up in their own idiosyncrasies, and the father is pretty much a non presence This part of the book was interesting, though it seemed a little weird, too, on account of its covering about the same ground as the two authors mentioned earlier Especially considering the book is a fiction book It is as if, a la Angela s Ashes, a well known author had made up an autobiography where he was a poor Irish immigrant with a heavy drinking father growing up in New York in the middle of the century.I thought that maybe this was some kind of commentary by Mr Dufresne, perhaps a way of making fun of the currently popular trend of telling the story of your crazy childhood That was the only reason I could imagine for making up something so close to what someone else has already described as true But in reading the book, I couldn t see any kind of real commentary that was being made, and it wasn t really very ironic or funny, so maybe I was wrong about this I guess I just didn t understand what the point was.As the story goes on, the isolation of the children becomes less engaging anddepressing Meanwhile, the author begins to insert snatches of images from his present life, often in a kind of stream of consciousness way In one part we have the author interviewing for a job position in another town, then talking to an old colleague, then imagining what would happen if his dog died, then thinking about the My Lai Massacre, then realizing at the job interview that the job has already been given to someone else, then ordering food with his colleague, then going to some kind of faculty party, etc etc etc.All meaning begins to dissolve as the book continues, and all we are left with are snippets of increasingly sad scenes, with the young author the only bright, sane spot trying to hold everything together Finally, everything stops and we are completely back in the present day, only to find that all the family members have gone on to lonely or sad or pathetic fates, and that each of them seems to blame the author, for some reason.There were many parts of this book that I didn t understand, but the feelings of the mother and sister toward the author, at the end of the book, were the most inexplicable It made me wonder if I had missed some significant meaning in the text I d read so far Perhaps the book was supposed to work on some level above my understanding, and I will be the first to admit that this is probably the case, but what that level is, or what the meaning is supposed to be, I simply have no idea Technically, the writing was very good, and the author certainly has an ability to capture moments with feeling and precision These abilities of Mr Dufresne are enough to make me want to try another of his books, though I was certainly disappointed with this one


  2. says:

    I loved Dufresne s book on writing and he did follow his own instruction, but this book did not make it There was some clever dialog and prose but overall it did not capture this reader.


  3. says:

    Someday I will learn that I don t have to finish a book that I heartily dislike after only a few chapters Until then, I torture myself with gems like this that strive to be some sort of meta Divine Secrets of the Ya Ya Sisterhood but set in New England so it s not as endearing in that weird way that messed up Southerners are to me Blech There were darling bits with the loopy sister who pushes her cat in a stroller, but mental illness and the effects of a mother with one on her children does Someday I will learn that I don t have to finish a book that I heartily dislike after only a few chapters Until then, I torture myself with gems like this that strive to be some sort of meta Divine Secrets of the Ya Ya Sisterhood but set in New England so it s not as endearing in that weird way that messed up Southerners are to me Blech There were darling bits with the loopy sister who pushes her cat in a stroller, but mental illness and the effects of a mother with one on her children doesn t automatically make for good reading, especially with long pointless non sequiturs from the narrator.The title was too cutesy to be trusted, anyway


  4. says:

    John Dufresne is one of my favorite writers He has the ability to look at the ordinary and find the extraordinary story within it We are all fighting to survive, to protect a life that deals us twists and turns that are at once both disconcerting and enervating He is a master of telling the story of the common man.


  5. says:

    Couldn t even finish this book


  6. says:

    Beautifully written story of a dysfunctional family I thoroughly enjoyed his writing style, wit, word plays I love his storytelling, the way he weaves stories within stories, moving from present into the past and all around the past What was also an added treat for me was the setting Having lived for 45 years in Requiem Mass Worcester, MA it was fun knowing the place referencesd, trying to figure out the his cleverly renamed places such as Lewis University Clark University.


  7. says:

    BAD DIDN T READ


  8. says:

    Too depressing and too hard to follow Won t read him again.


  9. says:

    Miami Sun Post July 17, 08Dysfunction JunctionJohn Dufresne drives a family s train right off the tracksBy John HoodFamilies are funny things, peculiar rather than ha ha, and, on occasion, decidedly dangerous to be around Hell, given the inclination, families can also be rather deadly Think about it They re not just intimate enough to be at each other s throats, they re often so close those throats get slit and stay slit In other words, families Miami Sun Post July 17, 08Dysfunction JunctionJohn Dufresne drives a family s train right off the tracksBy John HoodFamilies are funny things, peculiar rather than ha ha, and, on occasion, decidedly dangerous to be around Hell, given the inclination, families can also be rather deadly Think about it They re not just intimate enough to be at each other s throats, they re often so close those throats get slit and stay slit In other words, families know which wounds won t heal, which cuts run the deepest and which scars will continue to cause the most hurt when they re peeled back to scab, usually because they re behind the blooding in the first place.If there s a familystabfully peculiar than the one that gouges to the core of John Dufresne s Requiem, Mass Norton, 24.95 , you won t know it, unless, that is, it just so happens to resemble your own Like most families, it tries to appear fine on its face all the while remaining fully dysfunctional And like most families, it tends to keep its secrets to itself.Or tries to, anyway See, secrets, no matter how deep they re embedded, have this nasty habit of revealing themselves, often at the most inopportune moments When the secrets ofthan one family are involved, well, that habit gets even nastier, especially when the splintered groups are sprung from the same tree.Such is the story front, back and center of Dufresne s made up memoir, which begins with a man named Bix Melville standing in for Johnny Boy and has all the hallmarks of a fraud It doesn t breathe, says Johnny Boy s real life girlfriend Annick You better start again.So he does, digging back into his mother Frances encroaching psychosis, his sister Audrey s playful bewilderance, his daddy Rainey s absent polygamy and, mostly, what it means and how it feels to be a charter member of a family that s unequivocally unhinged.Me beingthan just a little bit unhinged myself, I drove up to Dania really to see face to face just what kinda man lies behind this beautiful madness, a madness that began with Louisiana Power and Light, segued through Love Warps the Mind a Little and Deep in the Shade of Paradise, and last took hold of me in 2005 s Johnny Too Bad.We took seats outside a classic dive called The King s Head, ordered vodka neat and talked of Diahann Carroll who makes an appearance in Requiem and Harry Crews who doesn t , The Handsome Family and The Weakerthans Dufrense digs both , a Polish bar called PRL where he likes to drink , the gypsies of St Petersburg where he used to teach and stalking students of which Dufresne has had his share.Mostly, though, we talked about books, which is kinda what you d expect from a scribe who teaches creative writing at FIU.When asked to choose between then and now, Dufresne told me he d rather read something contemporary Lehane, say, instead of James, or Wolfe instead of Wharton I wanna read about today, he says, the way we live these days Given the choice, he d also rather stick to the pulpier side of lit street Crumley instead of Maclean, Hammet rather than Maupin , though he did admit he d choose Nathaniel West over James Ellroy.And despite the fact that Dufresne considers John Kennedy Toole s A Confederacy of Dunces to be the funniest thing he s ever read, it is to the short story that he seems to have the most allegiance, specifically the shorts of Alice Munro and William Trevor, both of whom remain his favorites They deal with violent issues with this graceful, unsentimental prose, he said They talk about what it s like to be a human being and they take a lot of risks with the way they tell a story It s a very brave storytelling, and I always learn something from both when I read them In fact, he continued, a good Trevor short story like The Ballroom of Romance is as powerful as Anna Karenina in its own way Dufresne went on to applaud the literary brevity of Lorrie Moore, Ron Carlson and Charles D Ambrosio, then took time out to cite Gonzalo Barr, a Miami based writer and former Dufresne student whose The Last Flight of Jose Luis Balboa earned him a Bakeless Award at Bread Loaf Strange that a man who s just published a novel would go so far out of his way to advocate what in many ways isakin to a poem then again, Dufresne is concerned with the truth of the matter, not the duration, and those who can get to it with the fewest words possible definitely have one up on those who can t Perhaps that s why Requiem s severed into chapters that could each stand on their own without falling to proverbial pieces or maybe, just maybe, like our wonderfully dysfunctional families, life s just too much to be taken in all at once


  10. says:

    Not as good as LPL.


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