Saturday, November 04, 2006

Julie Thacker and Chris Yeager

I was supposed to be in NYC this weekend trying on bridesmaid's dresses for my sister's wedding. I got sick and just couldn't make it through a 5-hour drive yesterday. So now I'm home.

At SandT's b&w juried exhibit PROOF, I had the pleasure of meeting a very interesting couple -- Chris Yeager and Julie Thacker. Chris is a wonderful portraitist who is exhibiting at the same show (See Chris's work here at http://www.chrisyeager.com/new/slides/), and Julie is a writer (her website is http://www.juliathacker.com/).

I just read Julie's short story "The Funeral of the Man Who Wasn't Dead Yet." It is the first half of a novella currently published on AGNI, and it is beautiful.

There are several things that struck me about the story. The story wasn't actually about the actual funeral at all, but it was more about HOW this funeral came to be. Our anti-hero Houston Webb can be seen simultaneously as both a narcissistic womanizer and a freedom-loving spirit who misses his roots back in the Kentucky mountains. I dislike him but sympathize at the same time (it's hard to make a reader feel that way). Houston has moved to urban Ohio to make a living, but he's out of place there. He has high aims to be like Honest Abe and makes small gestures to be a father figure, but does not live up to his own expectations. He seems to want a funeral while he is alive so people can say nice things about him and give him affirmations about being a good person, not unlike how he needs the constant affirmations from Lana about everything he does. Another fascinating element is the setting of post-WWII America (late 50's/early 60's?), where women's roles changed drastically. Lana is progressive enough to divorce her first husband, but she's also human and needs love and companionship, which she hopes to find in Houston. And in order to make him happy, she succumbs to his temperamental mood swings and demands, even at the sacrifice of her children's happiness. Even though the setting is several decades back in time, the characters and their problems are timeless.

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