Monday, April 25, 2016

Brendan Jones

Raised in Philadelphia, Brendan Jones took the Greyhound west at the age of 19, ending up in Sitka, Alaska. He graduated from Oxford University, where he boxed for the Blues team, then returned to Alaska to commercial fish. He was a general contractor for seven years in Philadelphia, before heading back to Sitka, where he now lives, commercial fishing and renovating a WWII tugboat.

Jones's new novel is The Alaskan Laundry.

Recently I asked the author about what he was reading. His reply:
I have a habit of bouncing around books, especially while working during the day. Stuck here in this boatyard in Wrangell, Alaska, steaming planks of sapele during the day, spinning oakum over a knee in the evenings after a shower at the Hungry Beaver bar down the way, book propped open by a beer. I’ve been enjoying the weird, formal, medieval voice of Walter Thirsk in Jim Crace in Harvest. I was first introduced to Crace’s weirdness by Ottessa Mosfegh at Stanford, when she brought in Being Dead to workshop. I love the clash between eras, these shifts; and while I don’t find the plot engaging as such, I do find myself, while in this ghostly boatyard awash in sodium lights, without water on the boat, drawn to Thirsk, and even comforted by him, as he tells his story of being stuck between an agrarian and sheep-based society before enclosure.

I’m also reading Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel after having it recommended by a few folks I admire. God I try, and some of the writing is poetic, wonderful, especially in the beginning. But I find it hides the ball, and can be overwrought. Perhaps I need to try harder. For an energy ball of a short story I’ve been reading Adam Johnson’s Fortune Smiles, it inhabits the same softly apocalyptic territory as St. Mandel. There’s humor in it, which I appreciate, and Johnson’s narrative brilliance and effortless imagination.

Finally, I picked up A Farewell to Arms—or, as a friend calls it, Bye-Bye Guns—for perhaps the fourth time while in a hotel in Astoria Oregon a month back. Those 122 words in that first paragraph, the movement from stomping of troops to quietness, and the dialogue. I know some of it is stilted, and the relationships blocky, but god I love that book. I first read it while on the top bunk of three on a train in China in 1997. As Frederic Henry walks home in the rain I wept in great heaves. And then felt a hand on my back, a gentle pat. A Chinese woman in gray pajamas invited me to her bottom bunk and fed me hot noodles. We didn’t speak. I won’t ever forget that.
Visit Brendan Jones's website.

--Marshal Zeringue