Tuesday, August 26, 2014

The Unbearable Lightness of Prunes (a review)

Always hesitant to engage heavy dialect in writing, a reluctance I developed in childhood reading Tom Sawyer, I took the plunge with The Unbearable Lightness of Prunes on the recommendation of a friend. She's not only still a friend, but a more trusted friend than ever before. This long story, which Ms. Langstaff has said she plans to include in a book about the protagonist, a tormented, mischievous boy named Jerrold, quickly smacked down my dialectal squeamishness and seduced me into a world of linguistically quirky humor I eventually came to savor thanks to a late-blooming appreciation for that same Mark Twain who'd stymied me in my tenderer years.

I need not say one whit about the prunes and their weight, or lack thereof, as suggested by the title of this delightful plum of a story. If you have ever eaten a prune, or even seen a bag of them dried like gargantuan raisins, or smelled them stewing in water in a pot on the stove, you will most assuredly feel an instant rapport with poor Jerrold whilst thanking your lucky stars to be a mere voyeur as the lad suffers with surrogate angst for your own private indolence and dietary trespasses.

The story is rich in and of itself, and the language beyond the dialogue brings depths of brilliance and humor of a sort I haven't seen since those miracle days discovering the voice bewitching me with the likes of The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County was the same one that frightened me as a lad about the same age as Jerrold in this splendid, uproariously entertaining tale about prunes, potato guns, horrible adults and the kind of crazy aunt we all would love to have in our family tree.