Blue Calhoun

Beverly, Elizabeth

WHAT HE DID, WHY HE DID IT BLUE CALHOUN Reynolds Price Atheneum, $23, 364 pp. Elizabeth Beverly magine this: You are a fifteen-year old girl, holding in your hands an enormous document, 364...

...Robert N. Bellah "A highly cogent and insightful analysis of the interplay between religion and politics in America...
...You "A real eye-opener...
...These "facts" concern his body, its wild longing for Luna, the girl he loved...
...Elizabeth Beverly magine this: You are a fifteen-year old girl, holding in your hands an enormous document, 364 pages long, written to you by your sixty five- year-old grandfather...
...Then you recollect the narrative frame and recall that this novel is at once an explanation and a plea for mercy...
...A must for religious scholars...
...Any pain you feel in the wake of me is your tough luck...
...Imagine this: You are sixty-five-yearold Bluford August Calhoun, and the day of reckoning is at hand...
...He tells you that when he was thirtyfive he fell in love with a girl only slightly older than you are now, despite the fact that his thirteen-year-old daughter, your own dead mother, was devastated by the betrayal she intuited...
...Those `you's' don't mean you at all, my darling...
...It is also a book which thoughtful Christians will want to read, ponder, and discuss...
...Within his long story, covering a span of pain for thirty years, lie stores of great tenderness, honesty, and remarkable beauty...
...Your father has died another...
...the novel itself promises to clear up the mysteries resident in the opening pages...
...Everything about Blue's confession compels you to forgive him now...
...He has so bravely told the story of his failures, and in telling it, has faced them...
...Your grandfather admits that he shouldn't tell you certain things, except that he wants your mercy...
...18: 22 May 1992 Commonweal...
...Priests, therapists-they are trained to withstand the onslaught of truth...
...He tells you things...
...And then you know that what you have been reading is not a novel, but a letter intended for someone else...
...If you are Blue Calhoun, you want to be loved, and everything will become a song-like story in your mouth, even this confession...
...His suffering has been tremendous...
...Now imagine this: You are simply a caring reader, in search of a good book...
...we don't give a pickled goddamn on Earth for the harm we do...
...so he tells you anyway...
...You want the best for him, despite the voluptuous narcissism of an old sinner who believes in sin, a man who goes to AA to save his life but remains doggedly pure of the taint of late twentieth-century therapeutic rhetoric...
...Reading this novel confuses you, because you should be able to close a novel and place it on the shelf after you are satisfied that it expresses laudable intentions and acts of love...
...She and her mother already knew what it was like to lose him to drink...
...During the past year your mother, his daughter, has died one kind of agonizing death...
...Why a child...
...It tore the ground from under my feet, and everything around me shook the way a mad dog shakes a howling child...
...He is immensely likable...
...you will find the words of longing and shame crooning out of you, evoking landscapes and heads of lettuce and even your own dead mother, Miss Ashlyn...
...If the truth be told...
...Robert N. Bellah, co-author of Habits of the Heart and The Good Society '_'QUIRE <? WHAT DOES THE LORD REQUIRE...
...When you speak of April 28, you will say, "...that one day fell down on me from a clear spring sky, no word of warning...
...Buried in the heart of the text, these are the words she speaks to Blue after waking from a deep sleep: "...Everything I do is known to God...
...You likely deserve every tear you shed...
...You believe that you have scorched all the decent women in your life, and you believe that you alone can explain to your granddaughter Lyn the reason that her own short life seems to lie in ruins around her...
...Reynolds Price has asked nothing less of you than to witness, in the most helpless fashion possible, a great and eruptive act that would violate a beloved child in the name of love...
...Because you'll know, even as you write these words, that the Day didn't do everything by itself...
...At moments it occurs to you, as it occurs to Blue, that perhaps it is inappropriate to heap such a confession on a child...
...but they did apply, years back, to your mother...
...Soon you find yourself in the presence of a storyteller who seems to have forgotten nothing over the course of thirty years, a man who, if he overwrites, may be forgiven on the grounds of passion...
...You know that this is a novel about literal corruption, something breaking, about the lost innocence of children, about "good enough" men like Blue who cannot seem to remember that certain violations are violations even if, especially if, a child craves and awaits love...
...He's yet to claim I've gone astray, my conscience says I'm moving right, but don't you fail to go back home and read the verse where Jesus says, `Don't REMEMBER RED-BAITING...
...A novel like this may be about redemption...
...You can even assign a date to the beginning of this end: April 28, 1956, the day Luna strolled into your store behind her mother, in search of an auto-harp...
...Nice...
...There are moments in this long flow of language where your own honesty startles even you: "...Every drunk I've ever known-me included...-has one secret he'll fight like a rabid pit bull to keep...
...Charles Y. Glock "A major contribution to understanding the significance of religion in American society...
...Blue is not asking for your forgiveness-he is asking for Lyn's-and the very extravagance of his effusive missive, regardless of the particular pain she has suffered, because of the particular pain she has suffered, is an onslaught on her soul...
...The frame is simple, a letter addressed to a grandchild...
...You blame your grandfather for your father's death, and the document you hold is your grandfather's means of asking for your mercy...
...No matter what pain or experience has prepared you to hear these words, what can such words do to a girl's heart...
...Sit there and eat it...
...Powerful...
...It seems that even the publisher believes it is...
...Occasionally he reminds you that he is not really speaking to you, but to his granddaughter...
...You may understand that his wife Myra is co-dependent, but you want to believe along with Blue that she'll never be other than saintly...
...If with Price's help, this novel becomes a letter which has accidentally fallen into your hands, you will recognize young Luna's plea and warning for what it is...
...Not quite accurate...
...He seems to be a man who desires to take full responsibility for the misdeeds of his past...
...But imagine this: You decide to take Reynolds Price as seriously as he deserves...
...How American Christians Think About Economic Justice STEPHEN HART HOt Ah1ERICAN CHRIyf, NS THINK ABOUT U,01"40 "C' JUSTICE TEPH N 1ART At better bookstores or call1-800-451-7556 (M-F, 9-5 EST) OXFORD UNIVERSITY PRESS Commonweal 22 May 1992: 17 understand that Reynolds Price has a new novel, and since Price tends to take the world seriously and finds that fiction can provide the ground for moral inquiry, you are eager to read Blue Calhoun...
...Suspense is assured...
...As you read you grow to like him...
...He is not coarse, nor is his account detailed, but there is a moment during the telling in which he slips and, although throughout the text he has always said "you" when he means you alone, his excitement compels him to write this: "You could tell (Luna) barely knew what next, but just when you were about to lead her-or pull back short of something you'd craved for thirty years-she'd flow right on to that perfect place, just before you, and make it pay you triple the gain you'd gambled on...
...By the time you see the nature of the violation, the body of unasked-for knowledge pressing against a child's consciousness in the same way that an adult body can press open a child's waiting flesh, you too have grown to love Blue...
...If you are Blue Calhoun, you must wonder, as you write this, why anyone should trust you...
...He's willing to bear with uncommon humility whatever sins and accusations he can heap upon himself...
...You were the one who unzipped your pants...

Vol. 119 • May 1992 • No. 10


 
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