One summer in high school, I lived at this camp on the Oregon coast. It was kind of a run-down place that a family owned. They would let high-school kids come there and run the place as staff while different groups of campers from different types of churches and high-school groups would come through. The girl staffers slept in bunks in one house, and the guys slept in this apartment over the gym. It was all kind of Empire Records
, if that movie is actually how I remember it from watching it in high school. Or, like, Hey Dude
, but Oregon-coast style, not dude ranch. Anyway, for a week, we lived on the Rogue River, and it was probably one of the best experiences of my life. Just a bunch of high school kids camping out (with adult-ish supervision). I grew up in the San Juan Islands, and on and around the Rogue and Illinois rivers, but I don’t think of the Ocean and rivers or visit them like I should. They are like blood: I take them for granted, but when I remember to, I do appreciate their beauty, and I know I would shrivel without them.
I finished my second year of law school this week, so I took the opportunity to read River Teeth
, drink three greyhounds, and get nostalgic about Oregon rivers. I love that DJD loves Oregon rivers because they deserve to be loved. He is maybe a little sentimental in that hippie, rain-stick kind of way that gets to me sometimes, but when he stays out of that territory, he is my favorite ever. Ever. This is kind of a strange collection of stories. He pulled them together with the idea that they are river teeth, he explains in the very beginning. When trees fall into rivers, the current quickly decomposes their trunks, except for the knots where a branch joined a trunk, or other knots where the wood is particularly dense. Those, he explains, stay in the river much longer, and they jut up from the ground like river teeth. In the same way, Duncan goes on, time washes over our lives, and the moments that don’t decompose in our memories are like river teeth. So, this collection of stories is made up of those startling moments, the memories seared into his identity. Or, stories he heard from other people of their river teeth. I like the concept.
Otherwise, there is not much to unify one story from another. Some are Duncan’s stories, others he invented or transcribed from friends. I liked all of them, but I loved The Garbage Man’s Daughter
. I, like, love this story, you guys. I laughed so hard at one part that I couldn’t read the pages and had to get up and walk around for a while. Then, when I came back, I still couldn’t read the story. It needs to be read. It is an outstanding story. I looked for an online copy to post here for you to read, but I couldn’t find one. You should find it and read it.
There is some dangerous territory in this book, though. The Brothers K is a perfect book in my eyes, and there is a story at the end of this book that happens after The Brothers K, and I feel that it spoils a lot of that book. I don’t necessarily know if the information would be hanging over you when you read The Brothers K, but I think it would influence your read of that book and those characters. I would rather you read that book than this, but you should still read The Garbage Man’s Daugher
. I love it ever so.
The stories at the very beginning of this book are really wonderful. They are of Duncan’s childhood, and they are truly horrifying and memorable. There is also a story interestingly dedicated to Katherine Dunn, for all those Geek Love lovers out there. At the end of the book, the stories get increasingly sentimental and tie-dyed, as Duncan gets increasingly that way. I can handle that to a point, but, I don’t know. I do think he is wise, and I don’t disagree
with anything he’s saying. He just goes a little to sentimental/poetical for me ever so slightly and every once in a while. Not in The Brothers K. He goes just the right amount of far in that book, as I recall. In the others, though, I just hear didgeridoos and rain sticks in the background every once in a while. And, like, Yanni. For some, that is a compliment, and I can see where it would be just the right thing in some circumstances. For me, It goes just slightly too far, every once in awhile. Then, usually, he’ll say something with all kinds of perspective that is totally hilarious, and it will reel me back in (fishing metaphor, tres apropos!).
Duncan is wonderful on fishing and rivers and baseball and personal mythology. He’s great with a subtle pun, and he’s kind. This was a lovely book. Have I told you to go read The Garbage Man’s Daughter
yet? Well, go. It is a hilarious story. He is so kind about families and the way family personalities destroy and invent each other. He does that so well. I had been thinking for weeks that I wanted to re-read The Brothers K, but then I remembered that I had this one and hadn’t gotten to it yet. In a lot of ways, I’m glad I read this instead. But, I still miss that book and can’t wait to get back to it someday. Anyway, Duncan talks about rivers and families, and explains things that he understands instinctively about those things that I love and don't understand. One of my heroes.