Every time I read Kevin Sampsell, I'm trying to figure out how he does what he does.
One of the main things I read for is voice - was far before I even got involved with Dangerous Writing. And part of this is that writing without a particular voice tends to have a remove. A sense of distance that keeps me from being able to fully touch the narrator or the characters.
Kevin Sampsell has written a memoir whose voice uses remove like a painter uses just the right sable brush. And I don't get how he does it.
There's something about the spare, detatched, matter-of-fact wonder in the voice of A Common Pornography that, to me, puts that adolescent boy (then teenager, then grown man) on the page. He's quirky, he's charming, he doesn't grandstand. You do touch this narrator, and you can't help but fall in love with him. With all his talk about his suitcase full of porn and even the spudnuts (read it, you'll know what I'm talking about). It's very a infectious read. The array of short, clipped snapshot-like stories makes you lie in bed late, knowing you have to get up early but telling yourself, just one more, just one more.
Another thing I find endearing and refreshing in this book is the way it seems to exalt the ordinary in life. There's plenty of out-of-the-ordinary stuff in here, but you also get to wall-fly yourself for events in his life such as getting drunk for the first time off of vodka and Squirt and trying to kiss a girl in the 7-11 parking lot.
You get the sense that the out-of-the-ordinary is ordinary, and the ordinary is extraordinary. And in the end, that this extraordinary is something we all share. A common pornography told through an uncommon voice.
And such a portrait of a time period - takes me right to the era of my growing up.
Here's a piece. Can you call it a chapter? I love the ambiguous fullness of "for no good reason." And then that matter-of-fact final line - a beautiful setup for the rest of the book.
When the gun sounded, Matt ran ahead of me with the other kids who filled the park. I could tell they were all excited, yelling into the wet spring air. The sky was speckled with birds and high dark clouds. I ran the other way, back toward home.
When I got to the house, Mom held me as I cried for no good reason. My brother came in the side door with his homemade Superman cape over his shoulder and a basket of decorated eggs and chocolate candies. It was the first time I gave up.