Our Own Little Fictions
According to Ron Rhody’s wife, he is not eligible for authoring a memoir. He hasn’t won an Oscar or an MVP or a Nobel prize. And yet Rhody has a story he wants, needs, to tell. His story. And so that’s how he will tell it to us: as one of Our Own Little Fictions.
Reminiscent of Sarah Polley’s documentary Stories We Tell, Rhody meanders through his memory and down the real roads he’s traveled all over the U.S., from his beloved Frankfort, Kentucky, to California and back (via Florida and Alabama) and then back out to California. Along this circuitous route through his youth, manhood, and ancestry, we encounter all sorts of colorful characters, historical events, family triumphs, and tragedies, which in large part amount to the man whose story we’re being told.
The place closest to Rhody’s heart is clearly Frankfort, Kentucky. It is there his father, a newspaperman, fought for civil rights and to put down roots for his forward-thinking family. Though a wanderlust would uproot the Rhodys and send them all over the U.S., Kentucky kept calling them back to the heart of the heart of their country. In Our Little Fictions, Frankfort is origin and refuge, and it serves as the Ithaca of the author’s Odyssey.
These chronicles of Rhody contain all the joy and pain of an American life that spans the Cold War to the present. We meet his parents, grandparents, wife and children, friends and mentors. From animated anecdotes of a hard-nosed football coach doling out life lessons to the memorial for a dear friend and author of “sixteen erudite books,” we witness a life pass in time-lapse frames of laconic, Hemingwayesque prose.
Hemingway and his suicide haunt the narrative beginning to end. On a road trip from California to Kentucky, Rhody and his son make a scheduled detour to Hemingway’s home in Idaho (where he’d put the shotgun in his mouth).
“It seemed wrong that Hemingway had killed himself.
Nature should have gotten him.
Later in the narrative and earlier in time, news of Hemingway’s suicide reaches Rhody, and he reflects on the premature tragedy, as well as his own (missed?) calling. These two time periods intermingle, and Rhody leaves Idaho with “an answer to a question I hadn’t known I’d asked.” Authorship was an alternative path he’d bypassed only to embark upon late in life.
Late in life, indeed. The long road approaches its end and the loss of loved ones is an inevitability. Each story has the same conclusion, alas, and many of the characters we encounter in this Appalachian saga pass on in heartrending deathbed scenes and austere funerals. The depiction of these tragedies is sentimental, even cliched, but anything less/more would not be true to life. It is the commonality of these cliches that arise in endless variations, like updates of Shakespeare.
No, Ron Rhody is no Prince Hamlet, nor was he meant to be, but his story of “becoming,” with its conduplicatio, terse punch-lines, and homespun wisdom, is one that will always be in need of telling and retelling.
After editing at City Book Review for a few years, I took up the duties of editorial assistant, which include assigning books for review, posting reviews to our various sites, and nagging reviewers for things. In my non-nagging time, I’m a gamer, artist, writer, and notorious black thumb/bane of plants. My answer to every book-related question: read Octavia Butler.
|Page Count||120 pages|
|Publisher||Outer Banks Publis|
|Amazon||Buy this Book|
|Category||Biographies & Memoirs|