Friday, December 14, 2012

2012 Catapult Notable List - #8

#8: The Revised Fundamentals of Caregiving by Jonathan Evison

I would highly recommend that you read the full Catapult review - c'mon, clicketty-click, it's not far away. All the answers are there.

RFoC - the third novel by Jonathan Evison, author of last year's #2 Catapult Notable, West of Here - is a fantastic mix of hilarity and general buffoonery tossed with the profundity of grief and a minivan full of raw emotion. Ben Benjamin has lost everything - his home, his job, his wife, his kids, his friends. Drifting along, he takes a 28-hour course on caregiving at a local church and gets himself a job taking care of a cantankerous, waffle-eating, sexually frustrated 19-year-old with Duchenne muscular dystrophy named Trev. Everything with Trev is about routine: khaki cargo shorts, black t-shirts, Weather Channel, waffles, video games, a new pair of shoes bought at the mall on the second Thursday of every month. It turns out, taking care of someone else is pretty much just what Ben needs, even though it takes him awhile to come around to fully embrace that conclusion.

A self-serving photo of me and the author.
As maybe a method of distracting Trev from the endless loop that is his life, Ben starts mapping out - on a giant wall map - all the weird roadside attractions across the American landscape. Hitler's stamp collection, the Virgin Mary in a stump, two-headed farm animals, the World's Oldest Cured Ham. Trev's mother doesn't think this is a healthy pursuit, giving the boy false hope for some sort of half-assed buddy-comedy roadtrip. But when Trev's absent father (one of the most hilariously pathetic characters I've ever met) crashes his car in the middle of the Utah desert, Ben decides that a roadtrip is indeed in order and the two set out in the red '97 Mazda MPV handicap-accessible minivan. For Trev, this trip is a chance to get out into the world a bit and to finally connect with his non-existent father figure. For Ben, the drive is about running toward your fears, rather than away from them - a cathartic act of righting the ship that is his broken life.

As I mentioned in my earlier review of this, Evison has very specific reasons for why he wrote this particular novel - available over here: www.revisedfundamentals.com/author-essay.html. The very act of writing RFoC was a cathartic act for its creator, and it would seem that Evison has poured a goodly portion of himself and his familial history into this novel. Getting into that van is the important thing - both for Ben and Evison - for you can't really face your own life and all of its inherent, inevitable failings and heartbreak, until you look square at what got you there in the first place, car keys in hand. I got the sense that Fundamentals was written as much for the author as it was for us. And I'm totally okay with that. Johnny:
The Revised Fundamentals of Caregiving is a story of total collapse, and ultimately, reconstruction. Before it is over, this calamitous journey will cover five states, resulting in one birth, two arrests, and one instance of cannibalism and including a dust storm, a hail storm, several shit storms, and a six-hundred-mile cat-and-mouse pursuit by a mysterious Buick Skylark.
      Baggage is collected.
      Hearts are won and lost.
      Mistakes are forgiven.
      Futures are realized.
There you have it. #8 with a bullet.
Buy The Revised Fundamentals of Caregiving from your local independent bookstore.

#9: The Yellow Birds
#10: Me, Who Dove Into the Heart of the World
The 2012 Notable Notables

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