Thursday, October 9, 2008

The Polish Kerouac

I've just finished speed-reading the last pages of Stuart Dybek's book of Chicago-based short stories & sketches, "The Coast of Chicago" (Knopf, 1990) because I had my public library deliver it to me a month ago via their shut-in service & they'll be picking it up sometime today. I had a total L-knee replacement (in late July) & can't quite ride my bike to the library yet (by early Oct.), so they brought the book to me (in early Sept.)

My Polish-speaking psychotherapist (from Chicago) suggested I read it because I'm half-Polish (my Polish-speaking mother was even a postulant of the Polish-speaking order of nuns of St. Felix, the Felicians.)

Reading Dybek was frightening & disturbing for me because the obsessive Polish Roman Catholic experiences & images he writes about were once mine, too, & are still all too easily relived many decades later; Dybek & I are the same age (b.1942) I, however, grew up in a small GE factory city, Lynn MA, so Dybek's vast, gloomy Chicago neighborhoods just remind me of some of the grimmest neighborhoods of Boston (11 mi. south of Lynn.) His brilliant multi-part fantasia extrapolating from Edward Hopper's painting "Nighthawks" (1941; a scene of NYC, Greenwich Village, Greenwich Ave.) is not specifically Chicagoan.

In my late teens & early 20s, I'd thought Jack Kerouac wrote for all working-class Roman Catholics, but I now know Dybek writes for Polish Roman Catholics, & is thus the Polish Kerouac. I really do hope he continues to write a lot more stories & also tries writing novels.

No comments: