The Pugilist at Rest
Uploaded by devil dog on Jun 01, 2002
Judging from the other reviews, the awards, and multiple accolades Thom Jones's writings, and "The Pugilist at Rest" in particular, have received, I am apparently in quite the minority. But here goes: I found an inherent falseness and overwritten emotion throughout the stories. Jones too often tells the reader what he/she should be feeling instead of letting the reader respond sans prescription. Case in point: "I Want to Live!" The son-in-law is the "good guy" (obviously the author -- tacky) who gives the dying woman Schopenhauer to read and narcotic medication to ease the unbearable pain no one else will even acknowledge. This revitalizes the woman in the extreme (I believe she thanks God for her son-in-law at some point, which struck me as the author thanking God for the character of himself as he portrayed himself in the story -- again, ooh, tacky). Obviously, Jones digs Schopenhauer and through the character of the woman tells us that philosophy from just the right guy will turn it all around for us as we are dying an excruciating death. Please. This situation probably "actually happened" just this way in Jones's life, but it doesn't mean the recounting of it reveals the truth. I also found technical medical error in the description of the effect of certain drugs on the woman's pain. I have to paraphrase re: the effect of methadone, something like "circles of orange orgasms blossoming through her body." Methadone has a long half-life; taken orally, as in the story, it would take a long time to take effect. Methadone works as a slow build toward pain relief -- good relief, but hardly orgasmic -- as opposed to an injection of morphine, for which an orgasmic description would have been appropriate. I felt the characters were too often forced into situations, feelings, positions, etc. to satisfy an effect the author had predetermined, rather than allowing the effect to grow organically out of the objects' and/or characters' true nature. To compare Thom Jones with, say, Denis Johnson (i.e., "Jesus' Son") -- there is no comparison. Sorry, Thom. You're probably a very nice guy; but I didn't believe the world you built for these stories.