Sep 25, 2008

The Given Day


“I am tomorrow, or some future day, what I establish today. I am today what I established yesterday or some previous day. I am tomorrow, or some future day, what I establish today. I am today what I established yesterday or some previous day.” James Joyce


This describes the writings of Dennis Lehane.


In all tomes there is a readability factor. I will quantify here. This is the part of the equation where the individual reader takes over from the publishing industry, the “literary” and “genre” critics, and call a good read.


I was fortunate enough to read THE GIVEN DAY by Dennis Lehane in early spring, wrapped up in ribbons and bows and with a letter signed by the publisher. The extras meant nothing. The fact that I had a completed new work from one of the most gifted novelists of our generation meant a lot. Being entirely American, I, of course devoured the first 100 pages in under an hour. And then I went back, reread the words I’d been given and took the others more slowly.


Sitting from my lofty chair of first to read, I’m looking at the reviews and pro or con, I believe most are missing the point.

Dennis Lehane, true voice. He began with “genre fiction”. Every review makes note of Patrick and Angie, of the two stand-alones, of the “soon-to be a major motion picture”…. Of the worthy attempt or brilliant execution.


Me? In THE GIVEN DAY, I’ve found another layer of growth in an already astounding writer. Dennis Lehane , more than any writer today, speaks to his readership. A readership that will continue to grow. Over a decade ago I posted that Lehane “is an author you can travel into the dark with. He will find you light or he will give you hope”


THE GIVEN DAY is a book about America in the early twentieth century. Centralizing on two main characters, one Black and one White, it projects an argument to the readership from the first swing of Lehane’s bat. We have the Babe in at the D.H, position. Soon we move to Tulsa and are firmly tarred and feathered by Boston. Lehane speaks of America; race relations, unions, policing, terrorism, romance and even pandemics. He has stepped back in time to survey where we are today and why, in all probability we’ll revisit yesterday tomorrow.


I have, as previously mentioned, adored this writer because he allows me to wrap myself up in a blanket, grab a cat or a cuppa’ and sink into his world. This time is a little different, like playing hold’em with all the cards up. If you’re reading this blog you’re not reading the book and do not know . Dennis Lehane whom we all thought was a brilliant mystery writer has now become a “literary writer”.


A seven hundred page book needs to be epic and readable. This book covers those two bases just dandy. Base three; will you care when you’re done? If you don’t I’d be surprised. Hitting for home? I suspect, no, I predict, the book will have more and more readers as the years go by. It is that good and that readable? Remember when our English Teachers were demanding we adore Hess? Lawrence? Out of the park baby…..


This is an author with a higher level of skill and a future undetermined. My mother claims he speaks like a contemporary Conrad, my Grandmother proclaims his symbolism akin to Fitzgerald’s. I liken his plots to the best of Faulkner. Three women, one generation of readers. A generation that will grow and not abate over the years.


Remember Joyce. Read THE GIVEN DAY and let me know what you think of it. It is a book that like a good vintage will only get better with time.

1 comment:

storybook said...

I so agree that Lehane is becoming an important voice--moral and powerful.

Of course he's entertaining, too--hope that doesn't disqualify him from respectability!

I was struck by the topicality of Any Given Day--the tactics used to demonize dissent (the police attempting to form a union) are eerily similar to what is done today to anyone who questions the terrible loss of freedom we've been subject to here after 9/11.

Zoe B