Posted a 'squib' here a little while back and this is a squib review, which is not to dismiss The Chester Chronicles, but indicative of the fact that all I've really got to say is, "Read it, it's good."
As it happens, when I began this novel in the guise of a series of linked stories, I had the feeling I wasn't going to write about it at all. From the first page, I was enjoying it all right, I was inhabiting someone else's world, one that interested me, made me smile often, laugh occasionally, and get vaguely heated about the loins once, but I wasn't wildly enthused. Truth be told, I had a persistent and slightly disturbing feeling that I had read it all before, which I'm sure I haven't. This suggests two possible conclusions. One, the book lacks originality. Two, Moyer touches on experiences so deep and so true that they instantly spark recognition, triggering emotions hard-wired into the memory bank, whether the reader has actually lived through them or not. I think it's the latter, more Objective Correlative than Moyer Derivative, but you can see why I hesitated.
I don't want to damn with faint praise. Kermit Moyer is a fine writer of simple, precisely honed prose. He's steeped in literature and it shows in ways good (the man knows what he's doing) and bad (the source of that niggling feeling of familiarity?). Hemingway is cited twice and the model is there. Moyer's syntax is more elaborate, but the discreetly pared lexis and meticulous rhythms of the language are just as carefully crafted. Besides which, you've got to admire a writer who can reference A Farewell to Arms, The Brothers Karamazov, and Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man all within a few pages of one another. The parallels are there, but it takes a deft mind to yoke them together without it seeming forced.
So what's the book about? Basically, the growing pains of a boy whose fastidious tastes and peripatetic parents cast him in the role of the perpetual outsider. It's an evocation of growing up and growing into yourself and acknowledging ignorance, cowardice, sex, incompetence, vanity &c. . . . all that good stuff that makes up the toolkit of being a coherent human being. The Chester Chronicles does a great line in adolescent longings, sexual and intellectual, and manages to suggest, without banging on about it, the sadness of loss that so often marks the onset of adulthood. Pitch it somewhere between Goodbye Columbus and The Catcher In The Rye and you've got an idea of what to expect.
Now, if you'll excuse me, I've really got to work out why it all seemed so familiar. Perhaps it's just me. Maybe the man's plagiarized my life. Hang on, this is getting sinister.
Causes Charles Davis Supports
Oxfam, Amnesty International, Greenpeace