From Matt Brockwell...
Years ago, when I was a college undergraduate who dabbled in theater, I read that the difference between a skilled and a novice actor, is nowhere more clear than when they are asked to portray the state of being drunk. The simple, and wrong approach, is to mimic the mannerisms of a drunkard. The real art, is to recognize that what makes a drunk person act the way they do, is their struggle to pretend NOT to be drunk, and the the challenge of portraying that on a stage, is to be a person who is trying very hard not to be who, and where, they are.
This is what came to my mind when I read Terry's latest collection of short stories. He writes about characters who are drunk - drunk with longing, drunk with bizarre obsessions, Americans drunk with an imaginary Ireland and Irish drunk with a fantasy of America. A girl who longs for a visit from the Virgin Mary, characters who are overcome with fascination for the life they might have had, but chose not to follow. And the real mark of Terry's gift when it comes to understanding character, is that he moves confidently into exactly the same space, as the actor who is showing us what it really means to be reeling drunk. It's an uneasy place, where life is never quite what we expected or hoped, but it might be where all art comes from - from the friction that is created when hopes, dreams, and wishes meet, and bump up against, reality. I think Terry's wonderful gift is that he illuminates this space with such extraordinary compassion, so that we feel with his characters the whole range of emotions that can be felt - of hopes that flare up, are trodden on, but emerge again in another pattern and another place. The stories are vivid, real and compelling. They are also a beautiful portrait of San Francisco, with so many scenes that are instantly recognizable to those of us who live here.
I've read three of Terry's books so far, and to me this one feels the most fully realized, maybe because it's about a place that I know. (the subtitle, for all it's worth, could easily have been "San Francisco Stories", so omnipresent is the city as a third character) It shines, flickers, and glows, with a sensibility that I can only describe as "painterly" - Terry has a real gift for images. (If you want to imagine what a visit from the Virgin Mary might really look like, just read the title story.). And it has changed San Francisco for me - these stories have made one of my favorite cities in the world into a bigger and slightly more magical place.
Causes Terence Clarke Supports