Book Review : J. David Osborne - A Minor Storm (2018)
Everything bad that happens to you is some kind of fuel and how you choose to expel it is on you. You can snort fucking coke and complain to a tweaker about your life or you can go home and go to bed and sleep and when you wake up in the morning it’s a new start.
The long-awaited sequel to J. David Osborne’s Black Gum (a personal favorite of mine) finally dropped, last fall. It took me a while to get to, because I relish what I remember to be perfect. Sequels terrify me. Opening what has been sealed by time and memory often is recipe for disaster. I loved Black Gum to death because it spoke to an existential frustration and an aimless dread that I feel in my bones. Fortunately, I also loved its sequel A Minor Storm. Because it’s wildly different and oddly the same. The gang is back, but forget what you know about them.
It is not 100% necessary to read Black Gum in order to understand A Minor Storm, but I highly recommend it. In this book, Shane is back in town with a completely different approach to life. He lasered off the majority of his face tattoos, he seems to make money appear out of thin air and constantly disappear and reappears in the narrator and Charlie’s life. As the narrator is slowly building back the sense of self he lost in his tough breakup (see Black Gum), he finds himself constantly more attracted to Shane’s enigmatic presence and slips down a narrow path between two worlds.
Charles and I squatted over a two-ton unit on a roof. He took the paneling off.
I asked him, “When was the last time you got laid?”
“What?” he said, cigarette clamped between his teeth..
I looked out over the expanse of the cookie-cutter house. “You know, “ I said. “Pussy.”
He laughed. “Man, I don’t even think about that shit anymore.”
In A Minor Storm, the narrator’s existential quest for purpose and reinvention takes a new direction. And he surrenders control of where he’s going to Shane, who seems like he knows the way to a higher place. That highlights an aspect of this book and existence in general I find fascinating: every moment spent involved in the world is loaded with possibilities. At some point, Shane and the narrator are following a suspicious bag being carried around town and I became obsessed with it. What was in the goddamn bag? Money? Drugs? The answer to the narrator’s existential query? The getaway to another dimension? A Minor Storm is this kind of novel where it’s all equally possible and there’s only one way to find out.
He has to keep going.
Charlies and Shane are basically the gateway to two worlds. The former is brick and mortar: an honest living, a decent wage but an alienating routine. The latter is breaking the boundaries set by society and involves: an almost endless stream of money, daily excitement but involves taking responsibility for one’s soul. I like to think of these two options as the Right-Hand Path and Left-Hand Path in occult philosophy, which A Minor Storm is very much aligned with. The narrator’s choice can seem mundane, but they lead him to become a new person. If Black Gum was about forgetting who you were, A Minor Storm is about choosing who you want to become.
I said, “You never finished telling me about the El Khoury.”
Shane shook his head. “I don’t feel like finishing that story.”
I stayed quiet.
“Feel like that’s all anything is now. Half-finished stories. Everything we can get and nothing we can cultivate. Everything is speeding up. It’s all so fast. Everything everyone says is wrong and sometimes it’s evil. We’re all taking. I’m taking. You’re taking.”
I loved the hell out of A Minor Storm. Perhaps even a little more than Black Gum. Because Charlie, Shane and the narrator are evolving, starting to take responsibility for their existence and reconnecting with the world without surrendering their soul and I find that inspiring as hell. They’re evolving. And I connect to that on a visceral level. It helps healing my feelings of overpowering loneliness and alienation. It helps healing my fear of the future by blowing up the meaning of the present. It makes me feel like someone understands what I live. This series is turning into something sacred to me….