Through the Prism

After passing through the prism, each refraction contains some pure essence of the light, but only an incomplete part. We will always experience some aspect of reality, of the Truth, but only from our perspectives as they are colored by who and where we are. Others will know a different color and none will see the whole, complete light. These are my musings from my particular refraction.


I Wanted to Capture the Quotes

Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe, by Benjaimin Alire Saenz: A Review

I’ve called a book “gorgeous” before in one of my reviews, but I don’t think I’ve ever called a book “beautiful.”

There’s something about the writing of Benjamin Alire Saenz that is beautiful.

There's an honesty to it. Even when characters are confused, deluded, repressed, and in denial, they're somehow still honest. But even more than their honesty, I think the beauty lies in their vulnerability. They struggle against opening themselves up enough to risk confronting their true feelings, yet ultimately they do so. They share their vulnerable inner selves so that we can connect with them, so that we can know we are like them and they are like us. To borrow a quote from a different book by Saenz, Last Night I Sang to the Monster:

But the thing is that I’m in love with Rafael’s story. I think I understand when Adam says that all our stories are different but in some ways our stories are all the same. I never really got that. But when I start to read Rafael’s journal, it’s as if I can see myself. It’s better than a mirror.

This is a story of relationships. Of Ari's relationships, which are few and often strained. Ari is a quiet, withdrawn, angry, deep-thinking loner in El Paso, who one summer makes his first true friend, Dante. He tells us the story in snippets and episodes, along the way describing his interactions with his parents, Dante's parents, and a few other peers. How he saves Dante's life in a moment of instinctive reaction, pushing Dante out of the way of an approaching car and getting run over himself instead. The long, difficult recovery while in casts and the school year that begins before he's done, the one Dante spends in Chicago while his dad is a guest professor. Of Dante's confession that he wants to kiss Ari and Ari's obstinate refusal to either respond in kind or love Dante any less as a friend. Of the changes he continues to undergo as he struggles to understand himself and those around him, confronting in the process, without any real conscious awareness, his deep-seated self-loathing.

It's an honest, vulnerable, moving, and beautiful story. One I could relate to intimately--despite my different personal circumstances--that left me feeling more understanding and loving of others and myself.

One of Ari's journal entries gives good insight into who he is, at least near the start of the story:

These are the things that are happening in my life (in no particular order):

- I got the flu and I feel terrible and I also feel terrible inside.

- I have always felt terrible inside. The reasons for this keep changing.

- I told my father I always had bad dreams. And that was true. I'd never told anyone that before. Not even myself. I only knew it was true when I said it.

- I hated my mom for a minute or two because she told me I didn't have any friends.

- I want to know about my brother. If I knew more about him, would I hate him?

- My father held me in his arms when I had a fever and I wanted him to hold me in his arms forever.

- The problem is not that I don't love my mother and father. The problem is that I don't know how to love them.

- Dante is the first friend I've ever had. That scares me.

- I think that if Dante really knew me, he wouldn't like me.


I marked many, many lines and passages that I particularly liked and wanted to revisit to dwell on. Here they are, listed without context:

See, the thing about guys is that I didn't really care to be around them. I mean, guys really made me uncomfortable. I don't know why, not exactly. I just, I don't know, I just didn't belong. I think it embarrassed the hell out of me that I was a guy. And it really depressed me that there was the distinct possibility that I was going to grow up and be like one of those assholes.


I had a rule that it was better to be bored by yourself than to be bored with someone else. I pretty much lived by that rule. Maybe that's why I didn't have any friends.


He was funny and focused and fierce. I mean the guy could be fierce. And there wasn't anything mean about him. I didn't understand how you could live in a mean world and not have any of that meanness rub off on you. How could a guy live without some meanness?


Man loneliness was much bigger than boy loneliness.


I renamed myself Ari.

If I switched the letter, my name was Air.

I thought it might be a great thing to be the air.

I could be something and nothing at the same time. I could be necessary and also invisible. Everyone would need me and no one would be able to see me.


"We're too nice, you know that?"

"What do you mean?"

"Our parents turned us into nice boys. I hate that."

"I don't think I'm so nice."

"Are you in a gang?"


"Do you do drugs?"


"Do you drink?"

"I'd like to."

"Me too. But that wasn't the question."

"No, I don't drink."

"Do you have sex?"


"Sex, Ari."

"No, never had sex, Dante. But I'd like to."

"Me too. See what I mean? We're nice."

"Nice," I said. "Shit."

"Shit," he said.


It was good to laugh. I wanted to laugh and laugh and laugh until I laughed myself into becoming someone else.


I wondered what that was like, to hold someone's hand. I bet you could sometimes find all of the mysteries of the universe in someone's hand.


This is my problem. I want other people to tell me how they feel. But I'm not so sure I want to return the favor.


Somewhere toward the end of the shift we all started singing U2 songs. "I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For." Yeah, that was a good song. My theme song. But really I thought it was everybody's theme song.


He looked so happy and I wondered about that, his capacity for happiness. Where did that come from? Did I have that kind of happiness inside me? Was I just afraid of it?


"You should just sit them down and make them tell you. Make them be adults."

"You can't make anyone be an adult. Especially an adult."


Dogs don't censor themselves. Maybe animals were smarter than people. The dog was so happy. My mom and dad too. It felt good to know that they loved the dog, that they let themselves do that. And somehow it seemed that the dog helped us be a better family.


To be careful with people and with words was a rare and beautiful thing.


At 10/31/2012 10:36 PM, Blogger Kelly Sime said...

Anything like chris crutcher?

At 11/01/2012 6:26 PM, Blogger Degolar said...

Hmmm . . . maybe. It's been a while since I've read Crutcher. This is similar, but I'd say it's . . . softer--more expressive and feeling-focused.

At 11/01/2012 10:48 PM, Blogger Kelly Sime said...

I brought home tonight. Thanks.

Tell me, did you like "the underneath"?

At 11/03/2012 7:03 AM, Blogger Degolar said...

:-) I hope you enjoy it.

Ummmm . . . is that a serious question or are you just trying to get me to reference this?

At 11/03/2012 10:30 PM, Blogger Kelly Sime said...

The question was serious. Didn't remember your review., the book was terrible ( what I read of it). I agree with you completely.

At 11/04/2012 10:30 AM, Blogger Degolar said...

I wasn't sure since it came up at the YS meeting and in JH's blog. I'm glad you enjoyed the review. :-)


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