|Michael Larocca: Chronicles of a Madman|
Publications (Trade Paperback), ISBN 1-59109-068-7
This makes the book's occasional flashes of detail and color all the more disappointing. The third paragraph of "In the Fullness of Time" begins: "Merlin was the son of an incubus and a human, condemned to age backwards." In most any other circumstance such gripping linguistic wizardry and imagination would put me right there, in the story. Unfortunately, fizz-less prose permeates the remainder of the tale. For a piece so concerned with manipulations of time, the story never yields a sense of the present in which it operates. The reader knows only that the city the main character inhabits can be described as "busy," and the narrator lives "near another construction site which will soon become a high rise building." Multiply such lines times a thousand, and all conflict breaks up and foams away long before any meaningful narrative crest develops.
Insistent blandness betrays LaRocca's intriguing ideas. For example, how does one forgive a deed long forgotten by the one who committed it? "Forgive And Forget" contains this section of eminently forgettable dialogue:
"So where do you live"
Sam shook his head. "Never heard of it."
The passage yields the literary equivalent of a director shooting valuable, plot developing, character revealing footage of someone parking a car.
Even shabbier phrasing and a universal lack of memorable images mar the poetry. Witness the following lines from "Reflections from the Grave:"
But titles and an execution better suited to an adolescent's private journal, by themselves, would not prevent an otherwise fine poem from taking flight. Unfortunately, the poems themselves rate as 800-pound incompetencies. Larocca forgot the basic, number one rule of all writing: show, don't tell.
Larocca reports in his poem "For Someone Dear" feeling "a pang of longing when we are apart/Then such joy when we are together again." His lines contain no sense of touch, smell, no palpable image let alone more exotic forms of creativity. In a sense, I can't really critique the poems because they aren't really poems. A few dozen lines of bland reportage with random line breaks do not make a poem.
Potentially worse -- according to the back flap, Larocca has four more books coming out in 2002 alone. If I were him, I'd consider hiding my keyboard. If forthcoming volumes don't improve on Chronicles of a Madman, he could find himself sentenced by the William Carlos Williams Supreme Writing Court (their motto: "It is dangerous to leave written that which is badly written. A chance word, on paper, might destroy the world.") to never come within fifty feet of a typewriter or word processing program or even a notepad on pain of death.
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