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Wednesday, January 25, 2012
I was laid up for the better part of this
past summer with a torn ACL, that inner part of the meniscus that holds the patella in place. I was ordered by my orthopedist
to stay off my feet and physically out of the office where I worked for at least six weeks, pending surgery. I tried working
at home at my computer with my leg propped up and iced for a few weeks until the surgeon and I realized that the tear would
not heal properly on its own without complete 24x7 rest. That meant that I had to stay sitting up on my couch or bed with
my leg propped up by cushions, swathed in ice, and me being doused with anti-inflammatories and heavy-duty pain killers. It
was the only way the knee would mend itself without having to undergo surgery that only had a thirty percent success rate.
So, there I was, on an unpaid leave of absence with nothing else to do besides watch old movies on TV, but read, read, read.
And read I did. Almost 24x7, between naps and old movies.
4:56 pm est
One of the best books that I did read during that period
of long-term healing was No Matter How Much You Promise to Cook or Pay the Rent You Blew It Cauze Bill Bailey Ain't Never Coming Home Again; A Symphonic
Novel by Edgardo Vega Yungué. He was, sad to say, my first introduction to other cultural writers other than British and
American ones, although I have had a few forays into Eastern novels by such eminent authors as Amy Tan and Khaled Hosseini.
Actually, it was Yungué that eventually led me to Esmeralda Santiago—but that is a whole other story.
Yungué's epic novel, all 638 pages of the hardcopy first edition that I had found a few years
earlier in a "bargain" book store in downtown Phoenixville, is a story in itself of injury and long-term healing.
Although, I will tell you right off the bat, that the end “recovery" for this novel's major characters was not
quite what I had expected, given the decisive events that lead up to it. This is a massive venture into both the realm of
the coming-of-age of a young girl and an expose of how music affects our lives—specifically the lives of two of its
main protagonists, of which this book has many.
Vidamia Farrell, is the illegitimate offspring of a Puerto Rican
mother and Billy, an Irish veteran of the horrific throes of the Vietnam War. He returns home maimed, unable to continue his
life-long dream of becoming a jazz pianist, having had three fingers of his left hand blown off while trying to save the life
of Dominic, Vidamia's mother's brother. Vidamia lives with her mother in an affluent home in an affluent
neighborhood of Westchester County (many of these places where I lived in my former life are recurring locations in my favorite
novels, aren't they?), but as she grows into a competent young teenager, is allowed to spend weekends with Billy, her father—whom
she discovers through a twist of fate—and his large family consisting of his wife, Lurleen, and their many children.
It is a musical family and our heroine soon discovers her own artistic talent along with her love and almost misunderstanding
of her father: his many depressive moods, his alienation from "normal" society, his reluctance to return into his
music, his profound love for his wife and children. This is a novel with many facets and many twists and turns, very much
like a long, wondrous and excellent rift we would listen to in a great jazz piece...or would hear in what I fondly remember,
and did listen to during my period of recovery, as soul music.
No Matter How Much You Promise to Cook or Pay the Rent You Blew It Cauze Bill Bailey Ain't Never Coming Home Again; A Symphonic
Novel is a lyrical, though poignantly and, eventually, graphically depictive novel. If you don't have the stamina or fortitude
to get through the emotionally charged and graphically bloody ending, then this is not he read for you. However, I, for one
did excitedly in three days read this epic novel cover to cover.
The music of it will resound within my soul forever.
J. McInerney, the host of this Literary Blog, is
an author, poet, and librettist. Her currently published works include a novel, a book of spiritual inspirations,
volumes of poetry, stories
for children (of all ages) and
a variety of children's musicals. Her titles include:
Hose, Hook & Ladder: A Novel of Phoenixville during World War I
Columbia Hotel: A Novel
of Phoenixville during the Early 1900s
the Schuylkill Monster: A Novel of Phoenixville in
The Prisoner's Portrait: A Novel of Phoenxville during World War II
Rainbow in the Sky
of Oreigh Ogglefont
The Basset Chronicles.
Cats of Nine Tales
Water: A Collection of Poems
Exodus Ending: A
Collection of More Spiritual Poems
We Three Kings
Beauty and the Beast
Peter, Wolf, and Red Riding
Originally from the New York metropolitan area, June currently lives near Valley Forge Park in Pennsylvania with her constant and loving companions, FrankieBernard and Sebastian Cat. She
is currently working on her sixth novel.