Misogynistic, dreary, overtly narcissistic are words that come to mind for me when describing Between Eden and the Open Road, Philip Gaber’s collection of sixty-six poems and bits of prose. It wasn’t at all what I was expecting after reading the book blurb which describes the book in artsy terms like, “surrealist Technicolor”, and a “collection of imperfect art populaire”. In retrospect, I realize that the meaning of these less than precise catch-phrases are open to a wide variety of interpretation.
What I read was a lot of free verse poetry involving plenty of navel gazing. There are a few longer pieces of prose (none of which were more than five pages long), which I didn’t consider to be short stories. The theme of the poems and prose is about alienation, depression, drug and alcohol abuse, and experiencing life on the gritty fringes of society. If this is “surrealist Technicolor” then the Technicolor palette has been reduced to shades of brown and gray.
If the author doesn’t come right out and say that he hates women, he certainly doesn’t hold them in very high esteem. The women in his pieces are either shrewish family members; contemptible ex-girlfriends; or whores. More respect is shown to the whores than to the book’s other two female archetypes.
One of the poems, ‘the energy of nothing’, recalls how the narrator’s generation didn’t have a lot of insight or any big defining moments, “just a lot of adolescent myopia. They were misunderstood and slogged through life until they simply started settling for less. In ‘a night of profound love’, the narrator looks for healing in a house of ill-repute. Looking for healing in a house of ill-repute could be a premise for an engaging story. Sadly, this vignette just left me cold. Perhaps the joke is on me, and this was the author’s intent all along. Perhaps he wants the reader to become alienated from the pieces in this book so they feel the way the characters themselves are alienated from themselves and from the larger world. If that was his intent, then I do believe he succeeded.
Krista lives just outside the urban sprawl of Portland, Oregon. Lamentably, her work as a technical writer and business analyst often interferes with her reading which is a true passion.
Review copy was provided free of any obligation by Philip Gaber. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.