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wTuesday, October 05, 2004

LOVE IN THE RUINS: Here's the end of my new review, for Books & Culture, of Jim Knipfel's Ruining It for Everybody:

But the book is also something more: something unexpected. From the dedication to his long-time girlfriend Morgan to the final celebratory words ("Cheers, baby."), Ruining It for Everybody is an improbable love letter to his friend, helper, and muse. She arrives at the New York Press at roughly the same time he does and holds the relationship together in spite of job changes and his foolish attempts to bust it up.

Most of Knipfel's work could be described as confessional, but the regret is most acute when he discusses the ways he's failed his girl: snapping at her, stealing her ideas, failing to stick up for when he feels he should. He seems startled by the fact that there she still is, every night, at their prearranged neighborhood bar: still able to make him laugh after all these years.

The writing this time isn't as tight as in the last two volumes, and Knipfel has a tendency to linger and wonder. He recounts the story of the two of them—she a lapsed Catholic, he a lapsed Lutheran—stumbling into St. Patrick's Cathedral after a night at the bar, and of Morgan stopping by the votive stand to light a few candles for her departed grandmother.

Knipfel explains that he is "hardly a religious man" and that he certainly wasn't "touched by God while I was there that night." And yet, there was "still something—something good and beautiful, even poignant —about stopping into St. Patrick's (and stopping into St. Patrick's all sloppy drunk) on a chilly autumn eve, about lighting a candle for a grandma who meant something to you, about just being there for a while. I don't know what it was, but it was one of those brief, rare, good moments, like sitting at an old empty bar you'd never heard of or getting your feet wet in the ocean for the first time, that'll stick around for a while." [go read the beginning]

posted by Jeremy at 1:38 AM