August Kleinzahler is an exhibitionist - in a literary sense - in that he exposes life's little nuances for those too busy to stop and stand at a bus stop and observe what is all around us, both the curious and the mundane. He listens. He observes. He smells. He breathes. He touches. He tastes. He takes notes. He assimilates. Then he regurgitates the experiences for the world, feeding the fledglings of life, regardless of respective age. Cutty, One Rock is the result of August Kleinzahler's dallying at life's bus stop, where he has seen pretty girls eating fried chicken, bad movies, patronized the Zam Zam Room before it went cliché, and rode the bus to the end of the line and back, figuratively and literally. Cutty, One Rock is a book for the beholding, quite an accomplished collection of essays for an "unplanned accident" raised by his family's purebred, drippy-eyed, boxer who suffered from an incurable mange-like skin condition.
Kleinzahler's writing is direct, in your face, but not entirely in an offensive manner - well, maybe in content, sometimes. It is, however, a refreshing change of pace from some of the works I have seen in the last couple of years, bound books and magazine articles alike. There is no stumbling about in flowery prose. Kleinzahler's style is akin to that of E.B. White, for his mind does not simply stop to consider the pig as a pig, but what might have happened in the pig's life if things "had gone the other way." As a literary prude, however - and it has been suggested I am one, and I'm quite proud to wear the title for it's been nurtured along carefully - I was put off by the usual dosing of profanity; America's incurable idiomatic disease that just seems to ooze out of any work published in recent decades. There, too, the somewhat waxing nostalgic over drug-induced stupors, past sexual antics, and the homosexual culture threatens to relegate Cutty, One Rock to the commonplace stacks or the cookie-cutter-book ninety-nine cent discount bins. Kleinzahler's purview, however, is broad enough, and his talent overriding, so that this book has found a foothold, at least for now.
The chapter titled "Eros and Poetry" could have been omitted without wreaking much damage to the overall collection. Indeed, if poetry or archaic languages leave you cold and shuddering, then you will want to skip it. For me, the chapter seemed to appear out of nowhere, like something you stumble over in the dark - a badly situated table leg or a roller skate left on the stairs.
The best essays are written to foster conversation, discussion, debate, and certainly these will serve that purpose, whether it was what the author set out to achieve with them or not. However, a warning is in order here. This is not a book recommended for young readers, i.e. high school or below. Far too much nostalgia oozes out with regard to the use of drugs, the sexual antics of the author, his friends, and acquaintances, not to mention a general trotting around in the homosexual counterculture. Even adults may wish to read it with their defenses fully oriented.