Thursday, February 06, 2014

The Dangers of Proximal Alphabets by Kathleen Alcott

Ooh, y'all! The Dangers of Proximal Alphabets by Kathleen Alcott is a winner! I snatched this one up last year after I watched a review of it on one of my fave BookTube channels, MercysBookishMusings. I picked it up and put it down over the summer, because it required a bit too much brain power at the time, but this time it stuck!

Jackson, James, and Ida grow up like siblings. The boys have no father in the picture, and Ida's lost her mom. Jackson's and James's mom, and Ida's dad, lean on each other and help each other out with the children until it's hard to tell where friends end and family begins. 

Later in life, Ida and Jackson start a physical/romantic relationship, and James has to deal with the impact as well as his burgeoning drug addiction. The book opens with Ida reminiscing over her relationship with Jackson, which has ended badly, though we don't find out the details until near the end of the book. 

Kathleen Alcott has crafted a unique story that really tests its readers' boundaries and ideas on relationships. It's kind of gross when Ida and Jackson start sleeping together. They grow up as family, but they are not related. What do we do with that? In some respects it seems wrong on a social norms level, even though there's "technically" no reason they can't be together. 

It becomes very clear throughout this book that boundaries are constantly in question. Just as I and J are situated together in the alphabet, Ida and Jackson are so close in life as to be inseparable.  Jackson even refers to Ida, from childhood, simply as "I." They are so connected, they almost can't exist on their own. 

The plot of this book is not terribly complicated, but it unfolds slowly. Alcott's writing is atmospheric and reminded me of the sticky summer afternoons of my childhood and the torrid emotions that went along with that time in life. 

On a very technical level Alcott's sentences are strung together in a way that forces the reader to slowwww dowwwwwn--with odd clause arrangement and quirky phrasing--and take in the characterization and the nuances of the plot. It highlights the emotional intertwining of the characters as well as their triumphs, mistakes, and idiosyncrasies. 

It's a little book at only 200ish pages, but Alcott manages to cram in a whole lotta great writing and big questions. Just my kind of thing. 

Pub. Date: September 2012
Publisher: Other Press
Format: Trade Paperback
ISBN: 9781590515297
Source: Bought it!




19 comments:

  1. This book is totally new to me but it sounds like a winner!

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  2. I snagged this from my university library book sale this year and definitely need to pick it up now. (I finally realized why they had so many amazing, brand new books - they get a ton of copies for the readers of the first novelist award and then throw them in their book sale...I'll always be making it to that one!)

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  3. A must read, for sure! I've been super into short books lately. And I like books with quirky sentence structure that make you slow down. Another for the birthday buying spree, perhaps?

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  4. This sounds really good. I must add it to my wish list. :)

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  5. "The plot of this book is not terribly complicated, but it unfolds slowly. Alcott's writing is atmospheric and reminded me of the sticky summer afternoons of my childhood and the torrid emotions that went along with that time in life. "

    SOLD!

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  6. This one sounds really good for when I'm looking for something different or am not in a hurry...will add it to my TBR. The title is awesome too.

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  7. Definitely sounds like an interesting read. I like the idea of the language being so important to the story.

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  8. I haven't been sure whether this would be a good book to me, but I must say the title is fantastic. I love a weird combination of words like this has.

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  9. I’m so glad that you liked it, especially because I, too, picked it up and put it down. Knowing that you enjoyed it the second time around makes me want to give it another shot. I was really looking forward to reading it but just couldn’t quite get into it.

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  10. Oooh, this sounds really interesting! I will have to put it on my library list! The story sounds interesting and the writing sounds lovely!

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  11. This book sounds awesome. I like books with blurred lines that aren't so predictable and normal. Sounds good to me!

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  12. I like what you said about what it reminded you of. That does sound like wonderful atmospheric writing. For my list!

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  13. I love the short books lately, too. I've not seen anything about this title before so thanks for introducing a new shorty.

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  14. This seems like a really good book! I loved the title right away and the thoughtfulness of the story sounds very impressive.

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  15. I think i'm kind of excited about this book after reading your review. Sounds a little gross at times, but just gross enough to peak my interest. Thanks.

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  16. I've been wondering about this one. It certainly does sound like a winner that will be added to my TBR list.

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  17. I saw this one some time ago but forgot about it. I like when boundaries are questioned. Sounds like my kind of read.

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