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Robinson Alone


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ISBN13: 9780983700142
ISBN10: 0983700141
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Synopses & Reviews

Publisher Comments:

Poetry. "Meet Robinson, the protagonist of Kathleen Rooney's brilliant novel-in-poems ROBINSON ALONE. Conjured up by Weldon Kees and set loose in an urban landscape, Robinson reflects and refracts mid-century American kitsch, optimism, and despair. 'What do you / think the post-war world will be like?' he asks, via Rooney's revisions and erasures of Kees' own letters. Lyrical and detailed, precise and ornate, Rooney's genre-bending text showcases an obsession with literary history. At once repulsed by Midwestern provincialism and fearful of urban excess, 'There's still as much of yesterday / as there is of tomorrow in all he does today.'"—Carol Guess

"Kathleen Rooney is one of the best writers of her still youthful generation. Whether working in memoir, essay, fiction, or verse, she writes in a style that is strikingly original and immediately recognizable for the high-spirited energy of its surface and an undertow of emotion that is sometimes elegiac. Even when part of the art in this book is that of the ventriloquist, both of these qualities can be found in Rooney's Robinson poems, a sustained work based on her long engagement with the poetry of Weldon Kees. Kees was for a long time a poet's poet for a generation now itself growing old, so it is a fine thing to have his signature character examined and re-animated by a young poet as good as Rooney is."—John Matthias

"Kathleen Rooney's ROBINSON ALONE is a blood brother to the historical novel. She reminds us that epic stories started with the poem, and she does the tradition proud with her formal flexibility and attention to detail. Her poems 'photograph the obscure,' uncovering a lost treasure in Weldon Kees, who apparently is alive and well, living between these pages."—A. Van Jordan

About the Author

Kathleen Rooney is a founding editor of Rose Metal Press, and the author, most recently, of the art modeling memoir Live Nude Girl: My Life as an Object (University of Arkansas Press, 2009), the essay collection For You, For You I Am Trilling These Songs (Counterpoint, 2010), and the poetry collection ROBINSON ALONE (Gold Wake Press, 2012). She is also the author of the poetry collection ONEIROMANCE (AN EPITHALAMION) (Switchback Books, 2008) and, with Elisa Gabbert, the collaborative poetry collection That Tiny Insane Voluptuousness (Otoliths Books, 2008). She lives in Chicago.

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E_Bell, November 19, 2012 (view all comments by E_Bell)
Robinson is rich, restless, bored, and drifting. Robinson is lonely. Robinson is alone.
In Kathleen Rooney's novel in poems, Robinson Alone, she traces the life of Robinson, an elusive character in just four of Weldon Kees's poems (and a representation of Kees himself) as he moves cross-country--and moves from disenchantment to despair. As Robinson makes haste to leave his Nebraskan hometown, to set up shop in NYC, working for Time magazine, we don't need a whole chapter to tell us about the town--Rooney can say so much with so little, and she does so eloquently throughout the book, "This hateful small./ This hateful empty," ("Robinson's Hometown"). Once in NYC, as Robinson's well-to-do life, and wife, Ann, and fear of the draft progress, he finds himself growing more and more cynical and more and more disappointed with what his life has become, "they sold fun & we bought it. We/ bought it" ("What does he want? The future? When does he want it? Now!"). So he and Anne pick up and leave NYC for the West, driving through state after state. And this is where Rooney excels--the way she can create a phrase that is not just original but also provides an understanding of how the character is feeling, such as, the way Robinson is "Eyeing other poor saps in their rolling coffins" ("Robinson tears pages from The Rand McNally Road Atlas") while Ann reads Burma Shave ads out loud as they travel by car. It is clear that the two of them are searching for...something...though, "Robinson confesses they don't know what they'll do when they reach the West Coast" ("Over a thousand miles from New York City"). Unfortunately, making a new home in San Francisco doesn't make life much better for the couple. Ann starts drinking constantly; Robinson begins feeling inferior to his friends, as he finds out about their successes, which just serves to illuminate his failures. Their marriage rips at the seams as Ann drinks herself into anxiety and paranoia, and they divorce, with Robinson slipping into depression and trying to find solace in sex. During this deterioration, Rooney uses poems meant to be letters that Robinson is writing to his friends/family (we aren't quite sure)--a great way to illustrate how his state of mind continues to sink, especially since these poems are all in Robinson's own words, "The trick/ of repeating, 'It can't get any worse,' is certainly no good,/ when all the evidence points to quite the opposite" ("Robinson sends a letter to someone," p 108). It's clear to us that all Robinson seems to be finding is depression, "He can't get the world right,/ he can only walk around in it" ("Robinson understands as he stands at North Point & Fillmore"), and we wonder what will happen to him as "Bone-/thin in a linen suit, he executes/ a slow vanishing act" ("Robinson dines mostly in restaurants lately") and he decides "He will go out glitzed. Called a phenom. Called unstoppable" ("Historically, Suicides). But Rooney--paying homage to Kees himself, who disappeared in 1955--doesn't tell us. And rightly so: maybe Robinson (Kees) ran off to Mexico to see if jumpstarting his life would work there; maybe Robinson (Kees) committed suicide. We're not sure. What Rooney does leave us with is this, "Seven years after a disappearance, a person can be pronounced dead./ But that's nothing compared to the size of the ocean" ("Robinson's telephone rings"). And I think that's all we need to know.
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Product Details

Rooney, Kathleen
Gold Wake Press
General Poetry
Poetry-A to Z
Publication Date:

Related Subjects

Fiction and Poetry » Poetry » A to Z
Fiction and Poetry » Small Press » Poetry

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Product details 132 pages Gold Wake Press - English 9780983700142 Reviews:
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