Additional thoughts based on my reading of Ohio. Between the theme and the writing, I was reminded of a couple of other things I have read recently.
As noted in the review, I thought Markley did a great job with this book and he is a very skilled writer. One thing I noticed in several places where some passages which evoked the good parts of the DFW style. Specifically, both DFW and Markley have the ability to create a list of details to describe a scene that creates an explosion in the reader’s mind. Here’s an example from Ohio–of what was left behind in foreclosed houses.
They left value behind: gas grills, furniture, jewelry, vinyl albums, Beanie Babies, plaques with framed prayers, frozen steaks, the entire Bible on a set of CDs, bikes, and one eccentric left thirty-odd ducks penned in beside a small backyard pond.
The difference between Markley and DFW is that Markley knows when to stop, whereas DFW will tend to continue to lick his balls because he can.
It’s good writing…kind of a photographic technique to describing something big by listing little things. The artifacts we possess–and then leave–must say something about who we are and these kinds of lists allow you to include the reader in the process of exploring the homes without telling them what to think.
The other comparison I found might be a little odder. A while ago I read Mothers Tell Your Daughters, a collection of stories by Bonnie Jo Campbell, an outstanding Michigan-based writer. Both Markley and Campbell write from the perspective of how people in the Great Lakes are living in the post-crash, post-manufacturing world. Campbell’s characters are in the country and Markley’s in a smallish town, but everything else is similar.
Both writers share the same motif of purposelessness, drug use, drug sales, alcohol abuse and violence….particularly sexual violence.
To be more specific, both Campbell and Markley present men as being a persistent and toxic presence in the lives of their families. Unless, of course, they are absent entirely. There are just really striking scenes in the Campbell work about Mothers and Daughters tip-toeing around the malevolent presence of the men in their lives. And, in Ohio, violence by men is the sun around which the story revolves.
I’m not sure what the point is. I’m tempted to say that these men were raised to be producers and bread-winners and in a world where that has been stripped from them we find them sullen and ever-threatening. Or, it means that men are just shits or more likely to be shits or just much worse shits.
Either way, its jarring as a man to see it. And not pleasant to read. No one ever promised us that literature would make us feel good, though.