Sippings of memory: a review of "100 Tricks Every Boy Can Do"

  • An optical illusion shows the profiles of two men, or a cup.

    iStock
 

100 Tricks Every Boy Can Do: How My Brother Disappeared
Kim Stafford
202 pages, softcover: $16.95.
Trinity University Press, 2012.

One of the happy consequences of reading Kim Stafford is that he makes you want to become a better person. The Portland-based author of 12 books of poetry and prose writes with a quiet gentleness, intimacy and kindness.

100 Tricks Every Boy Can Do: How My Brother Disappeared is a personal and introspective memoir chronicling Stafford's relationship with his older brother, Bret, who took his own life at the age of 40, with very little warning. In 82 chapters, some only a few paragraphs in length --  "sippings," as Stafford has called them elsewhere -- the writer searches his "tunnel of memory" for clues to the painful mystery that still haunts him.

"For the work of memoir," Stafford writes, "is to put personal memory in a form that may serve the memories of others." For Stafford, most memories are consoling, and 100 Tricks shows us a man -- who just happens to be a gifted writer -- looking back, struggling to make sense of tragedy. "I have written in this book what the philosopher José Ortega y Gassett called 'salvations' -- short narratives that seek to apprehend and save essential stories and discoveries: a moment, a fleeting glimpse, any episodic evidence toward understanding."

Stafford's economic and deft use of language is one of the book's strengths. This comes as no surprise: Like his famous father, former U.S. Poet Laureate William Stafford, Kim Stafford is first and foremost a poet. "My soul has pockets," the younger Stafford writes, "and into these pockets gather the places and moments that mutter my brother's life." Stafford also has a history of offering wisdom with Zen-like simplicity and 100 Tricks does not disappoint: "Happiness is born in struggle and even in failure," and "Each story will seek the right listener."

Ultimately, many of Stafford's questions remain unanswerable. Though 100 Tricks centers on his brother's suicide, it is neither glum nor depressing. Instead, it's a heartwarming and touching investigation into family and memory -- a book about love and living well above all else.

NewTowncarShare News Classifieds
  • Take over the reins of a dynamic grassroots social justice group that protects Montana's water quality, family farms and ranches, & unique quality of life....
  • EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR - Winter Wildlands Alliance seeks an experienced and highly motivated individual to lead and manage the organization as Executive Director. Visit https://winterwildlands.org/executive-director-search/ for...
  • Background: The Birds of Prey NCA Partnership is a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization based in Boise, Idaho, which was established in 2015 after in-depth stakeholder input...
  • Southwest Borderlands Initiative Professor of Native Americans and the News Media The Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University is...
  • AWF seeks an energetic Marketing and Communications Director. Please see the full job description at https://azwildlife.org/jobs
  • The Southwest Communications Director will be responsible for working with field staff in Arizona, Colorado and New Mexico to develop and execute detailed communication plans...
  • An intentional community designed for aging in place. Green built with Pumice-crete construction (R32), bamboo flooring, pine doors, T&G ceiling with fans, and maintenance free...
  • (CFROG) is a Ventura County, CA based watch-dog and advocacy non-profit organization. cfrog.org
  • Take your journalism skills to the next level and deepen your understanding of environmental issues by applying for the 2019-2020 Ted Scripps Fellowships in Environmental...
  • The San Juan Mountains Association is seeking a visionary leader to spearhead its public lands stewardship program in southwest Colorado. For a detailed job description...
  • The Cascade Forest Conservancy seeks a passionate ED to lead our forest protection, conservation, education, and advocacy programs.
  • Mountain Pursuit is a new, bold, innovative, western states, hunting advocacy nonprofit headquartered in Jackson, Wyoming. We need a courageous, hard working, passionate Executive Director...
  • The Draper Natural History Museum (DNHM) at the Buffalo Bill Historical Center of the West in Cody, WY, invites applications for the Willis McDonald, IV...
  • Couple seeks quiet, private, off-grid acreage in area with no/low cell phone service and no/low snowfall. Conservation/bordering public lands a plus. CA, OR, WA, ID,...
  • Former northern Sierra winery, with 2208 sq.ft. commercial building, big lot, room to expand.
  • The dZi Foundation is seeking a FT Communications Associate with a passion for Nepal to join our team in Ridgway, Colorado. Visit dzi.org/careers.
  • Available now for site conservator, property manager. View resume at http://skills.ojaidigital.net.
  • Stellar seed-saving NGO is available to serious partner. Package must include financial support. Details: http://seeds.ojaidigital.net.
  • 1400 sf of habitable space in a custom-designed eco-home created and completed by a published L.A. architect in 1997-99. Nestled within its own 80-acre mountain...
  • Suitable for planting hay, hemp, fruit. Excellent water rights. 1800 square foot farmhouse, outbuildings, worker housing.