Book Review: Blood by Jack Remick
I’ve been trying to get this review up since I finished Blood several months ago. The book covered so much and has so many layered parts to it, I will never do justice to the experience. I would love to hear from other readers since there may be something you found in the reading that I have been unable to express.
As I read this on my kindle, I threw up passages from the book almost every day. I love books that reference other books; they work like an introduction to new worlds. Blood not only referenced titles that were relevant to me, it also covered some familiar topics: creative process, freedom, writing, philosophy and classic erotic literature.
Here are a few of my favorite lines:
It’s hot in the laundromat. Hot and moist as the inside of a woman’s mouth.
It is a forbidden book. It is a handbook of sin, a worm in the heart of decency. Irresistible.
I learned that a man’s mettle is measured by his grace when he loses. I found that I wasn’t the man I wanted to be because all too often, I gave into my addictions of self pity, self hate, self loathing, self gratification.
The next couple of exchanges cracked me up. Here they are in the prison library, one of my favorite settings in the book. I especially appreciated being reminded of the power and possibility represented on one forgotten library shelf…
This Faulkner guy is weird, Mitch. He’s got a guy doing this babe with a corn cob. Can you believe it? Are you hungry?
Have you finished dusting the Fs?
You know there’s a whole lot of titles that start with F, I mean a whole lot, but you know Mitch, not one of them Fs got read? You know? Can you believe it? All the Fs is Virgins, Mitch.
Here’s another one:
What’s a declarative, Mitch? He asked.
It’s when you say something direct, I told him. Like you suck cock. That’s a declarative sentence.
What base element of life does not make an appearance in this book? We’ve got semen, tears, sweat, urine, and blood flowing through almost every scene.
I especially treasure books that refer to other books; they remind me that I am first a reader, held in thrall to an artist god. Often we have rituals as we read; Hank Mitchell’s reminded me that I am not alone in my appreciation of words, literature, and the all-powerful Author. Blood reminded me how vital books can be for us during the darkest times of our lives.
Hank writes on toilet paper, graduates to notebook paper, then a typewriter and finally works on a computer. This represented for me the growth of an artist in a most novel and vivid way.
Reading Blood was an experience like I have not had with any other book, it was a reaction, it was a journey, it was a nightmare, though its opening pages read like a dream. It is harsh, it is vivid, ugly, erotic and brutal. Though the book is set in a prison, all the elements of a rich life are represented here: justice, literature, salvation, art, loss, hatred, guilt, innocence and love.
One aspect of the book that I continue to struggle with were the things humans so casually do to each other. One part of me cheered for finally finding depictions of gay sex that aren’t self-conscious. Another cringed at the psychology behind giving yourself to another for reasons that are far different from those portrayed in Disney movies and jewelry commercials. The way some of the relationships evolved disturbed me and made me examine why. To be brave we often have to face things that make us uncomfortable and as a writer I especially admire others who not only go to these, but stay and invite the rest of us to have a look around.
Blood is a book I will read again and still talk about.
I talk to my friends and other writers about going as far as you can to see what you are capable of, and in that discovering what can be revealed. Blood is an excellent example of going all the way.