I read Nic Brown’s Drumming a few days ago, and I haven’t been able to get it out of my head. This is the story that made me want to start blogging about writers I see hanging around on the net. I just have stuff to say about this story.
Though I’m sure he has readers who know and love him, this is the first time I’ve been exposed to his work. I was captivated. His voice is intimately familiar, and it harbors generational command and insight I haven’t seen before.
For me, the trick of successful reading is often the ability to perform a type of translation – as a queer reader, I translate straight love into a kind of universal romantic love so I can be present with characters falling in love and having babies in a way I never could; as a child of the ’80s, I translate the childhoods of characters born into my parents’ generation or into ones being written for the young adult readers today so I can generate a kind of context for my own experiences; as a teacher, I work at translating my understanding of narrative into something relevant I can share with my students so that they will see meaning in text.
The closest I often come to any kind of non-translative reading is when an author is writing about my hometown (as in Amanda Eyre Ward’s recent novel Close Your Eyes), or a particular type of transcendent experience that I may have shared (and I haven’t had many of these).
Something surprising happened here with Nic Brown, though. I did not have to translate, even though I’ve never been a drummer, never wanted to be a drummer, and never watched my future unfurl before me like a bad dream. I was twenty one in 1998, though, and I was waiting for my future to begin.
Maybe we have arrived. Maybe we are finally old enough to narrate.