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As long as it's big : a narrative poem /
John Bricuth.
imprint
Baltimore : Johns Hopkins University Press, 2005.
description
217 p.
ISBN
0801882451 (hardcover : alk. paper)
format(s)
Book
Holdings
More Details
imprint
Baltimore : Johns Hopkins University Press, 2005.
isbn
0801882451 (hardcover : alk. paper)
catalogue key
5626756
A Look Inside
Excerpts
Excerpt from Book
... Indeed, so strongly does this judge I'm mostly quoting feel about divorce:Its repercussions, roots, parallelExpressions of despair in modern dance That when these cases come before his courtMost times he slows them to a crawl, which isTo say, inserts an extra step, makes The litigants appear with their attorneysIn his chambers, then forbids the lawyersTheir accustomed roles, instead of adversaries Has them act, amici curiae,As advocates of marriage, seeking waysThis one specific union they'd Been paid to break might yet be saved by simplySitting down together 'round a table,Spending time -- much as it might take (This judge'll clear his schedule any weekFor eyewash of this sort) -- just to traceA battling couple's troubles to their source, Recovering, if they can, some sense of whatThey'd each first found appealing in the other,Thought best, loved most, then lost in time's Relentless acid bath, and how, see that'sThe question, how the very things they'd mostAdmired became with years the irritants That rubbed them raw as cobs till just the soundOf one another's voices set their teethOn edge, had them fingering hard crockery Anent some insupportable Retort. But what, sir, takes your breath away'sThe way the judge demands the lawyers play A part in this sad therapeutic farce,Requires they be constructive, give the guttedCouple free advice about the trials Ensuing from divorce: suits for custody,Child support, moving outOf state, stuff like that, and then to top It off, he makes these same attorneys, menMuch married (consequently, used to lotsOf yapping), testify like gospel shouters In a pew about how youth is shortAnd passion strong and people change with years,How quitters never win, how life is long, A marriage longer still, grim death the longestOne of all, crazy stuff like that,But from the heart, sharing their emotions, Showing they know how to listen withA look as this same judge asks Mrs. MuffyMerkin, "And when your husband called you that, "How did that make you feel? Just tell us whatYou felt." All this the judge exacts from cruelAttorneys, makes them do, or else sit through, And keep their faces ruled....
First Chapter

... Indeed, so strongly does this judge I'm mostly quoting feel about divorce:Its repercussions, roots, parallelExpressions of despair in modern dance That when these cases come before his courtMost times he slows them to a crawl, which isTo say, inserts an extra step, makes The litigants appear with their attorneysIn his chambers, then forbids the lawyersTheir accustomed roles, instead of adversaries Has them act, amici curiae,As advocates of marriage, seeking waysThis one specific union they'd Been paid to break might yet be saved by simplySitting down together 'round a table,Spending time -- much as it might take (This judge'll clear his schedule any weekFor eyewash of this sort) -- just to traceA battling couple's troubles to their source, Recovering, if they can, some sense of whatThey'd each first found appealing in the other,Thought best, loved most, then lost in time's Relentless acid bath, and how, see that'sThe question, how the very things they'd mostAdmired became with years the irritants That rubbed them raw as cobs till just the soundOf one another's voices set their teethOn edge, had them fingering hard crockery Anent some insupportable Retort. But what, sir, takes your breath away'sThe way the judge demands the lawyers play A part in this sad therapeutic farce,Requires they be constructive, give the guttedCouple free advice about the trials Ensuing from divorce: suits for custody,Child support, moving outOf state, stuff like that, and then to top It off, he makes these same attorneys, menMuch married (consequently, used to lotsOf yapping), testify like gospel shouters In a pew about how youth is shortAnd passion strong and people change with years,How quitters never win, how life is long, A marriage longer still, grim death the longestOne of all, crazy stuff like that,But from the heart, sharing their emotions, Showing they know how to listen withA look as this same judge asks Mrs. MuffyMerkin, "And when your husband called you that, "How did that make you feel? Just tell us whatYou felt." All this the judge exacts from cruelAttorneys, makes them do, or else sit through, And keep their faces ruled....

Reviews
Review Quotes
Bricuth's magnetically readable long song crackles with cynical laughter and pulses with all-too-human sadness.
"Bricuth's magnetically readable long song crackles with cynical laughter and pulses with all-too-human sadness." -- Booklist
"Bricuth's magnetically readable long song crackles with cynical laughter and pulses with all-too-human sadness."--Ray Olson, Booklist
It's a roller coaster of a narrative that is by turns hilarious, raunchy, slapstick, heartbreaking, tender, and sweet.
"It's a roller coaster of a narrative that is by turns hilarious, raunchy, slapstick, heartbreaking, tender, and sweet." -- Johns Hopkins Magazine
Performed as a sonata...an ideal gift for anyone suffering through divorce.
"Performed as a sonata...an ideal gift for anyone suffering through divorce." -- Prairie Schooner
"As Long As It's Big joins together some of the funniest scenes you can imagine with a powerful and moving central story of love and grief, all told in a fluent, graceful verse and marked by this poet's wonderful mastery of the allusive music of a wide variety of contemporary American voices. A major work and a daring one." -- George Garrett
"Bricuth stakes out his claim to territory that no other American poet has trod. Here is an ironic spoof on the process of divorce law, a moving chronicle of a family falling apart, a war story, an outrageous comedy, a fireworks display of language and metaphor whose verve never falters, and what may be the most insightful comment on the game of mating and unmating since Anna Karenina." -- X. J. Kennedy
"Here, John Bricuth perfects his startling new mode of American poetic tragicomedy. This exuberant chant of some 4,500 lines goes by with such force and quickness that I am surprised, on rereading, to discover it has concluded, with a kind of spontaneous combustion." -- Harold Bloom
"If poems were roller coasters, this one would be The Cyclone: readers are advised to keep both hands on the rail and don't try to leave -- you won't want to anyway -- before it comes to an end." -- Charles Martin
In this brilliant, layered (and lawyered), Aesopic set of dialogues pertaining to a divorce hearing, the venality of the legal world is stunningly set off by the comparative goodness, decency, and generosity of a quietly eloquent and grief-stricken young couple over whom the court, in all its dubious majesty, presides. The grotesque worldliness and civilized barbarity of the representatives of law and order are brought face to face with deep human suffering and a simple nobility that moves the reader to admiration as well as pity. An astonishing work.
"In this brilliant, layered (and lawyered), Aesopic set of dialogues pertaining to a divorce hearing, the venality of the legal world is stunningly set off by the comparative goodness, decency, and generosity of a quietly eloquent and grief-stricken young couple over whom the court, in all its dubious majesty, presides. The grotesque worldliness and civilized barbarity of the representatives of law and order are brought face to face with deep human suffering and a simple nobility that moves the reader to admiration as well as pity. An astonishing work." -- Anthony Hecht
"I read it as a novel, almost in one sitting. Its narrative drive is compelling. There is suspense, comedy, wonderful language -- both high and low brow -- and powerful characters. Bricuth uses the courtroom the way the Elizabethans used the court -- as the background for ambition and intrigue, which is finally that sad business of people, adultery, lust, hard work, and loss. This could be the only poem I've ever read that could be optioned for a movie. I am just knocked out by how good it is." -- Max Apple
"Like nothing you have ever seen. It's a polyphonic dialogue that's at once distanced from and uncomfortably close to realities that don't often get into poetry. It stings and delights, jolts and pleases. Philosophical medicine made palatable by wit and verve." -- Guy Davenport
"On the one hand, the shenanigans of a trio of scabrous, demonic lawyers, on the other, the anger and grief of the divorce court. Rubbing the one against the other, Bricuth strikes sparks of poetry as tragico-comical as life itself." -- J. M. Coetzee
"Readers will delight in its mingled poignancy and slapstick, and will laugh aloud at virtuoso passages of Fieldism diction." -- Richard Wilbur
This item was reviewed in:
Booklist, November 2005
To find out how to look for other reviews, please see our guides to finding book reviews in the Sciences or Social Sciences and Humanities.
Summaries
Bowker Data Service Summary
John Bricuth's narrative poem tells a tragic story - the collapse of a marriage after the suicide of a child - set within the venue of a divorce court presided over by an alternately cynical and sentimental judge.
Main Description
"O for a muse of napalm..." Years in the making, As Long As It's Big is a stunning and unique poetic achievement. By turns rollicking, funny, and deeply moving, this dramatic poem tells a tragic story -- the collapse of a marriage after the suicide of a child -- within the topsy-turvy venue of a divorce court ruled by an alternately cynical and sentimental judge. John Bricuth cleanly balances sensitive portrayals of painful lives with hilarity, chaos, and occasionally ribald caricatures. Hugely entertaining and immensely readable, Bricuth's verse narrative will absorb anyone seeking to unravel the truths of modern family life.

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