Elevate Difference

I Just Lately Started Buying Wings: Missives From The Other Side of Silence

I Just Lately Started Buying Wings is a collection of memories and letters, speaking out from places of silence. Throughout the text, Kim Dana Kupperman conveys an enduring need to bring chosen tragedies to light and does so vigorously. She talks about her past in a cautious and gentle style, like cleaning a raw wound with salt water: painful yet cleansing.

The book unravels stories about difficult moments in life, describing the deaths of her mother and father, the after effects of radiation pollution in Chernobyl, and failed intimacy in her romantic relationships. She explores the many inner emotions that come along with these trying stages in life, and exposes her past bravely. One of her stories describes her trips to Russia and Ukraine, a private quest to learn more about her family's history. She constantly uses her imagination to investigate her ancestors, like fantasizing her grandmother walking the streets of Kiev. She is constantly searching for a connection between her identity and kin, but instead, she finds herself detached and is “reminded that the business of returning to a place that doesn't belong to me is impossible.”

This intimately detailed storytelling releases sweet sorrow that is rich and poetic. Each chapter is full of vivid imagery that fully traverses all the senses. She inspects small details in her memories: the smell of her lover's breath, or the texture of her mother's feet. The reader is brought daringly close to these personal realities. However, within the numerous events and settings, there is a pervading disconnectedness that distracts from the powerful writing. The loose themes of ancestry and “failed flight” ineffectively tie all these tales together.

Apart from the dispersed themes, Kupperman's “missives” are pungent; full of pain, resentment, and bitter love.

Written by: Cinthia Pacheco, June 8th 2010

I found "I Just Lately Started Buying Wings" stunning in its craft, clarity and unflinching honesty. Unlike the reviewer, I felt no "pervasive disconnectedness" related to "loose themes." Rather, these missives, like any compelling collection of essays, offered me an increasingly rich and layered experience with each turned page, a window through which to view not only the author's life but universal issues, as well. As a reader, I personally enjoy the freedom to connect my own dots, as "bluebear" noted; in this collection, Kupperman's "dots" are precisely placed stars with which we can draw any number of satisfying constellations.

A challenge is definitely a healthy part of any literary work but when you feel lost within a multitude of themes that are all so different, the richness of the overall work is lost. Through criticism, the work can shine its strength, as any art has the opportunity to do.

What your reviewer calls a "pervading disconnectedness" in "I Just Lately Started Buying Wings," is actually the challenge implicit in any good collection of essays. The essayist's job is less a matter of providing connections for the reader than of providing the dots for the reader to make those connections herself. Readers of this volume will do (and have already done) just that. This fawning need for "theme" simply reinforces what Rilke wrote a century ago: "Works of art are of an infinite solitude, and no means of approach is so useless as [literary]criticism."

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