Jacob Jump
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Jacob Jump, the dark and meticulously crafted first novel from Eric Morris, follows a weeklong ill-fated boating trip down the Savannah River from Augusta, Georgia, to the lighthouse at Tybee Island. Chance and danger trump planning and intention at every turn, and the pull of the historic river and of fate itself propels Morris's characters with unrelenting force.

Old friends Thomas Verdery and William Rhind, each seeking temporary escape from the failures of their lives, take to the river with Rhind's father. Verdery, a native southerner, has left his job and lover in Nepaug, Connecticut, while Rhind has lost his wife and child to his drinking. Encounters with dangerous weather and unhinged locals imperil the trio, who are held at gunpoint when they try to dock and soon are fighting among themselves. The hazards of the trip and a shocking loss along the way exacerbate William Rhind's drinking and tendencies toward violence. When Verdery and Rhind must become reluctant custodians to young Caron Lee, a lost girl from the backwoods family that had previously accosted them, tensions build toward explosive ends as the serene open waters of the Atlantic Ocean wait just beyond reach on the unknown, unknowable horizon.

Guided by a host of influences from William Faulkner and Ernest Hemingway to Cormac McCarthy, James Dickey, and Ron Rash, Morris's prose brings readers deep into the uncertainties of a still-wild southern landscape and of the frailties of the human heart yearning for past and future alike while pulled along by the inescapable current of the present.

Best-selling writer and Story River Books editor at large Pat Conroy provides a foreword to the novel.



Publié par
Date de parution 18 août 2015
Nombre de lectures 2
EAN13 9781611175448
Langue English

Informations légales : prix de location à la page 0,1000€. Cette information est donnée uniquement à titre indicatif conformément à la législation en vigueur.


Pat Conroy, Editor at Large

A Novel
Foreword by Pat Conroy
2015 Eric Morris
Published by the University of South Carolina Press
Columbia, South Carolina 29208
24 23 22 21 20 19 18 17 16 15
10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1
Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data can be found at http://catalog.loc.gov/ .
ISBN 978-1-61117-543-1 (paperback)
ISBN 978-1-61117-544-8 (ebook)
Front cover design by FaceOut Studio, Kara Davison
To Christine and James, for then and now. And to our mothers and our fathers.
. . . there s only one thing that occurs to me, the day is late and the sun is low, and I don t know where I ll be in a year. Of all the places I might have gone, and soon I ll leave, please explain this to me. And now I stand here and remember the day, when we were young and didn t ask to be. We searched tomorrow with our hearts already broken . . .
Few things ignite the imagination of a writer more than a river. The great American poet James Dickey told a generation of his students that he considered rivers to be the most stunning imagery of nature. In the best of Dickey s fiction and poetry, you will find yourself navigating the steep rapids of the Chattooga or wading knee deep in the tide-swollen waters near Darien before the Atlantic begins to achieve its ascendency. Coleridge moves you forward: . . . Alph, the sacred river, ran / Through caverns measureless to man. Horatio defended the bridge to Rome over the Tiber, Balzac s boardinghouse residents quenched their thirst at the Seine, Dante eased his dark visions in the clear waters of the Arno, Jesus of Nazareth fished for souls along the Jordan, and Conrad ran his river through his own heart in search of a darkness that belonged to Africa. Rivers can serve as symbols of escape and launches toward freedom. They bring news of the world to their doorways and piers. Often, they form borders between countries and warring states, and they can feed a town as well as a hundred fields of beans or corn. You can dip a child in a river and free it of original sin. You can hide the corpse of a murderer, drown a knave, a cutpurse, or a blasphemer, and avoid the cost and trouble of a burial. A river is always alive, tide- and gravity-ruled, single-minded yet unmindful of the million eyes it gives pleasure to in its singular rush toward the mother of all waters that calls it homeward.
In his bold first novel, Jacob Jump , Eric Morris takes full possession of the Savannah River, which flows past his native city of Augusta as it surges through the sparsely populated borderlines of South Carolina and Georgia on its headlong rendezvous with the Atlantic, first passing through the old port city of Savannah. Few novelists writing today can equal Morris s majestic command of the language, and he writes about the beauty of his river in the immaculate descriptions of the natural-born poet. His images fly off the page like sparks leaping off struck flint. Before I read his novel, I d never encountered a single sentence that Eric Morris had ever written, and I found myself unprepared for the sheer dazzlement of his ease with metaphor and descriptive legerdemain. His nature writing holds up well with the works of Thoreau, Edward Abbey, or Barbara Kingsolver. The darkness of his themes and characters will remind critics of the South invoked in the works of Cormac McCarthy, Ron Rash, and Flannery O Connor herself. Yet his voice is as distinctive as it is original. The midlands city of Augusta has been underserved and undiscovered in southern letters, with some distinguished exceptions, until now. Though it is a starting-out place in Jacob Jump , Morris brings it to life as he prepares us to make a two hundred-mile river journey with two men who have both reached desperate points in their lives. Like many of the great voyages in literature, this one begins as an impetuous odyssey of rediscovery, to capture something lost in two lives that have suffered too many wrong turns. The trip down the Savannah River holds the promise of mystery, a connection to the memory of innocence, a time-out from the burdens of bad choices, and a prayer for one s own soul. In Jacob Jump , the river run is a wild and splendid thing. It is only when Morris s protagonists-Thomas Verdery and William Rhind-have to venture ashore for rest and food that the world intrudes on their voyage of escape and renewal. There they encounter the human animal, which turns the earth and its wildness against them.
Verdery and Rhind have fostered a long, Augusta-rooted friendship that has sustained them since childhood, and there is little about the Savannah River that they were not born knowing in their bones. Early in the novel, Verdery states the theme, which could serve as both coda and epitaph to the most distinguished southern fiction: I cannot live here, but this is my home. Yet home is a loaded word, a storage facility for all the heavy ordnance and weaponry of the past. As the book opens, Thom Verdery is in flight from his job as theater teacher in a high-class New England prep school. He drives straight through from Connecticut to Augusta, leaving behind a woman he loved and who loved him, and leaving an unctuous headmaster on his knees after a punch to the mouth that effectively ended Verdery s teaching career. He is a man on the run who can escape from everything that has a grip on his soul except himself. But that self is excoriating, clear-eyed, and essentially moral in worldview. As we accompany him down that great brown river, he seems to record its sights and sounds like a director building a stage set in his own mind s eye.
The wife and daughter of William Rhind have abandoned him in the opening pages, and though he has worked as a cameraman for the local TV station, he is surveying the wreckage of his own life as he and Verdery make plans for their six-day trip down to the harbor of Savannah just before the Atlantic overpowers the freshwater surge of the river itself. Morris excels in the writing of dialogue between the two friends who speak to each other in the easy, almost inarticulate phrases that expose isolation from their own lives and the natural trust they have in their own shared past. They hold no delusions about the necessity of this trial by water, except that neither has ever done it, and both bear the acute insight that they need some break from the absurd dream-scape of their overwhelmed lives. Though Verdery is more contemplative and Rhind more broken, the two seem to complete something damaged by the life both men have endured without quite knowing what that life is supposed to be or why it has delivered them to the currents and tidal pull of that river. They are caught up in a whirlpool where eddies and coils make no sense to them. Thus, the river. Thus, the journey.
The boat that takes them down the Savannah River is called the Ouachita. It is a seventeen-foot aluminum craft, paint-scarred but seaworthy. A craft to be trusted. The river itself, with the aid of hurricane-borne storms, provides adventure enough, but only when Verdery and Rhind pull over for the night and encounter strangers who live out their rough-hewn lives beside the river does the human dilemma intrude to let them know why they came on the trip in the first place. They come to a nasty-tempered lockkeeper so cantankerous that before the old man relents and finally lets them pass, you long for Rhind to shoot him. Morris has a unique but generous gift in illuminating small-craft souls like this one.
When they drift in sight of the cooling towers of a nuclear plant, and its father, a bomb plant situated opposite the watercourse, where tritium is the chief byproduct of the site, we become aware of the crimes against rivers which humanity has made one of its specialties. When night falls, they pull ashore to set up camp when they spot a boy fishing for his family s dinner near a half-sunken yacht with clean aristocratic lines named the Caron Lee; Morris moves us into the heart of southern dread-and storytelling, where our literature began. The tale of the Covington family, its tragedy, and the detritus it leaves in its wake takes us deep into the history of the South, rife with broken lives and torn fragments. A fifteen-year-old girl, also named Caron Lee, slips out of her house and wakes up the theater teacher Thom Verdery and asks him to let her go down the river with him. Her brightness and tender beauty light up the awkwardness of the encounter, yet let us feel some of the integrity Verdery must have brought to his classroom and some of his kindness. Caron Lee s heartfelt cry is for her discharge papers from a life without fulfillment; she longs for the possibility of something she cannot name, but of inordinate value, perhaps even ecstasy. In the young girl, Verdery sees a mirror image of himself and the longingness that sometimes grabs hold of the imaginative child, gripped by the terror of being lowborn and afraid.
The father of William Rhind joins his son and Thom Verdery on the river, and the older man brings long experience on the river and a portion of wisdom as they camp together on sandbars and storm-soaked riverbanks. Dan Rhind is worried about the two boys he helped raise, and though his own life is a mare s nest of regret, he brings a solidness and wealth of knowledge to the campfire. Both young men respect the old man, and his company is welcome, yet it is Dan Rhind s fate that is the central pivot point on which the novel turns. The river has a single task, and it is subject to the law of flow. But all men and women in Jacob Jump become subject to these laws once they embark to test themselves on its heartless currents.
Eric Morris is a novelist with singular gifts of compression and exactitude. Wh

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