Black Gum - J David Osborne

I wasn´t even half way done with Low Down Death Right Easy when I went straight ahead and bought three other books by Osborne. There was something in his writing that spoke to me, challenged me, impressed me even I´m still not quite sure why I enjoyed the book so much. His writing, his story tellings skills, sure, but there is something else between those pages that I couldn´t let go of. I´m still trying to understand my fascination with his books, though, but yeah...

LDDRE has its surreal moments, while Black Gum feels more natural. A sort of drama where crime is happening, but this clearly isn´t the focus of the novel. They do wrong, and they know it, but a nod, a shrug, that is all that is needed for them. Acceptance that life is messy and complicated.

The more weirder moments of LDDRE are missing, and so far I am not yet sure which of those two books I like more. The only real tie in to LDDRE is Danny Ames, one of the main characters, who makes a brief appearance in the later part of the book, but that´s about it. Still, the setting seems familiar but only insofar that his writing/prose/narrative style is the same laid back/bare bones/minimalistic. Stripped down to the bare esssentials, almost like an Americana version of a Haiku at times. At a guess I´d say he is as much influenced from song lyrics/music than any other books/writers.

Our nameless protagonist hangs out mostly with Shane, who has an obsession for body modifications, and good grief, I didn´t need to know THAT. The cover? Yeah, you can take it literally. There are juggalos, parties, drugs, they have sex, grime, dirty, fast sex, and a blow job is akin to a love letter. Where life is simply something that happens to other people, emotionally distant from themselves and everyone around them, and it´s my job to figure things out in those rather brief chapters. Black Gum is more like a small novella anyway but with a feeling that it could be/that it is much more than that. Insofar the leanness of the chapters and the book itself gives the right impression of what is actually happening within the pages.

There *is* a lack of detail, but Osborne makes it fit to the overall theme. Losers clearly under any normal circumstances but nevertheless people who try to navigate their lives as best as they can. A drug deal gone wrong and money owned to dealers? Well, that was handled, nobody needs or wants to talk about it anymore. Most shit simply doesn´t matter all that much. And those are the moments which I enjoyed the most. The quiet moments, the sad moments, the throwaway moments, coz there is simply no need to drag things out. Blink and it´s gone forever and life has moved on.

Nevertheless those characters in Black Gum are low-life but only in this regards that they downplay themselves constantly. As I reader I *know* they will fuck up something else along the road, and their lives won´t be all sunshine and unicorns. Good luck guys, you´ll need it, and who knows, maybe by the time we leave here we´ll be friends.

Black Gum is sad and beautiful and sometimes funny, but more of the ´you know why you are laughing now?´ kind of funny. Those little nuggets of truth and wisdom, the melancholy that goes through the book hit me the hardest and made me feel vulnerable. What if ... I find myself in similar circumstances? No easy answers, but the best part is that Osborne doesn´t provide answers, but nudges me in the direction to ask the questions I am not really comfortable to deal with.

The real marvel is, despite his absolute minimalistic style, it´s easy to read, while there is even more to absorb and explore and think about. And that he is - again - writing like someone too smart and wise his own age to know all the hard hitting truths. Somehow Osborne sounds like a guy who has figured life out, and that is surely the greatest challenge one can master. That guy is simply a keeper.