The Size of the World: Thinking about Christopher Cascio’s “Tent City”

We published Cascio’s essay, Kid, in Issue 12 in the Fall of 2018; speaking about both his writing and his visual art, he says each piece he creates is “a recorded haunting.” I know I’ve never stopped thinking about Kid, so he must be right. Of Cascio’s latest collection Tent City (Alien Buddha Press), one reviewer writes this:

Christopher Cascio notices everything — about neighbor’s dogs, a wrestling match, fathers and sons, a rain-drowned house. Under his inspection the details of living burgeon into major themes, so quietly the oncoming explosions barely register. And then, boom. Call these beautiful, deftly-crafted pieces short stories, small bejeweled things. But they are the size of the world.

Roger Rosenblatt

RR’s word choice has my attention, because some of it is actually quite far away from words that come to me at first: beautiful, bejeweled. Other words ring true for me: dogs, wrestling, drowned, explosions.

The fusion is in Cascio’s eye for the beauty and value of difficult, superficially ugly truths. He is a master of unveiled views into unpleasant subjects that allow us as readers to “get past” the roadblocks that a less-skilled writer can’t avoid. Stabbings, picking fights, heart attacks, watching a home fall apart, finding the strength not to end your life even when it would make the pain go away…….I have this flashback to the end of A River Runs Through It by Norman Maclean:

When I finished talking to my father, he asked, “Is there anything else you can tell me?”

Finally, I said, “Nearly all the bones in his hand were broken.”

He almost reached the door and then turned back for reassurance. “Are you sure that the bones of his hand were broken? he asked. I repeated, “Nearly all the bones in his hand were broken.” “In which hand?” he asked. “In his right hand,” I answered.

Norman Maclean

Maclean and Cascio are very different writers, but they share the same gift, the capacity to look through the outward ugliness of life to the core beauty that lies within. People can do and say and suffer some monstrous things that are not “the things” themselves. You’ll want this unique collection on your summer reading list! TENT CITY

You can find Chris on Twitter here: @ChrisJCascio.

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