Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Trailer Park Tuesday: What Happens Next? by Douglas Bauer

Welcome to Trailer Park Tuesday, a showcase of new book trailers and, in a few cases, previews of book-related movies.

The subtitle of Douglas Bauer's latest book, What Happens Next?, is "Matters of Life and Death" and there is a pervasive air of sweet melancholy running throughout the three-minute trailer for the collection of essays about mortality in his family.  I'll admit I was initially turned off by the overripe music playing in the background (too insistently-orchestrated to bring up the tears) but the slide show of images from Bauer's family photo album eventually won me over.  As I watched post-war snapshots of his mother and father flash by, I realized Bauer was building his own kind of memorial statue fit for a town square--the kind of statue that might have a plaque reading "My grandmother's eyes, mournful as a basset's, suggested she was expecting life's next great trial to happen at any moment."  Bauer, author of the novels The Very Air and The Book of Famous Iowans, begins What Happens Next? by describing how, on the very day he has the first of three medical tests and procedures ("a quick, convenient cluster" of appointments to take care of his cataracts, his heart and his arthritic knee), he got a call from his brother telling him their mother "didn't make it" through her own surgery.  If that sounds depressing, then I encourage you to keep reading (and to stopper your ears from any treacly soundtrack) because Bauer writes, as Andre Dubus III says, "with exacting and exquisite prose."  Dubus also blurbs the book with "These are some of the finest, if not the finest, personal essays I have ever read."  So there's that.  At 150 pages, What Happens Next? is a relatively slender book but, from what I've read so far, it's an unforgettable tribute to lives gone by.

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