By Catherine Wagley
By Channing Sargent
By L.A. Weekly critics
By Amanda Lewis
By Catherine Wagley
By Carol Cheh
By Keegan Hamilton
By Bill Raden
Mostly, they kind of semirecover; they live to snap again. As one character in Cold Snap remarks, on the verge of deliberately dipping himself into a boiling vat of nasty experience: "I don’t like awful. But awful/ awful can sometimes be very interesting."
Unimpressed by the everyday awfulness of literary success, Jones fairly lights up when he starts to illustrate the literary quality of insanity with a story about taking his wife to the emergency room for a migraine: "So we’re waiting in a little cubicle. Somebody’s having a heart attack, and this [other] woman has been sitting there for four hours saying, ‘Oh! Oh! Please kill me! Oh, please kill me!’ I’m thinking: diabetes? Alzheimer’s? And I’m thinking somebody please help this woman, and then I realize it’s just a tape going on in her head. Then somebody comes up and says, ‘Dear, what’s wrong?’ And she says, ‘You know, I have to take a piss.’ So she takes a piss and she’s fine for about 20 minutes, then it’s ‘Oh, please somebody kill me!’ Then I saw this mask of horror on her face." He pauses, captivated by the memory of that face. "I mean, it’s bad enough when you’re healthy in life."
In Jones’ literary landscape, all life unfolds much like a chronic illness. He applies his pessimism with rigor and discipline, like a strong dose of chemotherapy; there’s a risk factor, and only a very limited prognosis for success, but the goal of the torture is always a cure. Or at least remission.
Ondine, the Vietnam vet in the new story "Fields of Purple Forever," responds to the critical mass of memory by becoming a long-distance swimmer, crossing the English Channel, the Straits of Gibraltar, seeking out ever wider and rougher bodies of water, always swimming alone, at night, driven by escape, fear, maybe revulsion at first, until the swimming becomes a purely poetic compulsion. Also a fair portrait of a writer at work.
There was an epiphany in Jones’ career, something that came to him in the midst of an epileptic seizure, about the time he quit drinking and started writing in earnest. "Out the window, the trees were just exploding with life and ecstasy. It was a glorious feeling. It was a very positive ‘yes’ to existence. I also noticed that it occurred in the molecular structure, because I could see the wood of the table was talking to me. My dog was [looking at me] like ‘Fine, you finally get it now, right?’ It isn’t like ‘God’ created us, but there was a — creative necessity." The way he says it, he means it as a play on tragic necessity.