By David Robinson (Loom Press)
Here’s a intriguing novel consisting of the oral history, surviving poems, and lots of local lore about a notorious character and denizen of the fictional town (and seaside golf course) of Seawell on the northern coast of Massachusetts. Quirky, moody, whimsical, witty, and kinda funy-urbane, Dave Robinson’s Sweeney is as weird as Eliot’s, Joyce’s, or Heaney’s, but much more palatable to us early 21st-century surf-addled readers. Sweeney is the town’s crazy, a Dora-esque living legend, who exemplifies the great surfing archetypes of independence, exquisite style, Zen consciousness, serendipitous timing, and dedication to the hard work of not working. The form of the book is a series of interviews conducted by one Owen Kivlin of a broad spectrum of Seawellians recounting their favorite Sweeney tales. It’s a crack-up, witty and literary and wise, too. Periodically, Sweeney’s poems and musings provide interstitial subtext, as in:
And the waves insist.
The waves insist
We were torsos of smoke,
Entangled limbs of mist.
Originally from Lowell, Robinson did college in both New England and San Diego, short-termed a series of jobs (from teaching writing to working in a surf shop to ‘landscape construction’), and is now a communications specialist at U. Mass. back home in Lowell. Printed on recycled paper with soy-based inks, SOTF (says Dave) is the first of a trilogy, and the way this one’s left hanging (did or did not Sweeney off himself?) more is likely on the way. Meanwhile, this is one to enjoy and savor!
Note: Chapter 4 of this book, ‘Ghost-Riding Robin Hood’, appeared in TSP-59.