Sunday, February 28, 2010

"Fup" and Why It's Important

    I recently recommended my favorite book to Linda at Curious Notions.  She liked it, thought it was funny, but did no really understand why I felt it was so powerful.  This is a summary of what the book means to me and why I think everyone should read it.
    Written by Jim Dodge in 1983, "Fup" is a story that takes place in the backwoods of Northern California, and centers around an immortal and whiskey-drenched gambler, his grand-son, a massive and whiskey-drenched pet duck, and a brutal and rampaging wild boar.  Yes, I know that sounds weird.  And it is.  Grandaddy Jake is 99 years old, and believes that the perfectly distilled whiskey that he refines has made him an immortal. 
    The life the characters live has all but disapeared in our country.  It is a simple, no-frills life, where the task that you are involved in is the only thing that you are involved in at that moment.  Consider that as a comparison to our lives today, where we are constantly multi-tasking and jumping from one thing to another. 
    One of my favorite parts is when Grandaddy Jake is worried that his grandson's goal of killing the wild boar is becoming an obsession.  He retires to the porch to think it over with a jar of his whiskey.

"He didn't tell Tiny.  After thinking on it for three afternoons, mulling it with that slow, voluptous thoroughness that is a reward of the still life, Jake reaffirmed his neutrality."

    To have the time and inclination to consider every possible angle of a decision is just very attractive to me.  The whiskey sounds good too. Our generation seems to need to make a lot of snap judgements and decisions.  Books like "Blink," by Malcom Gladwell become national bestsellers, which applaud quick, snappy decision-making.  The idea of deep, considered thinking does not come up often in our professional and personal lives these days, and thats a sad thing.
    Reading this book and feeling such an affiny for the "still life" is why I engage in activities like the Morning Pages, long, solo hikes, and the drinking of whiskey. 
    Aside from the more serious side of the book, it's just flat-out hysterical.  Some of the scenes make me cackle out loud no many how times I have read them. 
    At just under 70 pages, this is a story you can finish in an afternoon, and you probably will.  It's out of print now, but you can usually find it on amazon for less than a dollar.  I love this review about it, because it sums up my thoughts exactly:

  This is the book you want to read to that kid in high school who doesn't understand why books are anything.
  This is the book you want to read to the person you think might fall in love with you. This is the book you want to read to your friends so you will laugh together like you never have.
  This is the book to read when the world is too serious. This is the book to read when you are too serious about yourself. This is the book to read when you feel dull and uninterested.
  This is the book to read if you've gotten too big for your britches. This is the book to read if you feel more Christian than someone who cusses. This is the book to read if you want things you can't name.
  This is good medicine: a short shot, powerful. FUP is the American book.


linda said...

this reminds me i need to do my review. imma not read yours til i write mine :) so i don't accidentally steal your thoughts.

Amanda West said...

I've never heard of that book. But I will check it out. Sounds good.

 ALH said...

I didn't want to read too much of this post because I want to read it and see what I think about it first. I love your blog so I will assume your reading suggestions are great as well! I'll have to read it as soon as I finish my current book.

Hanley Bonynge said...

I'm not a fan of Malcolm Gladwell, but just to play devil's advocate: the concept of quick decision making is more about "training" yourself to respond quickly given certain situations. I think people often get this mixed up with being impulsive. I am capable of making quick decisions because I have spent the time (often in the shower or lieing in bed at night) going over what I would do in given situations. It sounds wierd, but most of us do it. So in a way, the grandfather was kind of doing that while getting plastered on his porch. And given the same set of circumstances I believe he would respond much more quickly unless of course he has drunk the rest of his brain capacity away.

Martin said...

Hanley - You're right that experience and practice is what allows us to make correct snap decisions. It's similar to the thought process that an auto mechanic goes through when his diagnostic tests tell him that everything is running fine, despite the fact that the car wont start.

However, I think this is a bit of a separate case. Some situations call for a snap decision based on your past experiences, while some call for deep consideration of a situation, thinking about it deeply from all angles.