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How Violent We Can Love

a review of Lindsay Hunter’s Daddy’s

 Robert Kloss
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 Robert Kloss
How Violent We Can Love
by Robert Kloss  FollowFollow
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Robert Kloss is the author of How the Days of Love & Diphtheria (Mud Luscious Press/Nephew) and The Alligators of Abraham (Mud Luscious Press, 2012)....read more He is found online at rkbirdsofprey.blogspot.com.
How Violent We Can Love
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The daddies in Lindsay Hunter’s Daddy’s are my kind of fathers. These are fellows often in open warfare with themselves, their women, their children; these are hucksters and violent unkempt men. And in Hunter’s world, the children, the mothers, the dogs fare little better in the ultimate outcome. Here love is an emotional trauma, conflated with longing and pain and abandonment. Here sex is most gratifying when brutal or perverse or is simply the offending act which leads to birth (which leads to death). Here the orange sun is God’s bloody iris. Here abandonment in the desert is a good lesson in life.

In Daddy’s, the struggle between life and death is everywhere in the specter of parenthood. In ‘Us’ the smear of menstrual blood reminds the narrators how life smells so much like death, an observation the girls are later reminded of as they later pump their breasts to feed a gray decaying child rife with maggots. Yet elsewhere in the same story those same images tease at some sort of life, even if only a failed promise of life, as the womanblood [has] plenty of iron and therefore strength, and the maggots will be collected to catch fish. This layering of life and death is elsewhere powerfully rendered in ‘Marie Noe: Talks to You About Her Kids’ as Marie confesses one child was dead inside me for days before she was born, but I let her stay inside. That was one of the happiest times of my life, me and the baby sharing a death.

Often this struggle takes the form of the warfare between parent and child, an open aggression where the child is openly seen as a threat to the life of the parent. ‘That Baby’ is perhaps the most fantastic of the stories in Daddy’s and also the most openly Oedipal. Here, the child, Levis, quickly grown into a baby man creature with hairy knuckles, with adult teeth, and calls its mother Honey. Here Levis sticks a paring knife to his father’s belly. Here Levis grows a stiffy while being bathed by his mother and later interrupts his parents’ lovemaking to climb into bed between them, falling asleep while suckling from his mother’s breast. Here, as in several other instances in Daddy’s, the ultimate threat posed by the child becomes too great, and is abandoned. Indeed, the scene of a child left watching a parent drive off in a cloud of dust is a reoccurring image throughout the collection, perhaps most prominently when the father in ‘We Was’ abandons his son on the side of the road because, as the father says, He was fixin to overpower me.

Even in Hunter’s often lyrical language there is no escape from the relationship between the beautiful and the horrific. In ‘Out There’ the reflection of a burning car in a warped father’s sunglasses is translated into millions of goldfishes swimming up the lenses while in ‘The Fence’ the masochistic joy the narrator feels while she masturbates with an electrified dog collar is described in violent, erupting similes, as being like a million ants biting. Like teeth. Like the G-spot exists. Like a tiny knife, a precise pinch. Like fireworks.

Ultimately, Daddy’s is a masterpiece of throttled emotion, of half tamed animal truths and ancient knowledge peeping through the cracks of something like civilization. Here the vestiges of our secret horrors and anxieties threaten to obliterate our families and ourselves, as the drunken Daddy in ‘A Love Song’ tells his daughter, I could just crush you to death with love, sweetness.

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