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Joseph Riippi

Joseph Riippi's latest novel is Because. A chapbook (with illustrations by Edward Mullany) called Puyallup, Washington (an interrogation) is forthcoming later this year from Publishing Genius. He lives with his wife in Fort Greene, Brooklyn.

Blurbs

"From love and fulfillment to family and dogs, Riippi condenses the human experience into a book that might just change you for the better."

– Jason Diamond

"This inventive, heartbreaking book is a gorgeous, painfully honest examination of what it means to be a person. I want everyone I know to read it."

– Amber Sparks

"Hypnotic, magical, and experimental: Joseph Riippi's Because will crack your heart open."

– Chloe Caldwell

"I found in Riippi's writing the clear message that we're all in this together. We, the people, share the same fears, the same hopeful fantasies, and, most of all, we still draw hope from the very same places."

– Michael J. Seidlinger

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Because

A Deep Private Ocean

07/13/14

I want to fly to LaGuardia. From there, I want to ride a dirty bus and an empty subway train to Brooklyn and pace the wet streets glossed with streetlight until I find where Joseph Riippi lives. When I find him, I want to buy him a drink. After that, I want to punch him, and then buy him another drink. Then, before I leave, I want to become his friend. Let me explain.

Joseph Riippi’s Because is a litany of his personal desires, a catalog of his wants, and because of that, it’s deep, beautiful, disorienting. The cover says it’s a novel, but I’m not buying that. It is more of a long prayer, a meditation, a love letter to life, perhaps a cathartic self-examination or the schematic diagram of what it means to be a human being. You might even call it bipolar-memoire; the comparative overlay of a life half-lived with the life not yet lived but hoped for. Riippi didn’t write this book as much as he must have unzipped himself from chin to navel and bled it out:

I want my great-great-grandchildren to know who I was. I want them to read this. I want them to know about the wife I loved, the places I lived, the things I did. I want them to know that I had a full head of hair and that baldness does not run on my side of the family. I want them to know they should watch themselves with alcohol, because their blood was born with a craving. I want them to know they should watch themselves around knives. I want them to know how I died, if it will help them.

There is reminiscent sadness, certainly, but there is also plenty of warm hope and genuine optimism:

I want us to swim together until we’re too tired to float, and then paddle exhaustedly back to our front door. I want us to spend every weekend like this. I want us to spend our lives like this. I want us to always call out to one another. I want us to relive this over and over throughout the week. I want our children to call us on weekends and ask, How was your morning surf? as we sip our tea and espresso, dripping and exhausted in our kitchen, at our island, smelling of salt and licking our lips and smiling.

I found the read a bit hard at times, but always worthwhile. Since Riippi writes in stream-of-consciousness mode, his thoughts always swirling and eddying, doubling back upon themselves, a reader must do without the usual reference points. It’s the equivalent of being dropped in open waters. There are plenty of inspiring sights, night skies packed with stars, expansive yet dizzying as well. The endless waves of one man’s thoughts. Treading water in the middle of the Riippic Ocean. It’s rare to see such intimacy, such humanity exposed. I can say, without spoiling anything for future readers, is that he confesses deeply. Riippi writes, more than once, his expectation:

I want you to understand why I am writing this. I want you to listen to me.

And I feel like I do know him now, which is why I want to fly to New York City and find him and buy him a drink, to thank him for writing this book. I want to punch him because he wrote the book I should have written, a book that we all should write for ourselves at the coming of middle-age, when it’s time for us to reach some semblance of peace with the first half of a lifetime lived for better or worse, but more importantly, to re-evaluate our hopes for the dwindling road left to travel. I wouldn’t punch him that hard, by the way.

And then I’d buy him another drink, to apologize for my bit of writerish jealousy. And then, before I left Brooklyn, I’d make sure I was friends with Joseph Riippi. Because after you have read this book and toured the chambers of the guy’s heart, you really have no other choice.

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