Pat Pujolas has been featured in Outsider Writers, Connotation Press, Heartlands Today, and Writer's Digest (as a winner of the 1994 Short Story Competition). Jimmy Lagowski Saves the World is his first work of published fiction.
"Separately, these stories tell the tales of broken lives in 2012 Midwest America. Together, they tell a fearless and cohesive story of human tragedy, revenge, and forgiveness."
"Brilliant. Intimidatingly good. Very few books have the ability to make me second-guess my own talent as a writer. So, you know, f#%k you, Mr. Pujolas."
Charles Bukowski freely decreed that after he turned 40 he stopped reading. Nothing was good, he said. Nothing was worth it anymore. I turned 43 recently and I have to admit, I had started to align myself with Hank’s controversial statement until I ran headfirst into Pat Pujolas’s wonderful book, Jimmy Lagowski Saves the World.
Due to personal preference, I don’t review collections of stories -- I feel I’m much better suited at tackling longer works -- but Pujolas’s acute, short pieces weave such a cohesive narrative of the human condition, that I can’t help but think of this as a protracted novel.
I am a sucker for starting off a book with some kind of a loud bang -- a salvo fired above my head by the author announcing he or she is ready to eviscerate me: “Heads up, son . . . here it comes. Pay close attention now!” they say, and deliver a concussive propellant from their literary howitzer that nearly singes the hair on my head. The first piece, “In Memoriam,” announces itself with this kind of ardor and static, and starts off a series of related taradiddles that follow the obtuse, curious twists of complicated, tragic, mostly broken lives in present day Midwest America.
Here you have Doreen, a 54-year-old divorced mother from Parma Heights, Ohio weighing her decision to board a bus chartered by her church group to a casino in West Virginia . . . as well as the choices she’s made in her life, and as a mother. There you have V., a retired maintenance man trying to confront his violent past while slowly descending into the madness brought on by his rising anger in a discount store checkout line. Julie’s first day at Starbucks is interrupted by a sudden, acute problem with a customer. Davis’s futile attempt at a seamless, night time bed routine with his three-year-old daughter while his wife is away parallels his failures and desperation in life. And then there’s Jimmy Lagowski himself: a badly burned, depressed, and possibly alien 20-year-old who casts the lone vote of dissension in a controversial murder trial.
These stories are all brilliant tableaux of real struggles and the sometimes paralyzing choices that pepper our daily, seemingly insignificant lives. Pujolas manages to channel the great, Modernist literature prose of Sherwood Anderson’s Winesburg, Ohio and Hemingway’s early Nick Adams stories. Dialogue is tight and sharp, and moves everything forward seamlessly. Hearing these characters speak, I found myself often thinking of David Mamet’s incising negotiations and palaver in Glengarry Glen Ross.
While I hate to go against one of my literary (anti)heroes, I can’t help but think that “reading life after 40” indeed gets better. There is good stuff out there. True, most of it lives in well-worn, handwritten notebooks that will likely never see the light of day, but from time to time the Literary Gods leak out some of their nectar and ambrosia to us mortals, and we are beatified with great, independent works like Pat Pujolas’s collection.