Philip Galanes has fashioned a novel both bleak and funny about a young man's struggle to sort out his troubled love: the too-strong love for his mother, the too-weak love for his suicidal father, and the all-consuming love of anonymous sexual encounters. Pointed and acute, this story tells of the narrator's many betrayals of others and their many betrayals of him. It exists in an uncomfortable moral space where the humor of terrible things sometimes outweighs, but never obscures, their poignancy.
There has never been a book like this. At once a poetics of place, a work of deep history, a bildungsroman, and an acute inquiry into the big subjects: love, family, other animals, the nature of creativity. It is sublime. It's also very funny. Haunting and haunted, Hold Still is the memoir of an artist that is art itself.
People who are burdened by acute misgivings about their coping capabilities suffer much distress and expend much effort in defensive action . . . they cannot get themselves to do things they find subjectively threatening even though they are objectively safe. They may even shun easily manageable activities because they see them as leading to more threatening events over which they will be unable to exercise adequate control
But love, honest love, requires empathy. It is a sharing—of joy, of pain, of laughter, and of tears. Honest love makes one’s soul a reflection of the partner’s moods. And as a room seems larger when it is lined with mirrors, so do the joys become amplified. And as the individual items within the mirrored room seem less acute, so does pain diminish and fade, stretched thin by the sharing. That is the beauty of love, whether in passion or friendship. A sharing that multiplies the joys and thins the pains.
That the language of the poetry of Jamaican music is rastafarian or biblical language cannot simply be put down to the colonizer and his satanic missionaries. The fact is that the historical experience of the black Jamaican is an experience of the most acute human suffering, desolation and despair in the cruel world that is the colonial world...