Description

Unpleasantries

Considerations of Difficult Questions

Frank Soos

  • Published: 2016. Paperback February 2018
  • Subject Listing: Biography, Autobiography, and Memoir; Pacific Northwest; Literature / Creative Nonfiction
  • Bibliographic information: 208 pp., 5.5 x 8.5 in.
  • Territorial rights: World Rights
  • Contents

Even from upside-down in his recently flipped truck, Frank Soos reveals himself to be ruminative, grappling with the limitations of language to express the human condition. Moving quickly-skiing in the dark or taking long summer bike rides on Alaska highways-Soos combines an active physical life with a dark and difficult interior existence, wrestling the full span of "thinking and doing" onto the page with surprising lightness. His meditations move from fly-fishing in dangerously swift Alaska rivers to memories of the liars and dirty-joke tellers of his small-town Virginia childhood, revealing insights in new encounters and old preoccupations. Soos writes about pain and despair, aging, his divorce, his father's passing, regret, the loss of home, and the fear of death. But in the process of confronting these dark topics, he is full of wonder. As he writes at the end of an account of almost drowning, "Bruised but whole, I was alive, alive, alive."
Frank Soos is the Alaska State Writer Laureate, 2015-2016. He taught writing at the University of Alaska, Fairbanks, from 1986 until 2004. His publications include Double Moon: Constructions and Conversations (with Margo Klass), Bamboo Fly Rod Suite (essays), and Unified Field Theory (stories).

"What is a successful life, a life worthy of the improbable gift of consciousness? And how does one maintain courage and purpose under the shadow of mortality? These are the 'difficult questions' that Frank Soos ponders most intently in these lucid, candid, witty essays. Whatever thread he follows-fishing, lying, playing basketball, telling jokes, building a canoe, rolling a truck, watching his father die-it leads him to reflect on the finiteness and preciousness of life."
-Scott Russell Sanders, author of Earth Works: Selected Essays

"Frank Soos is a true essayist. He understands the form as a rare opportunity to grapple with maybe unresolvable questions, trusting to his conflicted consciousness and without any advanced map or GPS to guide him. For all his self-mockery, he is a serious man and a sincere one, who is unafraid to take the reader to dark, emotional places. Those who might wish to learn how to 'fail better' and 'feel better,' to quote his mentor Samuel Beckett, would do well to buy this book."
-Phillip Lopate, author of Portrait Inside My Head: Essays

"Frank Soos has written a playful and profound inquiry into the incurable condition of being human. At times I fancied I was reading the great essayist Montaigne - if Montaigne had grown up in Appalachia, played basketball for Pocahontas High, moved to Alaska, and taken up cross-country skiing. These essays dazzle with wry truths as Soos invokes everyone from Cézanne to Zippy the Pinhead to sort out life's absurd mysteries. The result is a sideways memoir of a man in perpetual motion, ever keen to understand the extraordinary surprises and melancholy inevitabilities of our ordinary lives."
-Sherry Simpson, author of The Way Winter Comes: Alaska Stories

Contents
Preface

Another Kind of Loneliness
Mont Sainte-Victoire, Approximately
I Held Their Coats: A Study of Two Jokes
A Little Iliad
Obituary with Bamboo Fly Rod
Upside-Down with Borges and Bob
Meditation on My Cousin Lou, Dead at Thirty-Three
Glamour and Romance
Other People's Pain and My Own
The Man on the Bridge
Naked to the World
Dead Animals I Have Known
Why Is It That We Do This?
Driving Directions to the Homes of the Dead
Some Fibbers
No Place Like
Falling In
I Built a Little Boat; or, The Necessity of Failure
Kinds of Ambition

Acknowledgments
Reviews