Easiest Labors of Hercules ever

by Richard Derus
December 29, 2012

Janey by Richard Matturro
Livingston Press, 2012

I found the author’s breaking the book into twelve two-chapter segments named after the Twelve Labors of myth a wee bit forced, but I think for many it might be a useful way of calling attention to the point of the book: Janey is, like her namesake, laboring mightily (if in her case more than a little unwillingly and for no clearly defined purpose) to master and contain her own power, her self-transformation, her life.

In a “review” of Janey’s sculpture Pillars, created for her big gallery show, author Matturro sums up Janey’s journey, and a fundamental insight into human nature and life results:
“The Ionic column is polished smooth and gleaming white. The Doric is discolored, stained, chipped, and pockmarked, the object of a thousand injuries and indignities. Worse, there’s a diagonal crack that threatens at any moment to split it in two. … These are the dual natures we all share after a certain age. That ideal, upright pillar we wish we were, and that damaged, blemished old post that we are. And yet one is as necessary as the other for our ‘life support.’ … Art indeed may not change anything, and yet on some very basic level, life is insupportable without it.”

A very nicely phrased way to say something that, as readers, I suspect we all agree with; and as good a summation of the reasons one would want to read this novel as any I can write. I recommend the book to your readerly mercies. ( )