A Place of Exodus: Home, Memory, and Texas

Kelson. Oct. 2020. 202p. ISBN 9780982783856. pap. $20. LIT
Novelist Thomas Wolfe famously pondered whether we can ever go home again. Here, acclaimed poet Biespiel (Republic Café) wonders whether we can ever really leave. After a 40-year absence, he recalls with tender detail his return to Houston, and, with a quiet grace, what drove him away—out into his own desert wandering—and what finally brought him back (if just for a visit). Wonderful details of the rituals that shape a young life, both religious and adolescent, as well as scenes of Houston during the 1980s, are brought vividly to life—there’s the Meyerland area, the Jewish Community Center, Sharpstown Mall, the Stop-N-Go, Al's Formal Wear. At the center of this meditation is a testament to Houston’s diversity, but as a kind of memento mori for home it is a work of amazing power. One hears a sense of longing and dismay in Biespiel’s prose, as if that constant edge of anxious questioning that comes with being young, bright, and talented still haunts him, as it so often did Wolfe’s autobiographical heroes. And yet, within this lyrical remembrance, one catches glimpses of a genius unimaginable. Like sunlight glinting off the pavement, it is almost blinding. This is a writer who never ceases to amaze, whose prose grows more fascinating and flame-bright with each new book.
VERDICT Highly recommended for Texas history and poetry collections, and for all memoir readers.
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