Notes on Joseph Young’s Easter Rabbit

Easter Rabbit (Publishing Genius 2009)
perfect bound
cover art by Christine Sajecki

I seem to recall that somewhere online Adam Robinson (the publisher) double dog dared people to read this book all in one sitting. His contention was that it was too overwhelming, that after reading a few pages one would need a breather. Here’s how I read it, and some thoughts I had about it…

When I first got it in the mail I opened it and read the first six pages and then put it down. A few days later I picked it up and began again – read the first eight pages, then sat it down. Then last night I picked it up and plowed through the first section. For me, it was as if I needed to build momentum by picking it up and putting it down and reading and rereading and rereading the first few pages. But once I got over that initial hump the words pulled me through. This morning I read the last two sections.

My overall reaction is very positive. I really had a good time reading Young’s sentences…this is why I come to literature: not for story, but for sentences…and this book delivers. In the first section many of the strongest/strangest sentences come at the end of a crot: “Still, there was more summer in her mouth than he would have known in a wild of work” (pg. 26). “But the room was in her eyes and all the street outside” (pg. 49).

Since the genre is not announced, I proceeded to read it as if it were a novel, by which I mean that I read it as though all parts were interconnected. (I have since learned that it is “a collection of microfictions” – but I’m not sure what that means nor how that classification is supposed to inform the reading experience) The way I picture this book in my head is as if the entire story had been painted as a mosaic onto a stained glass window and then the window shattered and Young came and glued the pieces back together.

It is broken into three sections: Easter Rabbit, Deep Falls, God not Otherwise.

First two sections seem to work together in an interesting and provocative way; third section seems like addendum. First section = urban/city; Second section = rural/forest.

There is a “he” and a “she” running throughout (confusion on page 68 when “the three” walked up – not sure who third is?) Question to consider: are these repeated pronouns connected? Is the “she” on page 6 the same as the “she” on page 37? I would say yes. Some evidence: on page 30 she makes a rhyme out of confetti/spaghetti, and then on page 46 she makes a rhyme out of snow/crow.

Smell is important in this book. Page 68: “Their hands smelled like paper, water, bridges, glue.” Page 76: “The water falling smelled of ammonia and copper, slick as grease.”

Young does this cool looping thing where there will be an object in one crot that will then appear in another crot, which works as an ingenious connective device:
Page 46: “…startled crow.” Page 48: “…backs of crows.”
Page 48: “…a friend’s hand.” Page 51: “…the sailor’s hand.”
Page 70: “…a small sketch of his ear.” Page 73: “…to her ear.”
[could use this to teach students how to use repetition as a connecting device]

Things/themes that resonate: Catholicism (God, Priest, Ark , Cardinal, Ascent, St. Sebastian, Easter, St. Avia’s Epistle, Eden, St. Paul, Lily), blood (drops, splatter, the color red), earth, animals…

My favorite part of the book is the relationship between page 75 and page 79. I think there is something extremely telling in that interplay, about the way time works in Easter Rabbit, the way we might approach rereading the book – thinking about connections and redistribution of cause and effect.

The first crot in Section Three ends with the phrase: “…the short ash of the sky.” [connect this to my noticing that Butler uses the sky in EVER, Jones uses the sky in Light Boxes, all in terms of sublimity…connection to be made…contemporary writers and their propensity for engaging with the sky]