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Vacation / Jeremy C. Shipp

thVacationCover.jpgRaw Dog Screaming Press / April 2007
Reviewed by: Michele Lee

There's no question why Jeremy Shipp’s Vacation has generated so much buzz this past year. It's a transforming tale, one not even the prose itself can escape. In the beginning, the reader meets a man who appears no different than many of us. Profiting off the reputation, experience, and money of his parents, Bernard Johnson is an academic snob - not only an English teacher who enforces his own translations of classics on his students, but one who also defines metaphorical meaning for other teachers. But dissatisfaction is growing inside him. His girlfriend loves the fuzzy, convenient idea of him - not the soul within his flesh. His family has a nice, simple life planned out for him - one without the risk of failure because there is no need to try.

So Bernard opts to go on the Vacation, a corporate- sponsored, year-long trip around the world each American citizen is allowed. Some people find themselves on the Vacation; some leave bits of themselves behind. Bernard goes on the Vacation because he wants something more. Because he knows there's a transformation inside him.

And the Vacation is about to live up to its reputation. In the faux adventurous atmosphere of a carefully controlled foreign land, Bernard is kidnapped by the Garden, an enigmatic blend of social and environmental mindsets considered terrorists by those in charge.

Shipp writes in the beginning:

"The novel is nothing but a thick line between our two minds. It's a love spell, written in code."

This becomes one of many themes in this tightly written, literate tale of a dark, speculative future. Shipp connects immediately with readers, pulling them into the story not just by addressing them, but by pulling them in close , making the reader assume the role of Bernard's "Mom" and "Dad”.

The literary convention is also a strong force in Vacation. Being an English teacher and literati himself, Bernard often makes references to himself and the other players as fiction roles, implying that their story isn't just a story, but a metaphor on every level. When one person dies, so does the element they represent. When Bernard gives into impulse and finally reaches out to another person with a kiss, it's not just that person he's kissing goodbye, but everything that person represents in his personal story.

Part dream interpretation, part metaphor, and part blatant manipulation, Vacation is a transitive tale that can be broken down and explained in an oversimplified way with a reference to the nature of the language of the book itself. Vacation is the conjugation of the verb “be” - is, was, will be. The reader follows Bernard through a world that changes, not in itself, but because of how he views it - past to present to future.

Purchase Jeremy C. Shipp’s Vacation.

Posted on Tuesday, March 11, 2008 at 10:04AM by Registered CommenterDark Scribe Magazine in | Comments Off

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