Ron Currie, Jr.’s Flimsy Little Plastic Miracles is the latest selection in our upcoming Penguin release series. As the inside flap notes: the main character is named Ron Currie, Jr., the story is about him, he’s a lot like the author – and it’s all true.
Flimsy Little Plastic Miracles follows Ron Currie, Jr. as he drinks to deal with an undying love of a childhood sweetheart named Emma, the death of his father, and Singularity, the moment when man and machine become one. Self-exiled to a tropical island (not too bad of a banishment), full of local cerverza and rum, Currie cycles through each subject on whimsy,constructing a loose collection of thoughts, emotions and comical vignettes.
Despite mentioning in the Introduction of Miracles that he “knows more Mick from Rocky than Cicero”, Currie shows strength as a young novelist. What is so admirable, and certainly discernable reading the novel, is the emotion emitted from the author. Though this works much like a double-edged sword for Currie, it is easy to appreciate when an accomplishment is made:
If corporations are people, then maybe that means people can, or even should, have trademarks. With Emma, her trademark is the distance she creates. It’s as natural to her as drawing breath, and therefore something for which she cannot be blamed. The thing about her – and this is something I realized on the island, in her absence with clarity as abrupt as a punch in the throat- was that no one could ever really have her. The woman is a fighter, has been her whole life, had to be, and she does what finesse fighters do: japs and feints, circles away from your power hand, makes you commit right then shifts to your left, never stands still, bounces about tirelessly on her legs like steel coils, just wears you down. No one could have her. Her first husband Matty never did, not really, and nobody who came before him did either. I think we all intuited that she was impossible to have, and paradoxically that’s why every man who happened into her orbit kept trying. Married, engaged, otherwise committed, single, even gay. We all tried, and tried again, steering shift after ship into the rocks, and if you asked us to explain why we’d be unable to give you an answer, except for maybe this one: because we knew, deep down, that we would fail.”
As Miracles continues on, it becomes increasingly hard to believe Currie is the extravagant character he pens, despite the disclaimer proclaiming the narrative’s validity. Readers will discern that some of the author’s stories cause eyes to droop and are burdened by adolescent yearning – in other words, flimsy, little, and plastic. Though, certain truths are undeniable and can only be told by personal involvement:
“The week before my father died he tried to write me a note. I didn’t find out about this until after he was gone and my mother showed the paper to me. A single page. Scrawled at the top of the page were the first five letters of my family nickname. That’s how we knew he meant it for me. He didn’t have enough energy to write the last letter, and gave up in what I imagine was a fit of frustration. He was frustrated by just about everything at that point. His handwriting had always been a bit messy, but now it looked like a kindergartener’s first efforts. The lines on the ‘R’ didn’t quite connect, and the ‘o’ was a big bumpy loop, outsized when compared with the rest of the script. That was it: five letters followed by the silence of blank ruled lines. And so it goes without saying, probably, that whatever he wanted to communicate died with him. All he left behind was a five-sixths of my name.”
While Flimsy Little Plastic Miracles is a fine novel, Mr. Currie lacks a knack for suspense. The narrative certainly has intriguing and novel-worthy thoughts – we’re talking Singularity here – yet there is a lack of force behind such serious subjects. The author has obviously considered the ideas within his novel but tends to asses them like a fly on the wall. In the end, readers feel that such frankly emotional observation overrides the moments of true sentiment.
Flimsy Little Plastic Miracles is the second novel from Ron Currie Jr. and his third publication. His debut God is Dead, a collection of short stories centered around if God, were humanized only to be killed by, well, humans, has been compared with Kurt Vonnegut and Raymond Craver. Everything Matters, his second effort and first novel, Everything Matters! was the winner of the Alex Award from the American Library Association and made several best-of list in 2009, including the Los Angeles Times, Amazon, and NPR. As mentioned above, Currie is a talented writer who dives into serious subjects and divulges whatever is in his heart, and luckily for us, has a lot of time to grow.