Pacazo by Roy Kesey – Review


Josh Anastasia responds to January’s Rumpus Book Club Selection:

Pacazo by Roy Kesey and Field Notes

Pacazo is a story about a man coming to terms with the murder of his wife and how to move on in the face of tragedy; the stories that we tell ourselves in order to survive.

I had a hard time getting into it at first. The story was written all over the place, mixing present and past in the same sentence:

The nearest building, sharp white. I close my eyes. There is the smell of decomposing leaves, of heat and wet grass. I have been this tired before but do not remember when and a ship drifts south along the coast toward the mouth of a river. A shout goes up. The men gather at the port gunwale. There is a Tallán mending a net on the bank. He is the first human they have seen in two days, perhaps of use. The men drop anchor, lower the skiff, go to get him.

This was horribly confusing in the first few pages and it wasn’t until after the first 90 pages that I was able to fully separate the historical narrative from the personal narrative.

We’re introduced to John after his wife’s murder; we’re thrown into the middle of John’s chaos. He weaves his own story between his present, his past, and the past of the Incas in Peru. However weird this may seem at first, Kesey has written a beautiful story filled with some beautifully written paragraphs.

She is right and I love her for this. A light breeze rises, stirs her
hair, and we begin to arrive. I wipe my face, put on my knapsack, lift
Mariagnel to my shoulder. I do not remember ever asking Pilar about
Amalia Puga, and Friar Valverde repents his role, protests the natives
as best as he can, flees after the second Almagrist coup, is eaten by
cannibals on Puna. – pg. 64

One of the things that I kept thinking about was the number of epigrams included in the beginning pages of Pacazo. Why so many?

Pacazo by Roy Kesey

There are seven total and, off the top of my head, I can’t think of any other books that list as many as this or more. Anyone know other books that include so many?

This is probably the most important of the seven:

(I)t is often overlooked that the conviction that one can make sense of history stands on the same level of epistemic plausibility as the conviction that it makes no sense whatsoever. — Hayden White, The Content of the Form

Pacazo is an excellent example of how we deal with our own personal histories and our present. We weave our own stories and we do what we have to in order to survive, in order to make it to the next day and the next. Should we live in the past? No. It isn’t until we let go of our past that we can truly move forward.

One of the highlights of the book is John’s relationship with his daughter, Mariangel. While the rest of his life is almost in ruins, he still loves her and protects her from the outside world as much as possible. The little things about their relationship are beautiful to the point that you almost feel that John and Mariangel are real people instead of characters in a book.

Josh Anastasia is a reader. This is his blog. More from this author →