Kaylie Jones Books
300 pages, $15.95
Review by Amye Archer
When I first heard Jason Carney read in a small, sweaty room on the south side of Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, he read a story about pie, the kind his Mamaw made for him, and how one act of kindness by his Mamaw melted him into a million pieces. He cried. I cried. We all cried. This is the Jason Carney I know: the brilliant poet who can hold a crowd in the palms of his gentle hands, even in the most desolate of moments. But this is not the Jason Carney we meet in his new memoir, Starve the Vulture – not at first anyway.
Jason Carney was not born, he was built. Starve the Vulture, is the story of that process. A braided narrative takes us through three separate journeys: a bipolar childhood in which a young Jason bounced between an abusive father, a desperate, young mother, and the soft glow of his grandparent’s home; an adolescence fraught with violence, addiction and despair; and, finally, a single day – the day that would come to mark the end of Jason’s drug addiction. All three threads combine to create the three-dimensional world of an addict who would overcome a lifetime of emotional and physical brutality.
I love memoirs written by poets, and Starve the Vulture did not disappoint. Carney weaves beautiful imagery into each scene, pulling the reader down the rabbit hole with him. His voice is raw and honest, similar to his poetic voice if you’ve had the good sense to have listened to him read before. With a deft hand, Carney takes what could be a kaleidoscope of agony, a narrative too hard to absorb, and softens each blow with his gentle prose. It’s as if Jason is over your shoulder as you read, promising you that it will be all right in the end.
Starve the Vulture is not only a story of redemption. To be redeemed is to be saved, and Jason Carney was certainly saved from a life that would inevitably end too soon. But to be enlightened is to be freed from ignorance and that’s what Starve the Vulture is: Jason Carney’s journey to enlightenment. Here he is having a beer after a long day’s work: “Earning a reward is better than having it handed to you.” If Starve the Vulture is half the success I believe it will be, Jason Carney has more than earned this reward.
Amye Archer holds an MFA from Wilkes University. She is the author of BANGS, released by Big Table Publishing in August of 2014. Amye is a Libra, a lover of cats, a devout follower of politics, mommy to Samantha and Penelope, and a partner-in-all-things to Tim. Follow her at @amyearcher.