Strange Maine

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Tuesday, September 06, 2011

Review: Sex, Drugs & Blueberries

Written by Crash Barry
reviewed by Michelle Souliere

At face value, Sex, Drugs and Blueberries is a painfully honest, raunchy, raw read, a fictive treatment of a not uncommon Maine way of life presented to the reader in an entertaining format. Crash Barry’s narration sucks you right into his too-real make-believe world. You are warned by the epigraph, before you even get to the text: “This is a story about how quickly things can go wrong. The characters and events are inventions of the author.”

It could be said that never was a book more aptly titled. Sex, Drugs and Blueberries is rife with all three, and Barry’s not about to deny it. Given a chance to do a reading from the book, he doesn’t shy away from plot points ripe with juicy material. It’s really something to see, and hear.

But at the real heart of the book is the ingredient that makes it both impossible to put down, and also difficult to read all at the same time. That unlabeled ingredient is the normal mishmash of circumstances and motives that creates the tangled dance that is life in the fields of Washington County, which in one way or another mirrors life wherever in the country it is hard to get by.

This is the territory where resources depend on what comes from the dirt and what you can scrounge or finagle to make ends meet when the dirt fails you. You may have other, better, more highly paid skills, but is there a market for them? Is it worth moving to a more tightly-packed urban environment where rent is high and skilled workers are a dime a dozen? Not usually, and so inevitably some folks find themselves sticking it out in the proverbial boonies, trying to get by without overextending themselves in futile efforts.

It is the life many people lead, the kind in which one constantly asks oneself if what one is doing is worth the price, where poor judgment can spell doom or survival, and the odds of either result are as unpredictable as the roll of dice. Your decisions are a double-edged sword -- do you do things that will allow a marginally fiscally-viable existence at the potential cost of your mental, physical, and emotional health? Do you do things that compromise your moral happiness in order to try to bridge that fiscal gap? That emotional deficit gap?

We could hash these choices out for hours, but luckily Barry has recorded at least one version of them and their results for us to read through, like some kind of entertaining dastardly variant of a “Choose Your Own Adventure” story. But don’t expect me to give away the ending. You’ve gotta read it for yourself, just like I did. Do you have the guts to take a chance on a new author who may well be the Next Maine Great of Prose? Not many of his generation have spoken yet from our state’s ground, this is your big chance to hear the word first.

Sex, Drugs and Blueberries is available in softcover at your local bookstore now, or online via Barry’s website at http://crashbarry.com/

Fans will also be excited to know that Barry has just released another book, which is currently a bestseller at Longfellow Books in Portland -- Tough Island: True Stories from Matinicus, Maine. Those of you who have been to his readings at Longfellow Books know a Crash Barry reading is like NO OTHER!

For regular installments of his writing, please check the current issue of independent monthly The Bollard at a newsstand near you.

Cover art by Pat Corrigan.
Photo by Abraham Schechter

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