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Fup ()

    Fup Duck.  Ya get it?  Fup...Duck.
            -Grandaddy Jake, Fup

Orrin's review:

I'm probably one of the people Zachary sent Fup to, but I actually did read it.  As you can tell from Zachary's remarks, that's the kind of book this is--a Pacific Northwest cult novel, passed from friend to friend like samizdat used to be in the Soviet Union.

Jim Dodge offers a fable featuring Grandaddy Jake Santee, who has find the secret of immortality (so far) in the drinking of Ol' Death Whisper moonshine, made from a recipe given to him by a dying Indian.  The irascible Jake has wandered the Coast for most of his eight decades, gambling well and marrying badly.  But he settles down on an isolated property that he won in a card game in order to raise his grandson Tiny. As Tiny grows up, and grows, and grows, he develops a passion for building fences.  Then one day, he finds a baby mallard hen in one of his fencepost holes.  Torn up ground around the hole indicates that Lockjaw, a legendary and notoriously destructive wild pig, tried desperately to get to the bird.  Tiny takes the duck, which Grandaddy names Fup, home and they raise her.  Fup has a voracious appetite and little interest in flying.  She helps Tiny with his fences and on weekends helps him to hunt Lockjaw.  You can't really say much more without ruining the story; suffice it to say, by the end Dodge throws in everything from resurrections to immaculate conceptions.  And as Zachary notes, it all takes place in just under sixty pages.

It is a very funny book.  Jake in particular is a memorable character--the scenes of him trying to teach Fup to fly are well worth the price of admission by themselves.  The brevity of the tale is a big help.  I tried reading Dodge's second effort, Not Fade Away, and thought it bogged down badly.  Fup is short enough not to take itself too seriously, but also to invite rereading.  Which is good because, if you read it once, you will want to read again.


Zachary Barnett's review:

Years ago, I lived in Seattle and had some friends who had, as a couple morphed into something touching on both brilliance and disaster.  She had once been a blitheringly fine drinking companion.  He had once been a 70’s  Harvard wonderboy and music composer who had, with a friend, figured out that  the best way to get ketchup out of a new bottle was to hit up on the side of the bottle while pointing the bottle down on your fries.  When I first caught  up with them in Seattle, they were working for the Princeton Review teaching kids how to ace our national tests.  Then they revolted and started their own  like-minded enterprise.  After that, getting in touch with them became increasingly difficult for they would not return phone calls nor respond when I left notes at their office (which was frequently unoccupied).  However, Seattle is a small town and every five or six months I would run into them in some swillhole. It was at such a time that they handed me the cause of their day’s celebration; a copy of Jim Dodge’s Fup.

I have just finished my 3rd reading of Fup these many years later.  I have even Amazoned the little beauty to a couple of my pals.  Truth is, more often than not, the little [editor deletion] never open the books I send them and die many years later with wads of crumpled up electric bills and presidential election buttons jammed in their arteries.  Are we our brother’s keeper?   No.

Then again, I won’t die without having once said something on behalf of Fup.

There are pieces of literature on bestseller lists that resemble a dog named Bubbles that barks all day long in my neighbor’s yard.  And then there are tales that leap out of the pond like 12" brook trout.  Beautifully colored.  Sleek and sparing.  Alive and wriggling on the fly. You reach over and dunk your hand in the water and hold the creature up to the light. You rejoice in God’s grandeur and toss it back.  You crack open a beer and share a laugh with your friend.  And for the longest time after, you  feel the little creature dancing in your hand.

Fup is like that.  It stays with you.  All in 60 pages.  No more, no less.


Dorothy C. Judd's review:

C’mon, Orrin and Zach, is this an "Emperor’s New Clothes" situation? Having read the blurbs on the back cover, I kept waiting for something, anything to kick in and convince me that this was a book worth reading.  In the end, I said, "I coulda had a nap!"


Zachary responds:

                       Dorothy, I see your point.  Fup is not Les Mis and it ain't Three Muskateers.
                       However, it's way better than a nap.

                       "There'll be plenty of time for sleep when I'm dead."
                  - Art Linkletter -

                       The point is, for what it accomplished in 60 pages, it's wonderful. It
                       belongs in a different class of fiction and, in that class, it's first rate.
                       It's like going to the State Fair and watching the judging.  You got your
                       piggies, your cows, your sunflowers and your tomatoes.  I say, think of Fup
                       as your favorite cherry tomatoe.  It ain't the prize heffer, but it's a hell
                       of a blue ribbon cherry tomatoe.

                       And you surely don't give it an F because you can't squeeze milk out of it.
                       (Unless, you really did need that nap.)


Grade: (A-)


See also:

General Literature
Book-related and General Links:
    -REVIEW : of The Fisherman's Son by Michael Koepf (Jim Dodge, San Francisco Chronicle)
    -PROFILE: The magician of ducks and outlaws: Jim Dodge talks to Phil Daoust about mixed-up mallards and sudden fame (Saturday March 25, 2000, The Guardian)
    -REVIEW: All Fup Ducked (Stuart Petch, Shout)
    -REVIEW: of STONE JUNCTION An Alchemical Potboiler. By Jim Dodge (Michele Slung, NY Times Book Review)
    -REVIEW: of NOT FADE AWAY By Jim Dodge (Ralph Keyes, NY Times Book Review)