Sunday, 30 January 2011

5/111 - Fup by Jim Dodge

I bought this book back in 2010 when I was working at Waterstone's. A colleague had recommended it to me along with Andrew Kaufman's All My Friends Are Superheroes. I read the other one immediately, because the pretext sounded really interesting. I loved it. Not many things bring a tear to my eye, but Kaufman's story did.

Fup, on the other hand, got left behind for the best part of a year, until today, but it also had a similar effect. At only 117 pages, this took me just over an hour to read all in one sitting. The story follows Tiny and his grandpa Jake, and their lives on Jake's farm. Jake is already an old man when Tiny comes to live with him after the sudden death of his mother. Jake spends his days sipping on home-made whiskey and Tiny loves to build fences. Whilst out building fences one day, Tiny comes across a duckling who has spent the night being terrorised by a wild pig. He takes her home where she is revived by a shot of moonshine and named 'Fup', and she soon becomes part of the family.

In some ways, there isn't really all that much to Fup. It flows easily and the writing is simple and clear, but full of surreal imagery and humour. The subtitle of the novella is 'a modern fable'. I can see what that means - this is kind of like a more fun version of Jonathan Livingston Seagull, with added whiskey.

Tiny, Jake and Fup work beautifully as a trio - the addition of a duck to their family just seems so completely natural and leads to many moments of laughter, and a few moments of sadness. The conflict in Fup comes from Tiny's desire to hunt and kill a wild pig, Lockjaw, who has been terrorising his beloved fences for years. There's something deeper going on with the fences, and also something do to with flight that I don't really feel like getting into right now - maybe another time.

The story is so short, but I think that's good because a longer, deeper version of this might not hold up as well. My only criticism is the abruptness of the ending. It ties up well, but maybe a little too quickly, considering the fact that Fup herself does not appear until halfway through the story.

This little gem is short and sweet - make sure to read it in one sitting; there's no need for breaks. It would even make a sweet story to read to children.

Next time: Super Sad True Love Story by Gary Shteyngart

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