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Book Reviews
Planet Claire
By: Jeff Porter - Akashic Books, $16.95

Description: Planet Claire is the story of the untimely death of the authors wife and his candid account of the following year of madness and grief.

As his life unravels, Porter analyzes his sadness with growing interest. He talks to Claire as if to evoke a presence, to mark a space for memory. He reports on his daily walks and shares observations of lifes sadness, while reminiscing about various moments in their life together.

Like Orpheus, the author searches for a lost love, and what he finds is not the dog of doom but flashes of an intimate symmetry that brighten the darkest places of sorrow.

Verdict: Simply put, in Planet Claire English professor Jeff Porter brings forth a just incredible warmly rich, wholly enveloping and vividly ambient memoir, nay love letter to his deceased wife, whilst weaving his way delicately through the prose of an autobiography of love once had, and now sadly (physically, at least) lost.

In Planet Claire: Suite for Cello and Sad-Eyed Lovers (to give it its full title), a book dedicated to his late wife, and one that opens with a Franz Kafka quote, the 14 chapter book immediately opens the door into the day she passed and carries you lovingly away on Porters journey every 269 pages thereafter.

Via some deeply intrinsic paragraph reveals, Porter does not hide behind or shirk the details of his wife and her passing in away way, opting instead to detail his gut-wrenching emotions and constant head sways to the tee.

He recounts, in detail, the circumstances surrounding the untimely death of his wife, even choosing to describe how, after 27 years of marriage, his wife collapsed on an otherwise normal Wednesday, the victim of a brain aneurysm.

Young and resilient, the needle on her life span hardly past midway, Claire died abruptly, as though I had been absentminded or had left the gas stove on or the door open, he writes, somewhat apologetic for something that he had no say in.

I looked up from the morning paper and she was gone, he follows, and whereas he obviously continues to self-lambaste himself for something that he, quite literally, had no hand in, the author barrels helplessly into the deep well of grief, depression and a whole bunch of What-Ifs.

Ergo, Planet Claire is his recounting of an endearing individuals life within his own sphere, and his deep, never-ending love for his wife, Claire, and yet still manages to become something for us all to learn from.

A book, obviously, about death and grief, confusion and understanding, anger and pockets of calm, Planet Claire is undoubtedly, at its core, a very personal tale of tragedy within the confines of the death of a loved one, but also details what comes after for those left behind.

In conclusion, the second title from Ann Hoods Gracie Belle imprint, Planet Claire takes readers on a journey of sorrow that recalls memorable works by C.S. Lewis (A Grief Observed), Joan Didion (The Year of Magical Thinking), and Julian Barnes (Levels of Life).

Porters memoir, however, is also playful, quirky, and self-ironic in a way that challenges the genres traditional solemnity. Like the novel Grief Is the Thing with Feathers by Max Porter, this is an unpredictably funny account of heartbreak, as if to say there is something about the magnitude of loss that troubles even earnestness.

Jeff Porter the author of Lost Sound: The Forgotten Art of Radio Storytelling, the memoir Oppenheimer Is Watching Me, and coeditor of Understanding the Essay.

His essays and articles have appeared in several magazines and literary reviews, including the Antioch Review, Northwest Review, Shenandoah, Missouri Review, Hotel Amerika, Wilson Quarterly, Contemporary Literature, and the Seneca Review.

He loves cameras, dogs, and guitars―though not in that order. He lives in Iowa City and teaches English at the University of Iowa.

Official Book Purchase Link