Eloquent, elegant and written with the sort of honest voice few writers have the skill – or courage – to sustain, Augusta writer Turner Simkins’ book Possibilities, out now, functions as something far more than memoir.
While the book, which documents his young son Brennan’s fight against a rare form of leukemia, traces the story from diagnosis through treatment, the approach – which Simkins calls a sort of war journal – divests the book of some of the standard figures of speech that often fuel, and ultimately dilute, similar work. An adaptation of nearly four years’ worth of blog entries – the original draft was approximately 2,000 pages while the final product is an incredibly brisk 285 – there’s never a feeling the raw emotions, stark moments or, conversely, celebratory moments have in any way been composed or edited. They feel real and immediate. They bristle with an honesty almost confessional, although never uncomfortable.
It’s an approach that works for a variety of reasons. The most obvious is it is the sort of parent’s story that is relatable. We all worry about our children. We all fear moments of helplessness. But it also works as a piece of literature, because Turner Simkins is a writer of rare gifts and intelligence and Possibilities is dependent on not only his and his family’s experiences, but his facility with words as well.
As a writer, Simkins understands that often less is, in fact, more. He saves detailed description and deep reflection for moments when they truly count. His disciplined and patient approach controls the ebb and flow of the story, bringing the reader close at the most important moments while keeping the chronology moving forward.
The story Simkins spins – the story that shaped the reality of his, his son’s and his family and friends’ lives – isn’t one I would wish on anyone. It is both harrowing and uplifting. The book that came of it however – a book that never panders or plods – is one that I would recommend to all.
THE ART OF EDISON. I was initially nervous. This was, after all, not the Edison Project I remembered. It had been a lot of years – since 2009, in fact – that one of Augusta’s favorite acts had played when they opened for Tonic on Saturday at Lady Antebellum Pavilion.
So when the first few songs felt a little cold and arranged, it wasn’t completely unexpected. The songs were still good. The performances were still polished. It just felt, well, a little mature.
But then something happened. Perhaps, looking out into the audience the band saw the faces of those fans that had supported it during its initial incarnation. Perhaps it heard, over the roar of electric guitars, the sounds of a sing-along prompted by the vocal hooks penned nearly a decade ago. Perhaps it was merely adrenaline or standing on stage with musicians who had once been like brothers – the two that were already brothers not withstanding – and revisiting the songs of their youth. But something happened. Something tangible. It was as though they stopped caring and started to play.
And that’s what Edison Project always did best.
The band’s best shows always felt like joyful noise. Certainly it was built on a foundation of complicated arrangements and vocal harmonies – but in a live setting those things felt more natural than composed. And in the end, that’s what the touted return of Edison Project felt like. Like a game where the only rules were to be true to the tune.
I don’t know what the next steps for this band are. I would like to see some more performances. But before that happens, I think there has to be a coming-to-terms. These are no longer men in their early 20s. There are families and careers. The hard truth is Edison most likely no longer represents their future. It’s a beloved part of the past that, in the present, can continue to function creatively. It may no longer be a business, but it can be a band – a really good one.