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  • The Rhetoric of Grief
  • Kevin Catalano (bio)
Patricide D. Foy Stalking Horse Press 219 Pages; Print, $18.95

In his gut-wrenching and ambitious second novel, Patricide, D. Foy gives the reader two books, and an incisive, linguistic needle to thread them together.

The first 258 pages offers a complete, albeit disturbing, story of a young Patrick Rice who endures unthinkable psychological and physical abuse from his mother, who rapes him, and from his father, who beats him. However, as a teenager, Pat manages to escape this hell while exacting a small-but-satisfying revenge on his parents: he defies them by pawning their "fuck-you" of a Christmas gift, a Minolta camera, for what he had really wanted, a guitar; he stands up to his mother and overpowers his father, and then leaves the house, seemingly for good. Not only does this narrative feel finished, but it also satisfies the metaphorical meaning of the novel's title, for the father is rendered pitiful, and his fatherhood therefore terminated. This section ends with these lines: "The yellow hills walk through the smog, on toward the sea. The sky is ceaseless and brown." A reader could close the book here, with the feeling of having been treated to a gratifying story with a discernible theme told in beautiful language.

But this is not the end, because D. Foy is not interested in a nice, neat package of a novel. Instead, like a sequel, Patricide continues for another 150 pages, furthering the story of Patrick (a decade later), giving the reader more ruin and heartbreak, more plot, and in doing so, complicating the reader's relationship with the text.

In this "second book," D. Foy is more experimental, playing with point of view, with form (including letters and a fable), and with the size of the chapters (which get shorter the closer we get to the end). While difficult to nail down, this continuation conveys, in part, the theme of generational bondage: Pat becomes a drug-abusing drunk like his father (though with a bit more hope for change), and we learn that Pat's father's father was also a menacing force. Therefore, the "patricide" seems ironic: it's the fathers who ruin their sons, as Pat articulates, "I understood perfectly well, all too well, why my father had descended to his lifelong mire of apathy and addiction and fear. I understood because I was my father's son, because I was my father."

However, in the same way that it's myopic to focus too heavily on the global themes of the killing of fathers, it's also a mistake to limit our interpretation of the title to the whole word; we must also notice that in Patricide are the words Pat (or Patric) and id (the latter of which is highlighted on the cover). When we pay attention to the psychology of Pat's addictions and the ways in which he tries to put unthinking suffering into language, this novel transcends out of the gritty mire and into the realm of mythology, philosophy, and spirituality. This often takes the form of Pat trying to solve the problem of his past:

I was in a trance of the belief that by gaining control over my past through writing, I could free myself from my past, and from my father, and from the shadow of my father. I was in a trance of the belief that once my past had been committed to the Word, that once my past had been given to the Word, it, my past, and my father with it, would no longer be in me.

It is ruminations like these that act as the main narrative, which not only unify the novel, but promote it to a complex work of brilliance. While the story of a son's troubled relationship with his father is as old as Greek mythology, D. Foy seduces us into experiencing it as if for the first time through his acrobatic uses of "the Word."

For example, often Pat will try to make meaning of his brutal past through the exploration of a...