Spilling Clarence

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King Peter came over from Germany seeking fortune. Stripped of their meaning they becomesurrealist mantras. His own Dada manifesto. Art for Art's sake. Facts are a lie. His little girl can list off GreatLakes, types of rock, and geological eras, while he struggles everynight to recall the smell of his wife's hair. He would have killed himself if it hadn't been for Sophie. There's no doubt about that. Sacred Fridays with Sophie give respite from real life days ofblue books and department meetings and nights of clammy sheetsand irrevocable dreams. He has given his life to his daughter, andnow there is no going back.

The agreement is unspoken, unconfirmed,but six years ago when Bennie chose Sophie's nascent lifeover his much desired death, he made a bargain with his toddlerdaughter: I, Benjamin, will live for you. In turn, you, Sophia Madeline,must never leave me. Couldn't the world freeze, and he always be sitting here withSophie with eyes as bright as her soda, so full of Lizzie?

It is absurd,impossible, he knows, but why not? There were trollsand they had this watch and they would speed time up, stop it,send it back, stop the world. The girl elf made awish. She got this watch. If we couldwish a genie down here, if he could give us a magic watch. Wecould just sit here and you could read your books and drink yoursodas as long as you wanted. Sophie sighs again in the way she sees on TV and closes herbook.

Don't youremember what happened to that girl elf?. That's the way stories go. That's the whole point. Sophie smiles at her father compassionately and opens her bigwhite book back to "Flags of the World. The civil defense sirens will go off in another two minutes. Walk outside thebookstore's revolving doors. Stand on the sidewalk. Turn yourhead to the right, and you'll see the three smokestacks on thehorizon.

Turn to the left and you see photo-perfect towers andspires. The effect is off-putting, the dissonance dizzying. The factory and the university faceeach other warily, and you, caught in the middle, do not knowwhich way to turn. The company's particular specialty, and theClarence factory's niche, is the mind. Harris Jones dedicates itselfessentially to treating the modern condition; their medicationsattack such ailments as anxiety, distraction, depression. Their stockis on its way up, and you might consider making a small investment.

Occasionally there is some grumbling among the factory workersof Clarence about the nature of the drugs made at their plant. After all, the economy of the town is based on the factory, butanxiety, sleep, fear, depression, and despair are not the town'sproblems. At lunch, a worker points at the photo-perfect towersand spires to indicate just whose problems these are.

The peopleof Clarence make drugs for outsiders to take. They work day andnight making drugs for rich people.

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What kind of medications arethese anyway? Medications are for sickness. For life and death. What kind of people have the need and resources tomedicate their mind? Shouldn't their livelihoods be based on something they can use? Harris Jones worries about insurance, losses, reputation. Who willtake care of Clarence?

What if something should happen?

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If there were any poetry at all in Clarence, there would be agreat river running through the town. The river would bisect Clarenceperfectly; factory on one side, college on the other. Timecard punchers on one side, dentists on the other; American carson one side, foreign on the other. If there were any poetry inClarence, the river would divide the town's two worlds with adeft blue stroke manifesting the bifurcation in perpetual motion.

If Clarence had poetry, there would at least be some good oldrailroad tracks to give the town its proverbial right and wrong side which is which would be depending on your point of view, ofcourse.

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Clarence has no poetry, though. The division, then,must remain invisible. Likethe international date line or the boundaries of good taste. The best anyone can do is invite you to take a tour. Susie's Secondhands and The Closet. Contrast the crowds, the clothes, the conversation. Use what you have learned. Guess who is from which world. You are able to begin drawingthe line yourself. A deft stroke in perpetual motion. The Davis and Dean superstore has tried valiantly to bridge thegap.

The Clarence store is an experiment after all, and harmony isessential to the experiment's success. The combatants had already consumed and exhaustedthe cities and suburbs and exurbs; there needed to be anew battleground. Thus was born Operation Hinterland. Where men wear flannelshirts and smell like a hard day's work.

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Clarence's mayor has a strong sense of capitalistic duty, andthe experiment, to be sure, would be talked about in all thetrades and business weeklies. People would be watching closely. Other progressively minded nationally sanctioned companiesmight come. The economy would soar. Sowhen Davis and Dean officials came to the mayor carrying proposalsand compensations and all kinds of charts with toweringmajestic columns and bright happy graphs with arrows going up,up, up, the mayor in turn said, Yes. What shallwe knock down for you? There were a few protests of course.

The rally was small;many of the Clarence elders thought that they could not possiblysupport anything that involved folksingers. Those who did marchon the town hall spoke passionately of a desire to keep Clarence Clarence without those nasty big city chain influences coming into homogenize and desensitize. What would separate Clarencefrom any other city, now? What good are these corporations? Whowill watch out for Clarence? But in a few weeks everyone stopped caring, as is the generalway of things.

SPILLING CLARENCE

Hands were shook, documents signed, announcementsmade, ground broken, espresso imported, and Bingo! Clarencejoined the Davis and Dean empire well before Vanguardcould move their troops into the hinterlands. And the experiment is working.

The factory worker and the college professor sipcoffee side by side. And since the store was built, no aimless Mansfieldhumanities graduate has ever been in want of a job. You may be there now. And we have a goodplace to begin our story. Police sirens sound quietly in the distance. One screech after another joins the chorusand the sirens crescendo, grow more immediate. One after another, people in thestore look up, look out the windows, joke nervously and laughlike choking.

Also, the author shot a bullet at some deep philosophical questions, but then seemed to glance off answering them. Feb 11, Ebirdy rated it liked it Shelves: This was an enjoyable book. Some of her thoughts on memory and grief really made you think. She had some humor to leaven what could otherwise be a bleak story and her characters were well drawn. Jun 13, Leah Divina rated it liked it Shelves: There is something about her way of writing that gets to me like no other.

It's cute, fun, and a bit witty. Not one of my favorites but definitely a weird staple at my collections. Feb 17, Courtney Durrant rated it liked it. I almost stopped reading this several times, but I'm glad I finished. Cute book about people remembering everything.

Jun 21, Virginia rated it really liked it Shelves: Great for any psych or neuroscience geek! Jan 28, Victoria rated it really liked it. Jan 27, Shirley rated it liked it Shelves: You try to hang up your clothes well and line up your shoes like little soldiers and keep your toys from tipping over, but sometimes you just can't keep it all organised. Would it be a blessing - or a curse? Following a chemical spill at a local factory the inhabitants of Clarence start to remember, not just selectiv 'Your mind is a lot like your closet.

Following a chemical spill at a local factory the inhabitants of Clarence start to remember, not just selectively but in great detail and in a way that they cannot control. She gets to the end of the phrase, she gets to the "and", and her mind fills with words and she read a book, married a man, broke her wrist, stubbed her toe, made a dress, kissed a doll, lost a shoe, had a blue bonnet, had a blue bear, blue beard, had a hot paper rash singing for supper of milk and honey and toast crumbs in the doll forest with brother mother baby boy feeding husband and son , a life of possibility to end the sentence, and out of the cacophany of memory nothing can be heard.

Madeline's head crackles with once upon a times and the matter cannot be resolved. I particularly liked the phrase: You close your eyes, the doors in your mind open up, and everything you have ever felt comes flooding into your head. We remember or we don't. We misremember or we don't. But what are the causes? What makes the damn thing fire in the first place? Why do we remember what we remember and, most important, why do we forget?

And what is the effect? As the blurb concludes: Mar 07, Elizabeth rated it really liked it Shelves: Once upon a time in the land of the Minnesota Twins there lived a blogger named Batgirl who created a baseball world populated with mythological players. Ursu received the Minnesota New Voice Award and was recognized as a Once upon a time in the land of the Minnesota Twins there lived a blogger named Batgirl who created a baseball world populated with mythological players.

The small town of Clarence is home to the Harris Jones psychopharmaceutical factory. For life and death.


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  • Spilling Clarence by Anne Ursu.
  • Spilling Clarence.

What kind of people have the need and resources to medicate their minds? One fall day a fire erupts in the factory and barrels of chemicals explode leading to a deletrium leak. Individuals in yellow haz-mat suits appear on the streets of Clarence; Harris Jones officials and environmental scientists are close-mouthed about possible toxic effects of the spill, but residents are advised not to drink the water. Over time people begin to sense changes in their physical well-being; they visit their doctors; they undergo multitudes of tests; their doctors find nothing wrong with them; and so they go on with their lives.

And yet, something is amiss in Clarence. While the air smelled bad when the plant was in production, there is an even stranger smell now. I hope you do, also. The premise is fascinating: A fire at a pharmaceutical factory releases a chemical that hyper-activates the memories of everyone in a small Minnesota town. What would your life be like if you suddenly started experiencing moments that you'd forgotten? A reader can't help but ask that question, and it's a great question.

The story is told by an omniscient narrator with a detached, darkly comic tone. At times, it's delightfully clever. At other times, distracting.

SPILLING CLARENCE by Anne Ursu | Kirkus Reviews

The narrative voice puts a layer o The premise is fascinating: The narrative voice puts a layer of ironic distance between the reader and the characters, who sometimes feel like caricatures already. I was interested in some of the characters, while others felt so unrealistic that I just wanted them to get out of the way of the others.

The setting is a small Minnesota town with a university and a factory; I went to college in a small Minnesota town with two colleges and two factories. It's easy to poke fun at university professors with tweed jackets and PTA moms who object to Halloween. I wanted to see the author go a level deeper, but she didn't.

Ultimately, it felt like this wanted to be two books: A clever sendup of a small college town, or an earnest exploration of realistic characters coping with trauma in their lives. Both were successful at times, but they never completely gelled into one cohesive book. Jun 25, Abby N Lewis rated it it was amazing Shelves: I absolutely love this book. It is very much set in the emotional, internal conflicts of the characters, and there were many. I enjoyed switching back and forth between all of their lives, sometimes lingering one one character's story longer than another's, just like flipping through the channels on TV.

They were glimpses, snapshots of a life. I love this book because Anne Ursu captures the innermost thoughts and feelings of every single character perfectly. I would be stumped trying to describe I absolutely love this book. I would be stumped trying to describe some of these things, but she describes each and every one as if she had been there, experiencing the same thing her characters experienced. I also love the way she writes. When I started this novel, I was a bit overwhelmed. Her writing style was unlike anything I've ever stumbled upon before.

She uses words I had never heard of before, and I'm not new to this whole reading thing either. She uses these frequently to insert little extras or footnotes about the characters, which I would have been terrified to do in my own writing, and she refers to the town of Clarence as a single unit, as if it were a character in and of itself. This book is just so unique in so many different way. I loved reading it, and I'm almost sad that it had to end.

I wanted to see more than just snapshots of the pasts and little excerpts from their present. I wanted to continued watching little Sophia grow up, I wanted to know if Madeline and Calvin ever finish their story, I wanted to follow Susannah through medical school, and I wanted to watch her find her way back to Todd.

Apr 06, Tess Mertens-Johnson rated it liked it. The small town of Clarence MN -fictional has a pharmaceutical factory which has a fire. After the fire is contained, the residents begin to remember everything. It seems to start with the older residents more to remember? All good and bad memories come back, but the townspeople are haunted with the bad, and regret takes many of them over.

Calvin, a gentleman who relives his time in s WWII concentration camp. Madeline, the author, who realizes she never real The small town of Clarence MN -fictional has a pharmaceutical factory which has a fire. Madeline, the author, who realizes she never really loved her husband and was less than a mother to her son Bernie. Bernie, who lost his wife in a car accident where he was driving.

He only remembered the loss, but he yearns to remember her small and her touch. Todd is his 20s who is madly in love with Suzanne, but can only remember the women he used in his past. Suzanne, who remembers her mother's mental health issues, but yearns to remember the "good" days. Young ten year old Sophie, who recalls being cruel to others and their cruelty to her, but can't remember her mother, Bernie's wife, who died when she was a baby, though she so wants to.

Would I want to remember everything? Life is a series of ups and down, joys and sorrows. But being human beings, we find faults in o9urselves and other by remembering the bad parts of our lives.


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  4. No one wants to go back to those times. But, after four weeks the cloud of memories lifts and the town of Clarence gets back on its feet. The residents take what they remembered and made informed, better choices for their future. The chemical factory in Clarence, that specializes in manufacturing drugs for mental disorders, catches fire releasing the chemical deletrium into the air.

    The town slowly comes under the drug's spell and the restraints of memory are released, rendering Clarence residents nonfunctional. An ideas novel with some beautiful meditations on memory with a hit-or-miss execution--similar in style to Kevin Brockmeier. There are many interesting routes this story goes down. The solitude of the individuals The chemical factory in Clarence, that specializes in manufacturing drugs for mental disorders, catches fire releasing the chemical deletrium into the air. The solitude of the individuals as they combat their memories is poignant.

    The care that people try to provide one another while they succumb and the repeating theme of children learning to become the caretakers for their adult guardians in unexpected circumstances is very moving. However, readers may get the feeling that more of these themes could be explored if the tone wasn't a little too pleased with itself. For example, events in the narrative are referred to by chapter length within the book. There are many darker places the story could go especially since it seems Clarence suffers from all its bad memories first.

    But the book firmly steers us clear, despite it being hinted that there were some citizens that suffered badly, off-page. Also, there is something essentially gross about the character Todd that makes my skin crawl every time he's on-page. On the whole, an interesting debut novel with moments that will spark a reader's daydreams. There are no discussion topics on this book yet. She is also the recipient of a McKnight Fellowship. The drug accesses long forgotten memories, complete with emotional and physical sensations, and replays them like a virtual reality dream or LSD flashback, take your pick.

    Deletrium is the nitro-glycerine of the mind. Ursu crafts a novel that asks the question, What is memory? Are our memories detailed factual accounts of our past, or do we alter them over time to suit our needs? Imagine having a vivid memory of an event suddenly flash into view.


    1. KIRKUS REVIEW.
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    3. Spilling Clarence ( edition) | Open Library.
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    6. Spilling Clarence : NPR.
    7. Imagine that this memory, this exact replica of actual events, does not match the memory you have carried with you all of your life.