Sunday, February 05, 2012
Daytripper: Recommended Reading for Dads
If I were to put together a “Recommended Reading” list for dads, Fàbio Moon and Gabriel Bà’s Daytripper would definitely be on it.
It’s tough for me to talk about it without spoiling it for those who haven’t read it yet. I suck at being coy with the details – especially when it comes to a story like Daytripper -- where I’ve been so eager to tell to anyone who’ll listen about it.
So let me warn you now: POSSIBLE SPOILERS.
If you are the type that gets put off when an ending is prematurely revealed, STOP HERE. I’m more of a “process guy”. I’m more interested in how the story got to where ever it ends up than the ending itself (though in this case, it is the ending that makes sense of everything on the “trip”).
Daytripper is a surreal journey that might immediately be mistaken as one man’s life flashing before his eyes but after the second chapter it might be that the man being shown alternate lives so he can pass in peace. Providing an itinerary for the “trip”, each chapter is named after the man’s age as it relates to that part of the story.
The story begins with the grown (32 year old) son of a famous father waiting across the street from the auditorium where his father is to receive an award. He is in an empty bar killing some time before the start of the event. He starts out just wanting a pack of cigarettes, but the bar is empty and the bartender seems friendly (Conducive for “just one drink”).
The bar is named “Genaro”, so it is natural for, Bràs, the son of the famous father to ask the bartender: “So, are you Genaro?” The bartender responds: “That’s what most people think. But, Genaro, was my father’s name… He named it after himself. I just inherited the place.”
“You could have changed the name of the bar,” Bràs says.
The bartender, Genarinho, responds, “It would still be his bar and I would still be his son.”
Bràs: “We’re all somebody’s son, right?”
Genarinho: “Right. We just don't get to choose our family.”
Genarinho’s nephew enters the bar. This is where the introduction ends and story begins.
Bràs is a writer like his father. But unlike his father, no one recognizes him as a “cultural icon”. He writes obituaries, which either Jorge, Bràs’ best friend, or his girlfriend (I can’t remember) tell him is as equally important because of the sense of closure they offer to the surviving families of the deceased.
I wouldn’t say Bràs is jealous of his father (at least not in the poisonous way that drives soap opera plots). I would say Bràs wants to be a peer to his father. In the events leading up to the start of the story, you are told that Bràs’ father has forgotten his birthday and has forgotten to invite him to the ceremony being held in his honor. It is his mother, who urges him to go and it is Bràs who leads you to believe father has done this before and that Bràs does not interpret it as a personal slight but as a slightly painful part of his father’s personality. So of course he is going to the gala honoring his father, direct invite or not.
Among the many themes possible in Daytripper is the one of “action”. Bràs struggles with his inertness. The example that comes to mind is how, when you were a young child, you were told to stay where you were, if you were ever separated from your parent and lost.
Bràs is lost. He is not unhappy about his job as a obituary writer but he is uninspired by it. He wants more. Bràs is lost and doing what that lost child was told to do – staying right where he was when he realized he was lost and waiting for a parent to find him and set him back on his way.
His friends – Lemanja (goddess of the sea and protector of children) – even his parents – all tell him to take action – to decide – and be on his way. But he has many reasons – both real and invented -- for hesitating. In the context of the story, you are never told whether the events that happen to him after the bar are real or imagined.
Another possible theme in the story directly addresses the relationship between father and son – legacy?
There is no doubt about the influence Bràs’ father has on his life, though it is not an intentional or direct influence. Bràs’ father is not depicted as being overbearing or domineering. It is more a condition of how Bràs empowers the image of his father in his life. I say “image” because his father probably has no clue about the weight of his actions on his son.
As a father of sons, it is the ending of Daytripper that makes it a must read for fathers. I wish I was smart enough to properly convey the sense of its profundity I felt when I read it. I can say though that it is a lost letter from his deceased father found within the pages of Bràs’ first book. And add that the way the letter was found and who found the letter is very symbolic of the relationship between fathers and sons.
As a father to son(s) and/or daughter(s), what books or movies would you recommend to new dads? In addition, to Daytripper, I think all Rice Daddies should watch Jack Neo’s I Not Stupid and I Not Stupid Too.