JEFF JACKSON: MIRA CORPORA
TWO DOLLAR RADIO, 2013
Jeff Jackson’s Mira Corpora is a short coming of age novel with a whiff of surrealism. At its center is a lost boy, running away from an abusive alcoholic mother. It is Picaresque in structure, and the narrative is heavily filtered through the subjective experience of the boy, named Jeff. It purports to be based on a journal kept by the author, and the author, in interviews, confirms that this is so. Jeff runs away and finds himself first in a homeless camp for children. He then drifts off, first to an abandoned housing development and then a city, where he lives in a cardboard box, and is eventually abducted by sado-masochistic pedophile. The book as narrated resembles a series of musical movements, charting the boy at various ages. The last piece recasts the boy in a different light. Despite the experimental feel, and the orphic distortions of perception and event, in which reality and dream seem to cross, it is a conventionally written book. That is to say, his prose style is linear and Jackson has an assured sense of narrative. Things move forward in time and the events of the novel are staged clearly. Jackson’s prose is brutally concise without being minimalistic. He has a strong visual sense, and his descriptions of people and place are vivid. This allows the emotional intensity of a young life lived on the streets to shine through without bogging down in self-pity or becoming a platitudinous victim narrative. The ending especially shines a harsh light on the protagonist as narrator.
Jackson’s background is in the theatre and this shows in the strength and clarity of his narrative, and the discipline with which we presents each scene. There is a strong sense of narrative reality even when the events are evidently distorted by memory. The runaway boy grows in his sense of the world, and the world he inhabits becomes progressively more dangerous, but psychologically he does not grow so much as harden, become more resigned to his vulnerability and alienation. Jeff’s struggle is to hold onto whatever fleeting sense of autonomy he has. This has been his struggle from the start, when his mother brands his back with an iron because he has been careless with the ironing.
I loved this book. It races along from the start. I look forward to future work in which Jackson engages an adult consciousness, and a plot other than that of coming of age in a horrible world that prizes innocence in the unborn and destroys it in the young.