The Book of Jon
The Book of Jon




Press Reviews

“In the past century, poetic collage has gone from revolutionary composition method to creative-writing exercise, but it has lost none of its force. . . . The contemporary collage poem in particular has proved itself to be a remarkably flexible form, capable of containing many matters and arguments and of availing itself readily of reflexivity and meta-collage. . . . The Book of Jon is beautifully and scrupulously written, and like many of the grand collages of the past century, it acknowledges that human experience is by definition partial, fragmentary, and riddled with obfuscations, as is the art that most faithfully reflects it.” - Susan M. Schultz, The Boston Review

“Eleni Sikelianos is no ordinary memoirist. She is first and foremost a poet, and it’s the precision and thoughtfulness of her language that draws us in. In it she explores her troubled love for her father in a series of short chapters that incorporate observations, rants, dreams, letters, a family tree, photographs, poetry.” - Andrew Ervin, The Washington Post

“The Book of Jon is a poem in the form of a memoir, a tragedy in the form of gradual revelation, a tale in the form of a nightmare from which you are not allowed to wake. It is a book of rare beauty, an elegy comprised of affirmation, illustration, divination, and pure loss.” - Laura Wright, The American Book Review

“Here in this small, potent book are shards of beauty and pain, succinct and stinging expressions of thwarted love and searing anger. . . . Writing with great lyricism, she sees her family tragedies and her legacy of creativity and chaos as part of the long walk of human history. In every meticulously distilled line, she finds lift and solace in the beauty of language.” - Donna Seaman, Speakeasy Magazine

“This is a short, touching memoir by the author about the complex relationship she has had with her troubled father, Jon. Told through letters, reminiscences, poems and journal entries, one learns of the difficult yet loving and forgiving bond the author developed with her dad who at times had been an alcoholic, a drug addict and part-time homeless person.” - Santa Barbara News-Press

"Eleni Sikelianos is no ordinary memoirist. . . . She is first and foremost a poet, and it's the precision and thoughtfulness of her language that draw us in. . . . Despite her father's flaws, or perhaps because of them, Sikelianos makes him an engrossing, unforgettable character." - The Washington Post Book World

"The Book of Jon is a poem in the form of a memoir, a tragedy in the form of a gradual revelation . . . it is a book of rare beauty, an elegy comprised of affirmation, illustration, divination, and pure loss . . . nothing less than stunning." - Laura Wright, American Book Review



Quotations

"A wonderful memoir, held together by string, rumour, glimpses of a father – and there is nothing like this father in literature – evoked toughly and with great love and above all art and craft. Both subject and author are unforgettable. We see a life approached informally from all sides and we read an obituary to die for." -Michael Ondaatje

"The Book of Jon is a moving and wonderful experience. Absolutely terrific memoir, and just the right size. " -Andrei Codrescu, author of Wakefield and many other books

"Like the heroin high he describes, the Book of Jon is a cinematic memoir in which a ravaged and rackabones father 'beams, flashes and fluctuates' – and squanders a family's Book of Hours. An artist of searching and restless intelligence, Eleni Sikelianos evokes road trips, pipe dreams, chemically induced disorder, thwarted tenderness and vanishing acts with charged particles of light. This is her most stunning achievement thus far." -Rikki Ducornet, author of The Word Desire

“The pure products of America go crazy” William Carlos Williams laments and one sees the starry-eyed mongrel male youth (the poet’s “Dear Father Dear Jon Dear Pop”) caught in a maelstrom of damning proclivity – seductive inebriants, vicissitudes of visionary hippiedom gone awry, botched talent. It’s a difficult America to ride. One wants the old invisible one of hobos and dreamers and moonshine. Given a personal drama which includes a fractured yet prodigious family and its impressive Greco-American lineage of creative men and women, what might the modus operandi for transformation and survival consist of? What is the greater gnosis here? Eleni Sikelianos’s Book of Jon is a bittersweet offering of imagination and love, as much about herself, the miraculous poet, as it is about the beloved , tragic father and their relationship. Anecdote, dreams, lore, lush description of landscapes transcend the grit and horror of this personal tale. This is one of the most affecting and revelatory memoirs I have ever read. “I will go out and walk all night in the goddamned moonlight...” says Jon. -Anne Waldman

"Father's Day, I was in Santa Barbara visiting my daughter. We got sandwiches on lower State Street at the Greek Deli, which, along with Joe's Bar (one of the places I used to look for my old man), I told my daughter that was about all that was left from the 60s and 70s when lower State was Santa Barbara's skid row, and her grandpa lived in the YMCA in that's now a parking lot across from the Greyhound Depot. I could see the more I went on about it, anyway, the distant past held little interest on a day when the sunny boulevard was full of tourists and students shopping boutiques, hopping from sports-bar to dining on tapas in fountained patios. I shut up about her grandfather (who everyone else recalls only, when they bother, as the most essentially alcoholic of men), unable to shake his ghost in parking lots and single occupancy furnished rooms that no longer exist. I read this book dutifully, thinking, 'Okay, I'll do my duty – but we've lived this story, so do we have to read about it, too?' My guess is yes. We haven't heard the end of it yet, and we haven't heard about it in this way before. The untold stories, post-mortem dreams and oblique inferences Sikelianos composes for The Book of Jon cast smoky shadows of hope in the pungent colors of lived experience. Instead of another regurgitated tell-all memoir in the genre as currently marketed, instead of detailing in conventional melodramatic or operatic naturalism the body blows causing the wind to be knocked out of all the childhoods under these kind of fathers, Sikelianos structures The Book of Jon tellingly and evocatively through elision and inference juxtaposed with a poet's snapshot-apt observation. Someone close to me (who's back in rehab again at the moment) once yelled at me, 'Never, ever write anything about me! My problems are not the subjects of your poems!' And Sikelianos's The Book of Jon isn't playing back her father's self-destruction for dramatic effect, for an evening's entertainment. She's not selling her own damage for the sake of authenticity in the market for reminiscences. Instead, with hard looks and casual bluntness, she's made a book of beaded moments that blesses both father and daughter even-handedly. The Book of Jon honors that difficult duty. -Sesshu Foster, author of Atomik Aztex