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Sep132009

2002

Three Junes

By Julia Glass

Original Publisher: Pantheon (Random House, Inc.)
Current Publisher
: Anchor (Random House, Inc.)

Judy Blundell writes:

On a first read, I thought it was all about family. The nerve-straining gatherings, the tender places we don’t jab, the tender places we do.

But now I know better. Three Junes is all about death. In a dark kitchen, a man embraces his wife from behind as she stands at the sink. What he doesn’t realize is that she’s in the midst of a mercy killing, drowning a newborn puppy. Love and death in a clinch, and Glass never peels them apart.

There are two agonizing deaths in Three Junes and one accidental, close-to-comical one. Paul, Fenno, and Fern slide through memory, trying to get a grasp on grief.   Fenno is the center of the triptych, and oh, how I love him. Poor clenched Fenno, so afraid of desire; for much of the book his most intense physical pleasures are limited to the nibbles of his pet bird and the day in spring when the Fed-Ex drivers switch to shorts.

Three Junes isn’t about AIDS, but it is about a certain place at a certain time, Greenwich Village in the midst of a plague. There’s no political rage in this book, just the rage of Mal as his body fails in excruciating ways.   “Burn it!” he cries to his mother, and so they do, scattering his ashes in a lake. At that point in my reading I jackknifed forward, my head in my lap, and let out a sob-- for a young Mal as Fenno imagines him, a joyous boy careening into a lake, but also for the boys I knew in San Francisco in the early eighties, gorgeous in their Levi 501s. It was not uncommon, back then, for a friend to gesture at one of those delightfully painted Victorians and mention that everyone he’d known who’d lived there was dead.

I remember reading Julia Glass’s acceptance speech and enjoying the small parallels between us-- I, too, had been surprisingly and enormously pregnant at forty-four; I, too, had written for hire but published my first novel from the heart in my forties. “You never, never know,” she says, and it is this sense of wonder at how life blindsides you with the terrible and the marvelous that I find so moving in Three Junes. It’s Mal’s cry-- “for fuck’s sake, live.” It’s what makes me love this book, and, incidentally (head duck, author crush), worship Julia Glass from afar.     

Judy Blundell won the National Book Award in Young People’s Literature in 2008 for her novel, What I Saw and How I Lied.

 

ISBN: 9780385721424

Fiction Finalists that Year:

  • Mark Costello for Big If
  • Adam Haslett for You Are Not a Stranger Here
  • Martha McPhee for Gorgeous Lies
  • Brad Watson for The Heaven of Mercury

Fiction Judges that Year:

Bob Shacochis, Adrienne Brodeur, David Wong Louie, Jay McInerney, Jacquelyn Mitchard

The Year in Literature:  

  • Empire Falls by Richard Russo won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction.
  • Imre Kertész won the Nobel Prize for Literature.

More Information:

Intending to become a painter, Julia Glass moved from her home state of Massachusetts to New York City, where she lived for many years, painting in a small studio in Brooklyn and supporting herself as a freelance editor. Three Junes (2002) was her debut novel, and she has since written two others: The Whole World Over (2006) and I See You Everywhere (2009).


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