A Criminal Personality Rationalized and Romanticized

A Prison Character Rationalized and Romanticized


As I started studying “Groundskeeping,” Lee Cole’s first novel, I discovered it tough to place down. My enjoyment of it had little to do with the intriguing and optimistic promotional blurbs.

Reviewers describe “Groundskeeping” as “a wrenching examination of sophistication variations” that addresses “the painful passage between youth and maturity,” and serves up a robust “story about younger writers in love,” and is a “a forensic examination of our poisonous politics.” Hamilton Cain of The New York Instances acknowledged, “It’s a thrill – a aid – to learn a author who approaches his male characters with generosity and instinct.”

As a forensic psychologist, what stood out to me was the unfolding of a legal character in Owen, the central male character who’s portrayed sympathetically. An aspiring author, Owen falls in love with Alma, a resident instructing fellow at Ashby School close to Louisville, Kentucky. Owen and Alma come from very totally different backgrounds, the previous having grown up in rural Kentucky, the latter being the daughter of medical doctors who fled their native war-torn Bosnia to settle in suburban Washington, D.C. Whereas Owen was residing a peripatetic existence utilizing medicine and spending cash he didn’t have, Alma had a way of objective. She instructed Owen, “I wasn’t passing any bongs in highschool. I used to be prepping for the SAT.” She was admitted to a few Ivy League faculties and graduated from Princeton. Already a printed creator, she obtained an advance on a brand new e book undertaking.

Alma genuinely cares about different folks and reveals it. In distinction to Owen, Alma is pleased with her dad and mom and maintains an excellent relationship with them. Though Owen expresses nostalgia for his childhood, he continues to seethe with contempt for his household and for rural Kentucky the place he grew up.

Owen is an adventurer and pleasure seeker. Because the novel begins, he’s employed as a “groundskeeper” at Ashby School and is enrolled in a single English class. Self-absorbed and perennially discontent, Owen has moved from place to position with what he termed “a historical past of shitty odd jobs.” Closely in debt, he has by no means had his own residence and has lived for months in his automotive. Telling Alma that his drug use has been “tame,” he acknowledges heavy ingesting and utilizing marijuana, cocaine, and even heroin. When Alma asks why medicine remained a part of his life for thus lengthy, he replies, “As a result of it felt good.”

Owen is all about what he seems like doing in the meanwhile. He cozies as much as and makes use of members of the family when it fits him. Once in a while, he plops down on a sofa to go to his grandfather whose essential exercise is sitting in a chair watching John Wayne motion pictures. He does little to really assist him or make his life higher. When “Pop” asks him to trim a maple tree within the yard, Owen, who trims timber for a residing, dismisses his request, telling him, “It doesn’t even want it.” Not lengthy after, Pop dies exterior in frigid temperatures whereas making an attempt to chop tree branches. When Owen’s mom tries to contact him to interrupt this information, Owen ignores her fourteen calls and units his cellphone on “don’t disturb,” as a result of he doesn’t wish to be bothered by no matter she has to say.

Owen is a parasite, at all times able to take, whereas Alma is a giver. She lets Owen transfer into her quarters on the faculty’s visitor home. When he orders an $80 bottle of wine, she pays. When Alma invitations Owen to accompany her on a go to to her dad and mom, she affords to purchase his airplane ticket. Embarrassed to just accept, Owen hits his father up for a mortgage. His dad replies, “I simply don’t know if I can preserve enabling you to fail” and bemoans his son’s “aimlessness.” Owen’s inside response earlier than hanging up on his father: “All I might consider have been indignant, vicious issues.” Decided to acquire the funds for the airplane ticket, he steals his grandfather’s treasured vintage bayonet and pawns it for $250, referring to it as “solely a bit of metallic.” Later, Pop misses the bayonet, however Owen, the thief, doesn’t fess up.

Owen hardly ever has paid his personal means. Regardless of his full-time job as a tree trimmer, he has simply $100 within the financial institution. He complains that he has at all times achieved “handbook labor for depressing wages.” When he competes with a co-worker in making use of for a promotion to supervisor, he doesn’t get it. He continues spending past his means. He and Alma order from a tasting menu – “seventy bucks a pop, cash I don’t actually have.”

Owen is at all times able to criticize. When he first sees the neighborhood the place Alma’s dad and mom stay, he thinks, “The homes projected a type of cleanliness that bordered on sterility.” Schadenfreude, a Louisville bar that he frequents at evening, is available in for criticism as a result of its daytime patrons are
“not hip.” He feedback, “Within the unforgiving gentle of day, you could possibly see how soiled the bar was.” Though he takes Alma for a meal at Cracker Barrel, a well-liked southern chain restaurant, Owen denigrates it as “commodified nostalgia used to promote gimmicky bullshit to octogenarians.”

Pop’s son, Cort, who hardly ever emerges from his room, turns into exasperated sufficient to inform Owen, “You suppose every thing’s about you.” That statement is on course. Owen feels entitled and expects others to accommodate him. He muses, “I puzzled when in my life I’d be entitled to name a spot my very own.” He’s chronically indignant at a world that he finds unsatisfactory. He displays, “Anger alone was straightforward. It was low-cost and lazy.”

Amongst his many resentments is his antipathy towards Alma’s dad and mom. He concludes that, regardless of their going out of their strategy to please him, “They don’t suppose I’m adequate for her.” Owen accuses his personal mom of being “lukewarm” towards Alma even after she and his stepfather had embraced her and even self-consciously corrected their very own grammar whereas doing so. Alma is usually charmed however typically repulsed when she hears Personal’s invective directed towards his native Kentucky and what he calls “rural South grotesqueries.”

For months, Alma has watched Owen writing detailed notes. Lastly, he permits her to learn what he has been engaged on. Devastated and livid at being “the article of his artwork,” Alma exclaims, “It’s my materials. You used my life.” She accuses Personal of “plagiarism” and tells him, “You get to be the hero. You felt comfy making me appear like a “stuck-up spoiled wealthy lady…the wealthy lady that you simply go to defile. Is that what will get you off?”

When Alma decides to just accept a college place at Ashby School instructing inventive writing within the English division, Owen is perplexed. He can not perceive why she desires to stay in Kentucky somewhat than settle in a spot extra glamorous like New York Metropolis. Alma says to him, “Constructing a life doesn’t sound so dangerous. You need to begin someplace.” She would possibly as properly have been talking in a overseas tongue.

When Owen is obtainable a fellowship by the English Division at Florida State College in Tallahassee, he’s dissatisfied. He had utilized unsuccessfully for different fellowships that may permit him to stay in additional thrilling locations reminiscent of New York, San Francisco, or Europe. He even utilized in Slovakia “which held the promise of journey.” The e book concludes with Owen reneging on what, at most, was a reluctant dedication to Florida State. On the airport, he doesn’t board the airplane. The e book ends there.

“Groundskeeping” stays absorbing till the top because the creator affords excellent descriptions of individuals, locations, and cultures. Nonetheless, the legal character of Owen appears to be unrecognized or rationalized. As an alternative, he’s portrayed with sympathy. Irrespective of how one could attempt to fairly him up, Owen is a liar, a consumer, a thief, a narcissist, and a persistent substance abuser. He perceives himself because the hub of a wheel round which every thing revolves. Little appears acceptable to Owen, a malcontent who calls for that others meet his necessities.


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