Michael Browne’s second most recent publication is Pentimento which literally, means a scratching below the surface. It is a metaphor for paintings that are layered over mistakes, revisions, sketches or first drafts and for those draftsmen who peel away the upper levels. Browne definitely delves and probes beneath the more apparent aspects of his life. There are stories of his wildly adventurous youth where he travels to Korea, India and Vietnam looking for spiritual enlightenment. Particularly moving are his family memories and his depiction of death both brutal and beautiful. An engaging section called “Brothers” deals with a group of guys associated with Most Holy Redeemer Catholic Church in San Francisco’s Castro district. He recalls each as they succumb to AIDS. Interspersed with prose is poetry but Browne’s prose is poetry as well with extreme sensitivity to all the senses, colors, nature, weather, light. Impressive is his paean to San Francisco: “There are few cities that engender as much passionate attachment …mesmerizing…the Golden Gate bridge…it’s massive, muscular, clean-lined deco towers and feminine, graceful garlands of steel continue to enchant with a tense and perfect balance…a spell is cast.” His book is a travelogue, a memoir, a set of essays, a lamentation and a history. Every inch an Irish storyteller, throughout there is a streak of Gaelic melancholy.
Both of these books are segmented with units that are contained so that they can be picked up and put down again without losing continuity. Read Local.