Ready Fire Aim

Ready Fire Aim by Kevin Triggs (2015) One of the pleasures, and indeed benefits of reading in a relaxed way, and as slowly as I do (several books at once, slow as molasses) is that I make a lot of connections with other books I'm reading at the same time—and even my life as I'm living it. This novel, by a Milwaukee author who I've met, follows George, our late-teen protagonist, through a year or so of his life as he navigates one big interconnected storm of hormones, intense but very small family (him and his mom), first love, alcohol, drugs, work, responsibly, friendship, group politics, and his vital connection to the world. It's set among the backdrop of Milwaukee's anti-racist skinhead culture of the time, and that alone is pretty fascinating—the struggles and support within a close-knit group, amidst external struggles (directly and sometimes violently opposed to overtly racist groups, while being misunderstood by the mainstream). But it's also a great portrait of guy, a place, and a time. As far as the place, since I live here, it's fun to know the references, whether exactly on or slightly fictionalized, but if you've never been to Milwaukee you can get a pretty good picture of one side of it, at least from the early-Nineties perspective. And then as it travels through a year or so of time—I found myself, by chance, reading along as the seasons coincided. Also, it just happened that a major cultural event in the story—the police beating of Rodney King, and subsequent riots, in spring 1991—also took place in the timeline as I was reading this Leonard Cohen biography. George, I'm guessing, is roughly Triggs' age, at the time, and as the narrative is in first person, with a distinctive voice, one has to wonder the extent of it being autobiographical. I know you're not supposed to ask or care, but I like that tension. George is a guy who's very much that age (you want to take him aside, once in awhile, and tell him to relax, be patient!), but he's also much more advanced than I was. He's very much looking at the big picture, and you think, he's going to be okay. Whether the world is going to be okay remains to be seen, but I found this story, while often being painful, to be about growing, and thus ultimately hopeful.