Grip McCormick, the narrator of Robert Leland Taylor’s Through the Ant Farm (ABC Group Documentation), is as odd as his name, but what could anyone expect when the name originated from his drunken father who was “yelling and cussing” at his wife’s hospital bedside until she gave in. His name is the least of his problems, one of which is he is in prison for killing his father. Through the Ant Farm takes place over a few days leading up to Grip’s first parole hearing after seven years of incarceration as Grip guides us through his life trying to point out the incidents which may have importance in the forming of his character.
Since finishing Robert Leland Taylor’s book last week, Grip nagged at my thoughts. I don’t know what to make of him: Is he a genius? Is he just socially inept? Is he schizophrenic? Is he depressed? What the fuck is up with him? Reducing Grip’s personality and discovering what may motivate him is impossible, but that is what makes him such a fleshed-out character. Here is a small passage which Grip discusses how he feels about killing his father; we are with Grip as he tries to come to some understanding of what drives him.
Am I sorry I killed my Daddy? People around here ask me that all the time. I always tell them I didn’t kill my father, I killed a man who refused to be my father. Dr. Gladstone once told me there was a word for that in psychiatric circles.
“Yeah? What’s it called?” I asked.
“It’s called bullshit.”
Dr. Gladstone can be pretty blunt sometimes. But I know for a fact that he likes me, maybe even loves me, and I know for sure he’s concerned about me.
Some things you just know.
He’s forever trying to get me to express remorse for what I’d done and I know it’s part of his job, but I’m just trying to be honest. And now that I’ve had plenty of time to think about it, I don’t expect it was Dad’s fault for being the way he was, no more than you’d fault a spider for being a spider or a snake for being a snake.
Some things, I guess, are permanent.
I want to be sorry. I try with all my might to be sorry.
Mom suggested once that Dad was in pain like a wounded animal and needed more love and understanding than all the family put together. I think about that a lot. I’m sorry I blew his ear off, but that was an accident—I only meant to kill him (ha-ha).
Like Mom, Dr. Gladstone is always telling me I should’ve spent more time trying to understand him. He told me that killing Dad was the easy way out, and I suspect he’s right.
I can’t say I miss my dad, not even a little. But during the wee hours when we were all bedded down under the very same roof in the very same house, I missed him something fierce.
At the funeral home, Mom had him all decked out like I’d never seen him—a white shirt, tie, yellow sweater and black pants. Sort of like a one-eared Mr. Rogers. She took pictures of him and sent me one, which hangs on the wall near my cot.
I stare at it a lot.
Of course, I didn’t get to see Dad at the funeral home in his new outfit, because they wouldn’t let me go.
I guess at some point I should tell you that Robert Lelan Taylor’s book is not crime fiction, rather it is a character-driven novel of a young man who is not as sarcastic as Holden Caufield or as off-putting as Ignatius J. Reilly, but like his two predecessors, Robert Leland Taylor’s Grip stands as his own complete entity with imperfections and innocence. The oddities which occur in his life are presented by Grip without judgment or extraneous color, things just happened and then Grip moved on. Robert Leland Taylor’s Through the Ant Farm is a captivating book that left me not wanting more, rather left me thinking about a character, his circumstances and what lies ahead for him. If you want to read a book that ties up everything, don’t bother; if you want a book that has you thinking about it days afterward, then this is for you.