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Norman author's “Letters” offers a poignant look at friendship that lives on

Book review: “Letters to the One-Armed Poet: A Memoir of Friendship, Loss, and Butternut Squash Ravioli” by Nathan Brown, of Norman
ERICA SMITH Published: March 28, 2011

Known for his award-winning works of poetry, Norman author Nathan Brown releases his first “mostly nonfiction” book, “Letters to the One-Armed Poet: A Memoir of Friendship, Loss, and Butternut Squash Ravioli” (Village Books Press, $15).

A poignant reflection on his friendship with late Oklahoma author and poet Jim Chastain, this collection of memories follows a trail that starts deep inside the heart of the author and travels through his pen and onto the paper as a celebration of a life cut short by cancer.

Each recollection is a short (often one page) account of laughter and life, hope but reality, denial yet truth. It's in the small things people don't first think about when it comes to loss — deleting that person's number from your phone.

Or hearing a song that reminds you of that person when least expected. These are the moments Brown puts to the page. Each story will subconsciously make you put your hand to your heart, not so much for the one lost, but for the friend left behind.

Chastain's poem, “The Last Supper,” is a ‘smorgasbord' of local and not-so-local fare he knew he would miss most when gone — appetizers, soups and salads, main courses, desserts and drinks.

Brown makes it a personal mission to honor his friend by pursuing this “lengthy and lustful” menu ... “the poem that launched a million calories.” It's a remarkable undertaking, complete with visits from old friends (what's a “last supper” without a chosen few?) and some homemade guacamole that sounded so enticing, I had to whip up my own bowl of green bliss before I could even finish the book.

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Jim Chastain's fight for survival was chronicled in The Oklahoman and on in the 2009 series, “Life Is Real: Writing the Final Chapters.”


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