John Banks’ new book, Glorify Each Day, is seldom what it seems to be. The stories and the characters that populate the pages are perfectly enigmatic. Even the book’s title is a calculated contradiction. Says Banks, “’Glorify’ really isn’t about religion at all. It pokes fun at fundamentalism and the basic religiosity of our society.”
The jacket notes describe the book as the story of Tommy “Teach” Morrison, a teacher, raconteur, and alleged devil worshiper. Teach can’t let go of his secret past, and can’t cope with the loss of the love of his life and the events of his here and now, due in no small measure to a violent nature. The reader soon discovers that there is much more to the book than the synopsis suggests. Banks, a native of Ashville, North Carolina, typifies the tradition of southern writers through his use of engaging storytelling, meticulously drawn characters, and a penchant for finding humor in most anything. Simultaneously, he also demonstrates an ability to create moving imagery of the tragic side of people and situations.
For me, Glorify Each Day is not a story in the traditional sense. It feels more like a written “scrapbook” made up of intimate diary entries, journal observations, essays from his students, and striking word pictures of Teach’s life up to this moment. While Banks’ written rambles produce content that lead us on and on but seemingly arrive nowhere, there are passages and accounts which, while not ends in themselves, offer promising suggestions.
The mercurial quality of the book’s core story is offset in good measure by the secondary stories which are capable on their own of engaging the reader. Many of the fictional student essays are insightful, such as one written by a lesbian student about her coming out. The portrait of events resulting from Teach’s violent nature, are powerful and relevant to the violent profile of our society as a whole. And the sensitive portrayal of the blossoming of Teach’s relationship with his college girlfriend, the deterioration of that relationship, and the pain and trauma of their break-up is compelling. Individually and collectively, these stories bind together Banks’ “scrapbook.”