“Because I want, if nothing else, for you to understand how much we love.”
We all have ambition that drives us. We make the choices that end up shaping our experience. And it seems that in the end the telltale question, the indicator that decides for us whether or not we made the right choices is: Would you do it all over again? And, well, would you? Are you happy with the choices you’ve made thus far? Joseph Riippi’s new novel Because (also: b/c) compels you to think about your life choices by offering an artistic presentation of all his desires.
“I want to plant a magnolia tree outside the window nearest you so you have something beautiful to look at when you stretch your back.”
‘I want…’ Riippi’s story presents itself as a boundless compilation of wants. Rather than write a rote autobiography, Riippi uses painfully honest, truly lovely statements, comprising his copious wants, to explore the complexity of life itself. The rawness of the prose put me off because I have to admit that I didn’t enjoy reading it at first. I had never realized how much I enjoy reading a thoughtful storyline in books until I found myself searching for some kind, any kind of story or plot in Riippi’s novel. Finding none, I might have felt a little disconcerted. But halfway through the short novel, I finally realized that a candid charm rests in its unconventional rendition.
“I want to experience a night time day. I want us to dream and walk backwards in time along the pink-purple ribbons of never-before-seen northern lights.”
Because has a childlike magic running through its pages reminiscent of a child catching fireflies at sundown. Riippi, like us, has endless wants, almost all of which will never be realized. Similarly, as children, we all had seemingly endless wants: a new bike, the next Nintendo, a prettier doll, and some of these wants even got fulfilled. However, as we got older, our wants became desires, slightly more complicated, and then eventually, aspirations, even more demanding of our attention. We stop thinking about what we don’t have and start thinking about what’s missing. Riippi’s beautiful rendition of his wants, desires, and aspirations into one unified collection of simple sentences, lightly touches on this idea of growing older and the implications it has on our decisions. He mingles our need to fulfill ourselves with the mature complexity inherent in our longings.
“I want to tell you how Juno died first, of cancer, aged almost 91 in dog years and how then Ginger died three days later, even though she was much younger and hadn’t been sick at all.”
Beyond the enumeration of desires, Riippi bleeds nostalgia as he unloads his encounters with life’s beauty and hardships onto paper. He doesn’t tell you about his experiences, he makes you understand. You end the novel feeling as if you know the author personally, as if you met in a coffee shop and he casually told you about why he became a writer and what he had for dinner last night. You can also feel the love he exudes for the people in his life, and that love ends up being his main motivation for writing the novel. There’s an aestheticism to Because that takes some getting used to, but the pursuit is irresistible. I want you to read this novel, I want you to go on that search, and I want you to learn something new about yourself.
Photo: Micaela Beltran/The Georgetown Voice