Monday, December 27, 2021

Bewilderment, by Richard Powers

Powers is in a league all his own when it comes to writing about the environment and impending climate catastrophe. He speaks with crystalline emotional and moral clarity about the natural world crashing down around us; we should be terrified, he says, and we must confront the political and economic powers invested in keeping us blithely indifferent.

Tuesday, December 14, 2021

Darkness, Hope

Like everyone, I'm exhausted.  Minnesota has one of the highest covid transmission rates in the country and has held that position for weeks.  I've been afraid to do much of anything outside our home, other than the usual and necessary errands.

It's becoming apparent that this way of living is not sustainable.  I feel depression creeping up.  So F. and I are going out for breakfast tomorrow, early, to escape the crowds.  I hate to take the risk of getting or transmitting covid, mostly because our doctors and nurses are desperate for relief.  But depression can be just as dangerous as covid--it makes me push away those I love most. 

I'm trying to cling to the news that is most hopeful: the omicron virus is less deadly, the Pfizer antiviral pill is 90 percent effective early in the disease.  I need that hope.  For the first time I see why Jesus listed it among the top three: faith, hope, and love. 

As a survivor of childhood abuse, I've noticed a pattern: I feel my worst just before a memory or insight that propels intense growth.  I hope the pandemic is like that. I hope it precedes a world-wide  reckoning, a humbling here in the U.S., where our sense of control and entitlement has been blown to smithereens--then ushers in a new era of intense growth and innovation. 

I hope. 

Friday, December 10, 2021

The Sheep Queen, by Thomas Savage: A Review

Oops.  I so much wanted to love this.  But this sprawling family saga sprawls so far and wide that it's nearly impossible to keep track of who's who, how they're related to each other, and why they do what they do.  I was desperate for at least a family tree, or a cast of characters, but there was no help to be found.  

There were also descriptions, ideas, and whole paragraphs that struck me as way-too-familiar.  Either I'd seen them earlier in the book, or remembered them from Power of the Dog--a disconcerting deja vu.  Plus, there were sudden shifts in time, place, and speaker that just ... happened ... from one sentence to the next, with no speaker tag, paragraph break, or segue.  Even the two most important characters, The Sheep Queen (Emma) and her daughter Elizabeth, seemed hard to distinguish from each other, which further muddied the central mystery: who, if anyone, gave up her infant daughter for adoption?

Savage can write, no doubt about it.  And I think I get what he was intending to do, and partially accomplished at the end.  But the book was a slog to get through and I almost gave up several times in frustration.  

With some better editing, this book could've been great.  As it is, it feels like a rough draft--a messy pool of scenes and people and events not yet honed into a work of art. 

Tuesday, December 7, 2021

Power of the Dog, by Thomas Savage

I love discovering new authors--or in this case, old, dead authors--whose works are vivid, powerful, and not-widely-known.  As for Power of the Dog, you may have seen the movie with Benedict Cumberbatch (always worth watching!) and been either mystified or blown away by its ending. Whether you have or haven't seen the movie, it's well worth reading the book.  The novel fleshes out some of the more mysterious elements of the plot and characters--especially what motivates two of the central characters, Phil and Peter.  The abusive Phil of the novel is more sympathetic, and the Peter of the novel more chillingly remote. 

The movie (directed by Jane Campion, best known for The Piano) is beautiful and deeply affecting, and treats us to a wholly unanticipated ending.  In the novel,  the ending is shocking but also deeply poignant.  We question the neatness of good and bad, and experience the tragedy of simply being human. 

Read the book. 

Featured Post

Forging the Second Self: A memoir in progress.

Forging the Second Self: Post-Teaching, Post-Mothering, Post-Midlife: Who Will I Be Now? Part I.: Who Am I Now? When I see myself a...