Tuesday, February 27, 2007

One Book Today


First and last, two more butterflies that I didn't show before. Today the paper tells us the honey bees are dying. Even quilted butterflies add a little cheer. Yes, like the frogs which disappeared in many locales a couple of years ago, the honey bees are leaving the hive and simply not returning ... apparently dying. It's not just a matter of no honey. They pollinate, as we all know. In Califorina it's a matter of the almond trees which need the honey bees. Millions are being imported from Australia ... will they remain healthy or will they die of whatever is killing the natives? We have to conclude that something about the world is askew, wrong, out of whack, messed up. No one knows what it is. The Powers That Be try to deny global warming and the ruination of much of the natural world. We can't possibly admit that the huge populatio of humans on this earth and their greedy use of natural resources might be tipping the natural scale in a way that is dangerous for all living things.

One book, not ten today: I finished Jim Harrison's THE ROAD HOME last night and spent a couple of hours before falling asleep and manyl moments today pondering. It is a novel of character -- also of generations of a Nebraska family with a great deal of Native American in the blood lines. I prefer character novels that really delve into the people and do not depend on plot or incident, although there must be plot, of course. Plot is always the most contrived and artificial component. Plot comes from cleverness; character comes from insight and love of humanity.

Harrison wrote a wonderful book called DALVA years ago which I liked very much. THE ROAD HOME manages to be both pre-quel and sequel, a neat trick. I was totally caught up in the first third which is from the point of view of Dalva's grandfather, Northridge, a half Lakota, half white who has accumlated a great deal of money and who prepares for his death. I felt powerfully the inevitable, and accepted death of a man who was almost a force of nature who lived by his own set of principles and had a deep connection to his Native American ancestry while being very "white". He was both a monster and a mystic in his way. It is for me very gratifying to read a novelist who respects, loves, I think [without sentimentality] Native American culture.

The remainder of the novel is about his immediate family, including Dalva, the half Lakota son she gave up for adoption, her mother, and a second son of Northridge's. Each has a long first person segment. We see the family from all those perspecives. They are priviledged, monied people, although they never "act rich". Because they have all the money they need and are able to be generous and to act on impules [as poor people can't], the reader feels a distance from them. [I speak of my non-wealthy self]

However, I felt that I know that family, more completely than I know most real people including family. When a very good writer writes in first person the reader sees through their eyes, but remains "Reader" knowing that no one sees himself clearly. The reader must always also be the critic. However, the joy of reading comes from making acquaintances and caring about people sometimes almost as deeply as about actual people I know. Creating a fully rounded character is the true wonder of fine writing. When the character is in a demanding situation, we measure ourselves against them, i.e., I understand the choice Dalva made at the end of the novel, but if I made a similar choice under similar cicumstances, it would be for a totally diffrent reason. Reading helps us understand such things about ourselves and may even prepare us for what we will face in the future or enlighten us about what we have done in the past. Certainly truly good writing is always more than entertainment.

1 comment :

Tag(Carpet)Bagger said...

Nice Quilted Butterfly