Only the Dead by Vidar Sundstol, Minnesota Trilogy 2, puts me in Minnesota on the shores of Lake Superior, a place I will be heading to this summer. No sooner have I begun this book than I’m reminded of the last book with a moral conundrum: “ This knowledge has transformed Lance into a corrupt police officer who is protecting a family member from the law.” (p 37) By the time we learn this, we know this, or at least should be suspecting it. Two brother hunters in Ojibwe country in Minnesota on Lake Superior is the setting. Murder becomes the focus as we often see in stories of brothers, guns, and hunting. This is a slow methodical hunt as the brothers navigate the truth, wrestle with their consciences as Indian spirits provide the impetus for action. The November hunt for deer and a solution top the moral conundrum conflicts with a curious backstory and an incredible ice storm. Now I need to find Minnesota Trilogy 1 and wait for 3.
Wednesday, February 25, 2015
How to be Both by Ali Smith is an adventure in being here and there, alive and dead, as George navigates the recent death of her mother. Yes, ‘her’ mother is dead. Yes, George is a girl. Maybe being both starts in a name. “This will be the first year her mother hasn’t been alive since the year her mother was born. That is so obvious that it is stupid even to think it and yet terrible that you can’t not think of it. Both at once.” (P 4) This is a story of a girl remembering her recently deceased mother and the trip they took to Italy and fell in love with a painting by an obscure painter. In a fact more was known about the subject of the painting than the painter. This is a novel about the mother, the girl, and the painter. George is constantly reminding herself, “Not says. Said.” And she is a stickler for proper grammar, always. After her mother’s death, Georgia, that’s right that’s her other name, sees a therapist, Mrs. Rock, who is confusing George/Georgia even more as Mrs. Rock introduces mystery and the exploration of said word that will continue next Tuesday. Then we are transported back in time to when the painter painted the painting. Then it is his story and we discover the key about how to do both.
A moral conundrum is how to be both.
Monday, February 23, 2015
Bridge by Robert Thomas is a tale of wonder, the mind, and a rabbit hole we go in with a girl named Alice. This book is loaded with great insight into the human mind as viewed through a patient in a psycho ward in SF. “That’s the worst isn’t it? To take the one thing someone does well, the one wildflower that barely survives in the shadow of their mountain of mediocrities, and tell them that’s it, that’s what I hate about you.” P 49 Alice chats with us, though she tells us she hates chatting, about everything as if we are her shrink. It’s cool and scary. “And I wanted David to have sex with me in the stairwell so I wouldn’t have to let him into my apartment. I could go in alone and flop on the couch and wait until I had the baby. Give birth to some Don or, yes Donna who one day would look at herself in the mirror and realize she was like … me. And so I stopped talking to David.” p 72 Alice has quite the fantasy and quite the story that seeps out slowly, like blood from a cut. We get images of a struggling woman who has trouble just going to work and then her fantasy takes over from there and we are not sure if some of her actions are real or not. That is the point here, not knowing what is real and what is not. It made me stop and think and just look around. “That’s why people travel: to change identities. “ p80
Thursday, February 19, 2015
The Chessmen by Peter May returns me to my Scottish roots via Inspector Fin Macleod on the Outer Hebrides that involve the Lewis chessmen. Last time we saw Fin was after he solved a case in his hometown, Uig on Lewis. He had been a detective in Edinburgh and the case brought him home when he retired after that case. He also discovers a son he didn’t know he had from his high school sweetheart. They are now living together. His retired life finds him as head of security for an estate that wants him to rid it of poachers. One of the poachers is an old friend from high school, Whistler. Whistler is a genius but lives like tramp in a croft. Fin and Whistler discover the plane of a rock star who died seventeen years earlier when a bog burst, that is drained and left a huge hole with the plane. Upon first look, Fin determines the pilot was murdered and that the plane didn’t crash. Once a cop always a cop.
Berserker rooks, people going berserk, and simply following the berserker is enough to make one go berserk. It has to be the peat. Anyway, a suicide note begins and ends our tale, a priest has saved his daughter and granddaughter by breaking the sixth commandment and put his job on the line, and Fin is settling into life with a second family. Oh and his past comes back again and provides the drama for the day.
Fin is looking at his Aunt’s derelict house, the one he grew up in after his parents died in a car crash when he was very young: “As he frequently did, he wondered what point there was in it all. Were we really just here to procreate and pass on, leaving our seed upon the earth to do as we had done, as our fathers had done before us, and theirs before them? A meaningless cycle of birth, life, death?” (page 128) What brings this on has to be the death of Roddy who was the main guy in a band in which Fin was a roadie. Once again the past returns and becomes the present, bringing the surviving band members and others back on stage for one more act: to find the murderer of Roddy seventeen years ago. Another common bond for these lads is the famous Iolaire disaster. The survivors’ kin now people the towns. They are all linked by the few who saved a few more when so many died after surviving WWI, just yards from home. These grandchildren of the survivors are again in a situation that could bring another tragic event to the town’s doorstep.
Stay clear of the Bridge to Nowhere is the message for me. How many Bridges to Nowhere are there.
What we have here is the continuation of a beautiful relationship between Fin the retired cop, and the protégé, George Gunn. Keep ‘em coming Mr. May.
Tuesday, February 17, 2015
Shark by Will Self follows Umbrella and is the second in the trilogy. Self takes starting in the middle of things to an extreme; as this novel begins with a lower case letter and in the middle of a sentence and ends pretty much the same way. Then the roller coaster ride, nurse sharks, through prose forests, verbal valleys, rhyming rivers, and subtle and blatant innuendos very reminiscent of Virginia Wolff begins. Just as in life, there are no stops, here, we just keep on going, The reader rests at self chosen points and picks up by overlapping and then getting back in the race. She came in through the bathroom window; in the outskirts of Northern London we encounter drugs, whores, misfits, and Dickensian folk in all their glory. I love the rawness of the writing. The vivid images are, loan sharks, tantalizingly voyeuristic, sadistic, bizarre, outlandish, impish, compelling, seductive. The transitions from one addled brain to the next is murky at best in this Tourette’s ravaged novel. An LSD induced kaleidoscope of contrary images, similar images, images dripping, flowing, blending into the next and then morphing into another until finally my eyes are tired and I keep going because there aren’t natural stops, paragraphs, chapters, parts to this one long sentence, circling sharks, of 466 pages. It’s magical. God is within me and therefore I am my own master. A Hellerian treatment of World War II on one hand and then a Carlinian acid trip exposé of a day in the life of. Chores be damned. Eating? Not now. I can’t put this book down. Claude, a spotter for the Enola Gay crew when the bomb was dropped is suffering from that event. His anguish spills over into today: “Pouting a small cloud, Michael thinks, The most substantial thing about me is the smoke… And then: It doesn’t matter whether the lunatic American was on the A-bomb mission or not, the coincidence of the two of us, here, now is …paralyzing.” (page 308) Jump the Shark. The vets sit around Lincoln Houses waiting for the next meal watching Jaws and reliving the war. Always in search of that next smoke.