The Unbearable Lightness of Reading…

 

A marathon it’s been, the best kind – three books in quick succession, by three distinct authors, and connected by one unbroken muscular thread – The People, as they have always called themselves – and their existence from time primeval.

First in the “series,” entirely by happy chance, was MAUD’S LINE, written by Margaret Verble and published in 2015, the fictionalized story of a young Cherokee girl becoming a woman in 20th Century Oklahoma. Its contemporary portrayal of a time just past hooked itself into my imagination from – halleluiah, page one – and delivered me directly to book two.

Which – I assume you’re taking notes – was LAKOTA WOMAN, by Mary Crow Dog and Richard Erdoes, published in 1990, and not fictionalized at all. The author was active and instrumental in the Bureau of Land Management and American Indian Movements of the 1970s and 80s with Russell Means, Dennis Banks, so many others, and her gritty recounting of all the seemingly unrightable wrongs that have altered The People’s reality since the White Guys got here burned itself into my consciousness, not to put too fine a point on it.

So when both a friend and an esteemed nephew recommended Annie Proulx’s BARKSKINS within hours of each other it was clear that lil’ Ms. Serendipity had dropped in again and placed a shiny object in my path. Off the top, let me quickly address a few negative comments I’ve seen: that perhaps Ms. Proulx’s focus is…unevenly focused…that she hammers, that she commits “stylistic infelicities.” Yes, I caught all of that, recognized it, owned it and read on. The scope of the story is so expansive, so unexpectedly gripping, that the combined weight of all the odd little imperfections adds up to less than that of a feather – notable by virtue of existence, but in the end taking nothing from the whole.

Annie Proulx, author of THE SHIPPING NEWS, for which she won a Pulitzer in 1994; BROKEBACK MOUNTAIN, for which she won the prize called “We’re turning your book into a movie;” along with at least a baker’s dozen more titles, has at 80 years of age turned out an epic about trees, of all things, that kept me absorbed from first page to last. Aside from her colossally amazing book, I love that she’s even older than I am, has been described as “sassy,” and knows how to write like a mutha.

Annie takes us from 1693, starting with the French in what became Canada, to 2013 in what is still Canada – with side trips to London, New Zealand, what we now know as the continental United States, and points everywhere around the globe, the entire saga stemming from one family line and diverging throughout multiple others, from the French, to The People, to the Dutch, et.al. And the wonder is that she makes us care about the majority of those characters, even though we sense they are soon to be swept from the stage to make room for succeeding generations, each one more fascinating than the last.

I like big books and I cannot lie, and at more than 700 pages BARKSKINS was too short. Annie Proulx knows how to put us at the scene of the tale with a lovely economy of language; how to scatter engaging and/or redeeming characters into all parts of the story, avoiding what could have become a tedious litany; how to illuminate dilemmas that we would downplay if left on our own. If that shedding of light is “hammering,” we’re clearly in need of a butt-load more of it – the denuding of nearly all this planet’s original forests is but one ongoing dilemma of many.

BARKSKINS indelibly lays out the sins of the past and their consequences for all humanity while also serving up reasons for hope, that essential tool of survival. Hang onto it, you future humans, and may it save your hide since most of your forebears have never carried, nor do they (we) carry, their (our) fair share of responsibility for what your present might look like.

As William T. Vollmann wrote in his New York Times book review:

“Now our own world is likewise fading, thanks to climate change. The root cause of our self-impoverishment is thoughtfully teased out in BARKSKINS, whose best line may well be this: ‘My life has ever been dedicated to the removal of the forest for the good of men.'”  – June 17, 2016

 

c0f76ffc9574e911a56ef475729c1bc6

 

 

Image

The Nickel Tour …

As promised yesterday, a brief reading list from Playing for Time’s archives.  Bets are now open as to how many I can repost without editing …

NOTE:  Each link should open in a new window.

https://playingfortimeblog.com/2013/01/30/behind-every-good-woman-is-a-good-man/

https://playingfortimeblog.com/2015/10/31/everyday-garden-variety-bleeding-hearts/

https://playingfortimeblog.com/2014/12/08/what-scares-you/

https://playingfortimeblog.com/2013/03/12/why-yes-as-a-matter-of-fact-i-was-raised-in-a-barn/

https://playingfortimeblog.com/2013/05/22/memorial-day-reflections/

https://playingfortimeblog.com/2014/09/30/well-this-sucks/  

https://playingfortimeblog.com/2014/09/23/queer-eye-for-the-straight-girl/

https://playingfortimeblog.com/2014/10/28/a-tuesday-full-of-thankfulness/

https://playingfortimeblog.com/2014/10/24/my-brothers-keeper/

https://playingfortimeblog.com/2014/12/22/not-going-down-without-a-rant/

https://playingfortimeblog.com/2015/07/18/the-tale-of-the-topless-dancer-the-baby-clown-and-the-cross-country-heist/

https://playingfortimeblog.com/2014/12/04/a-fairytale-for-throwback-thursday/

https://playingfortimeblog.com/2014/10/25/its-saturyay-try-something-new/

There you go, and I was generous — these are favorites from the past three years and I hope you’ll enjoy one or more.  Actually, I hope you’ll adore every single one of them, but how needy would it sound to say that out loud, jeez.  I reposted them as I found them, and they’re a semi-cross-section of my blog, including humor and tears, longer posts and shorter posts, nostalgia and brashness, and maybe a window or two for peering at the writer in her cage.

If you like poetry there’s some of that sprinkled around, and a few of the creations are my own. It’s a genre I want to spend more time working with because of the way it pulls words and feels out of me.

The last link is one recipe that is tried & true, in case you read yesterday’s post — Kim has made dozens of these, inspiring awe and reverence each time, so you can trust it as well as many other recipes we’ve enjoyed since I posted them.  If you have concerns, of course, just ask.  I recommend asking someone who writes a food blog.

 

03-i-love-you-blogs-and-coffee

 

 

 

Image

Let’s talk books!

In the face of life beyond my control I’m currently a prisoner of the music, so I’m exercising my powers of creativity in every way I can.  The only time I don’t hear the squirrel party in my head is when other music is pouring into my ears or I’m asleep.  If I could I would simply go unconscious until this is over as it makes me want to jump out of my skin and be somebody else for a while.

Since none of the above is an option, come talk to me about something dear to my heart — what you like to read and why.  What are you currently engrossed in?  Do you read more than one book at a time?  Who are the authors who speak to you?

My own reading tastes are eclectic to the max, so I’m truly interested in knowing what grabs your attention.  What sorts of things compel you to spend your time reading when you could (should?) be doing other things?

I’m currently enjoying this one:

poor-mans-feast-cov-600x

And some recent good reads:

Have you read any of these and did you like them?  Another question: If you start a book and can’t get into it do you persist or do you operate by the rule that Life Is Too Short and ditch it for something else?

Seriously, come share your reading world with me.  The life you save could be mine.

Image

Winnowing the Chaff

rarasaur

frightfully wondrous things happen here.

FranklyWrite

Practice Writing

Social Justice For All

Working towards global equity and equality

Drinking Tips for Teens

Creative humour, satire and other bad ideas by Ross Murray, an author living in the Eastern Townships of Quebec, Canada. Is it truth or fiction? Only his hairdresser knows for sure.

john pavlovitz

Stuff That Needs To Be Said

Drifting Through

Welcome to the inner workings of my mind

KenRobert.com

beginnings, middles, and ends

Margaret and Helen

Best Friends for Sixty Years and Counting...

The WordPress.com Blog

The latest news on WordPress.com and the WordPress community.

Musings of a Penpusher

A Taurean suffering from cacoethes scribendi - an incurable itch to write.

Ned's Blog

Humor at the Speed of Life

Miss Snarky Pants

A Humor Blog For Horrible People

mylenesmusings

Every other asshole shares their opinions, why shouldn’t I?

%d bloggers like this: