"When dawn spreads its paintbrush on the plain, spilling purple... ," Songs of the Pioneers song from TV show "Wagon Train." Dawn on the mythic Santa Fe Trail, New Mexico, looking toward Raton from Cimarron. -- Clarkphoto. A curmudgeon's old-fashioned newspaper column, cross-breeding metaphors and journalism and art, for readers in 150 countries.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Stifling summer, IV--Of fiction and coincidence

Stifled this month by illness--actually infection, surgery and wound recovery, fiction became medicine in July.
Coincidence? Serendipity? I don't know, but instead of my usual diet of  good non-fiction, three novels and several short stories took my mind away from the science and facts of my daily existence.
First read was "One Hundred Years of Solitude" by Gabriel Garcia Marquez.   The first sentence is a killer, but afterwards I don't know: "Many years later, as he faced the firing squad, Colonel Aureliano Buendia was to remember that distant afternoon when his father took him to discover ice."
This famed South American author died recently and I was mortified that I'd never heard of him. He's know for "inventing "magical realism," and stories of common people. 
Unfortunately, as I posted on Facebook, I just don't get it. I am intrigued by his journalism background and want to read some short stories, but this book  frankly became boring and just dragged on. I gave up about two thirds of the way through. And will return. 
The book gets mixed reviews, many agreeing with me, but  my former student Farzana "Farzie" Abdul Razak, now of New York City, gives it five stars, and she's just deeper than I am, I guess.
Second novel was a quick and enjoyable read because it's the return of a favorite. Anne Hillerman's first novel "Spider Woman's Daughter" follows in the footsteps of her late father Tony Hillerman, who wrote mysteries set in the southwest and Navajo nation. 
Hillerman was Okie born, a journalist who worked in Oklahoma City, and then moved to New Mexico where he eventually started his famous novels, featuring Navajo Tribal Policemen Joe Leaphorn and Jim Chee. His daughter brings them back to life, and weaves incidents from her father's stories into her award-winning narrative. I'm back home.
The third novel, just finished, is someone I should have read a long time ago, and the author was recommended by Farzie and others. Neil Gaiman's "American Gods" is a long one, built around the them that the old gods and magic of our immigrant ancestors die in America for lack of believers. Gods don't take root here.
Speaking of coincidence, this quote leads a chapter: "America has invested her religion as well as her morality in sound income-paying securities. She has adopted the unassailable position of a nation blessed because it deserve to be blessed; and her sons, whatever other theologies the may affect or disregard, subscribe unreservedly to this national creed."
The coincidence, serendipity? It's by Agnes Repplier, in "Times and Tendencies," another author I never heard of.  I looked her up, and she was an essayist who died in 1950. She was Catholic.
Her words echo the chapter we're discussing tonight in "Falling Upward," by Fr. Richard Rohr, that our should-detox group is using Sunday night. I wrote about this book  earlier this month, as one of the most important in my life.
Fr. Rohr's words: "Our problem now is that we seriously doubt that there is any vital reality to the spiritual world... . For postmodern people, the universe is not inherently enchanted, as it was for the ancients. We have to do all the "enchanting" ourselves. This leaves us alone, confused and doubtful... . This is the burden of living in our heady and lonely time, when we think it is all up to us."
Do you think that is coincidence? I do not.
Fiction is often more "real' than science.
The fourth book of fiction was one sent three years ago by my friend Jeanetta Calhoun Mish who operates Mongrel Empire Press, formerly of Norman and now of Albuquerque. 
"Blackjacks and Blue Devils" by Jerry Wilson has 14 stories "rooted in the red dirt and blackjacks of central and Western Oklahoma," where he was raised. The stories and images about poverty, despair and hope of Okies from the land runs up through the 1992 Irag war helped center me. It's been sitting on the shelf waiting and opened at the right time.
Good medicine and truth in fiction.

1 comment:

  1. I am halfway through "Spiderwoman's Daughter" and am loving it. Ms. Hillerman is being faithful to Tony Hillerman yet is writing in her own voice and the result really works.
    I'm about halfway through "Falling Upward" and am loving it also.Lots of insight in the book. I can see that it would be a great book for a discussion group.
    I tried reading "One Hundred Years of Solitude" years ago and I just got lost in it and didn't finish it.
    Fiction is the great healer!

    ReplyDelete