Monday, August 27, 2018

Inverted Lear

Okay, right off the bat let's get this out of the way: Jane Smiley's A Thousand Acres is King Lear told from the perspective of Regan and Goneril (Rose and Ginny). That's fine, but I actually want to approach the book independent of the Lear connection.

The writing is pretty dang great, honestly. I was expecting the book to be dull and slow but I read the whole thing in a single sitting - it was really engaging and brilliantly paced; it also has this stellar midwestern gothic thing going, you know, swaying corn and abandoned charity shops and churches no one really wants to go to. The grimness and drudgery of farm work and the incomprehensible multi-generational dedication to it.

I kept feeling like the book was familiar and it wasn't the Lear thing, it was Stephen King's 1922 and Truman Capote's In Cold Blood. It turns out that "something evil is lurking in she barn" or "these fields have many secrets" is an aesthetic that I'm super into. Smiley does that aesthetic really well and the faded mysteries of the junk pile and shimmering heat of the fields are tangible and harsh, as is the driving wall of water from the unexpected storm and the cool earthen rot of a cellar unknowingly housing a poisoned pill.


There's an unsatisfying tension at the end of the novel and I think it's actually pretty brilliant. Things aren't neatly resolved, people aren't happy ever after. That kind of makes it stick. I finished this book about three weeks ago but it's been in my head enough that I've been considering rereading it ever since.

Anyway, strong recommend.


Thursday, August 2, 2018

The stance of this blog is "fuck genocide"

Sarah Winnemucca's Life Among the Paiutes, their Wrongs and Claims is a somewhat controversial book and that's understandable. When it was published it was controversial because it was advocating for Native American rights; now it's controversial because of its advocacy for assimilationist rhetoric.

In spite of its flaws in that regard, the book is still a wonderful thing to hold up when racists claim that manifest destiny wasn't that bad or wasn't a genocide or that white people treated people better than other people did.

I don't have it in me to get super critical here, or to go into detail with this incredibly depressing subject. The settlement of the American West was a bad thing built on imperialism and genocide. There are clear victims of this settlement process and their people are still dealing with the repercussions of the genocide.

I happened to spend some time in Nevada and Oregon last year, when I had just started reading this book. One of the things I was curious about was the tremendous number of places I saw labelled as Paiute reservation land - where I'm from it seems like most tribal lands are fairly consolidated. You'll have a radius of maybe fifty miles, max, before you're out of that group's reservation areas.

The Paiute land stretched across hundreds of miles in a way that was strange to me.

Turns out that's because of forcible moves and multiple separations of the tribe and a whole bunch of other fucked-up shit.

Anyway, I can't recommend the book enough for people who are under the impression that white people settling the continent was somehow right or good.


Something moving in the trees

Okay look, Twin Peaks is great and I love it but it's a messy series that has huge continuity issues and that I'm not sure its creators really understand.

And for sure, a hell of a lot of the fans don't understand it and I don't fault them at all for not wanting to delve into twelve supplemental novels.

If you want the bare minimum Twin Peaks experience just watch the original two seasons. That'll do it, that's a totally valid way of consuming the series and it's a warm nostalgia bath of sweetness and horror.

Or you can get fucked up and actually read the books.

The Secret History of Twin Peaks and Twin Peaks: The Final Dossier go a long way toward making the most recent season of the show comprehensible, but they're also fucking bugshit crazy and have no problem with warping and twisting Original Series canon. (Best example of fucking with canon: the divergence between the book version and the show version of Ed and Nadine's marriage - and Norma's homelife and family get a hasty band-aid that tries really hard to make sense but just kind of doesn't).

Also Secret History is basically all about aliens, which is my least favorite part of the TP lore. It gets better toward the end, but it's a big heavy book full of disparate sources and difficult-to-read pages that's mostly about the alien-filled escapades of a character who gets like five lines in the original series.

The Final Dossier sheds a lot of light on what exactly the fuck was going on in The Return, which I liked and appreciated a lot - though this one got worse toward the end.

Some questions are answered but David Lynch seems to like leaving a lot open-ended. There are still gaps to fill in, there are still mysteries left behind in the wake of reading these novels.

I enjoyed both books to an extent but was also frustrated by both. Only read if you're super obsessively, unhealthily, into Twin Peaks.

Like me.