Monday, April 14, 2008

Books, I want to tell you about books that have carried me on their pages to the near past, to the far past, to ceremonial and most real time, but perhaps it is the women I want you to meet who wrote these books and the lands they have traversed, the refusals they have made and the languages they have found and given to us. This desire is an old one, but the crises in the Middle East and my growing understanding of it all, pushes all else off my desk. Still when I enter our study late at night I see their thickness, these books, and they are waiting for their time. First there is Alexis Wright and her world wonder, Carpentaria. Here on her opening pages, I rode the back of the mighty serpent who carved worlds out of the mud flats of the Gulf of Carpentaria and I a child of the Bronx, could feel the stiff sucking mud being pushed and pulled into a town, a town called Desperance, a town that was pulled apart by its own histories, by the clash of clans and dreams of what is life. "Nothing but no good was coming out of puerile dreams of stone walls, big locked gates, barred windows, barbed wire rolled around the top to lock out the menace of the black demon." (59) Find this book and read it, live it and you will hear the voice of one Australia, the old one, the Pricklebush mob and its old man of the sea, Normal Phantom and his wayward son, Will Phantam, the woman, Angel Day, the head spring of a people's strength who finds treasures in the trash heaps of white Desperance. The old priest who tries to keep faith with his god and all the others he must honor...."although the words he uttered through a mouthful of dirt were Irish jewels best left lying on the little known roads of the outback." (190)
I will write a more complete piece about this and the other books I want to bring to your attention--whoever you are--but I am tired now--just know that Wright, a member of the Waanyi nation of the Southern highlands of the this very gulf she brings into being on these pages, is a poet of the highest order, a storyteller whose language and way of telling is the world she is speaking--I am a skeptic of the highest order, of posed traditionalisms, of feigned dreaming, but Wright's language, her rhythms, her knife-like insights, beautiful and harsh, full of hope and fate, wanderings and failures, worn out cars and revived dreams in the mouth of characters like Big Mozzie Fishman, arriving in to town after epic journeys in fading cars, his entourage young men filled with a yearning too big for their rejections, Elias, the man from the sea, like a different kind of Venus, the comings and goings, Ulysses like, the characters travel on all the kinds of highways that can be imagined, red dirt roads, underwater highways, aerial swoops, internal musings and dead to the world swoons, but they tell us the stories of their restless searchings, missed encounters, moments of glory in a darkening sea.

I have been reading for most of my adult years, now approaching 68 years give ten back for when I did not know that letters were highways-- this book kept passing others in its wake, Faulkner, Joyce, Marquez--watched and bowed their heads. The language of the story, the language of the writer's heart telling in the language flow of a people, all she knows about the human journey in this hot, watery, perplexed, enchanted and doomed, part of the world. Hope and fate all churned together by the passage of the mighty mud serpent who fears no obstacle but sees the failings, who has made a world in his image, full of power and love and the ever needful quest.

Alexis Wright, "Carpentaria," The Writing and Research Group of the University of Western Sydney, 2006

Others still to come:

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, "Half of a Yellow Sun," Fourth Estate, 2006.

Matthew Condon, "The Trout Opera, " Vintage Books, 2007

Michelle de Kretser, "The Lost Dog," Allen and Unwin, 2007

and then, the special moment of a friend's book:

Eva Kollisch, "The Ground Under My Feet," H/s editions, 2007 (to be featured on my website)

and the book that I am reading now:

Ilan Pappe, "The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine," One World, 2006, and it will change the meaning of Passover for me forever or until my little life is done.

Thank you for reading.
(My computer crashed last week and I still can't get into my blog so I must write when I can.)

No comments: