Book Report: Nightmarish novels, thoughtful coming-of-age memories this weekIf the 1960s was the era of the nuclear novel, today must be the era of the epidemic epic.
By: Dave Wood, columnist, River Falls Journal
If the 1960s was the era of the nuclear novel, today must be the era of the epidemic epic.
When I was young I’d read so-called nuclear novels, which always dealt with nuclear holocausts and the suffering of survivors. I’d read books like “Alas, Babylon” by Pat Frank or “On the Beach,” by Neville Shute and then have nightmares for weeks to come.
I’ve just finished “The Things That Keep Us Here,” by Carla Buckley (Delacorte, $25) and have discovered the pandemic portrait. Actually, I first read Cormac McCarthy’s “The Road,” which gave me nightmares about being one of the last few people on Earth. Carla Buckley’s novel “The Things That Keep Us Here” is a domestic version of those scary old novels transferred into the realm of science. A terrible epidemic spreads from Asia to the heartlands of Ohio, where neighbors lock their doors, fight over the last food available. You get the picture.
Coffee House Press of Minneapolis is out with two startlingly good volumes of poetry, one by Greg Hewett, associate professor of English at Carleton College. “Darkacre,” ($16 paper), his third book, shows off his stylistics as it exposes how we feel in different situations.
Here’s a sample from a piece called “Stadium Revelation:”
“In the structure of crisis
the world loses scale and you
find your self within yourself
at the bottom of the stadium
deep and lit to reveal
more than sunlight ever could.
Contest over, you stalk
the track. Staring up
past metal halides lights into the night-
wind hard and directionless.
Banners write like dragons.
Kneeling down beneath a galaxy
of cameras blitzing, you open
your drained face. You cannot hear
through a sound
as great as sheer silence.
Your mouth echoes the vast
structure, sends a mute cry
modulating as it scales
the steep sides of night.
Below pilings, tectonic plates
resound unheard; above,
a chaos of doves; through the void
a satellite steals your visage
for all to scrutinize beyond
the cantilevered air."
The other Coffee House offering is “Find the Girl” ($16, paper), by Lightsey Darst, who confronts her sex head-on, sometimes, brutally, sometimes whimsically.
Here’s a sample called “A few things I learned about sex:”
They separated us for sex ed.
“Wipe front to back,” the man said, as if he’d tried it and it was easy.
We asked about erections, not about pleasure.
Tell me how you learned, what you learned.
I didn’t sleep, crumpled on the floor against boys. Was it fun.
The boy touching my thigh but they were hot thighs, I can’t blame him.
Some girls had come in busty and without a chance.
We all had cravings, fingers, throbbing to music.
Then I didn’t know it was sex, would deny when boyfriends asked me.
A boy behind me lifting my denim skirt with an orange pylon over his pelvis.
That year, everyone sprayed White Rain hearts on walls and lit them.
Girl parts in cross-section, colored in and scratched out.
We remembered everything we’d been told.
Dave would like to hear from you. Phone him at 426-9554.