RSS

It Can’t Happen Here

Author: Sinclair Lewis

Type: Fiction, novel

Published: 1935

I read it: January 2017

it-cant-happen-here

The national and international moods must have been similar leading up to the 1936 and 2016 U.S. presidential elections. Sinclair Lewis wrote his book as a cautionary tale about the possibility of an American dictatorship, and had I read it a couple years ago I probably would have agreed with the sentiment in the title. (“Country’s too big for a revolution. No, no! Couldn’t happen here!”)

Instead, I read it between the election and the inauguration, a strange and disconcerting time in the country that paralleled the plot of the first third of the book. I was underlining things every other page. Much of it had happened here. The story illustrates the rise of Senator Berzelius “Buzz” Windrip to gain a populist foothold on the national stage. The comparisons to Donald Trump came in a torrent.

There are the visions of a campaign season:

[Other candidates] were far too lacking in circus tinsel and general clownishness to succeed at this critical hour of the nations’ hysteria, when the electorate wanted a ring-master-revolutionist like Senator Windrip.

[The opposition] represented integrity and reason, in a year when the electorate hungered for frisky emotions … and all the primitive sensations which they thought they found in the screaming of Buzz Windrip.

The man himself:

The Senator was vulgar, almost illiterate, a public liar easily detected, and in his “ideas” almost idiotic.

In between tricks [he] would coldly and almost contemptuously jab his crowds with figures and facts—figures and facts that were inescapable even when, as often happened, they were entirely incorrect.

The single superficial reason behind his popularity:

He advocated everyone’s getting rich by just voting to be rich.

The appeal to racism:

Nothing so elevates a dispossessed farmer or a factory worker on relief as to have some race, any race, on which he can look down.

The crisis of a decaying media:

Even [detractors], by the unusual spiritedness and color of their attacks upon him, kept his name alive in every column.

It was maddening that it seemed impossible now to know anything surely.

The general confusion of pinpointing causes and predicting outcomes:

“I’ve got to keep remembering that Windrip is only the lightest cork in the whirlpool. He didn’t plot all this thing.”

No, Buzz isn’t important—it’s the sickness that made us throw him up that we’ve got to attend to.

And the antics of a child behind a megaphone with the non-stop Twitter pettiness:

“Windrip began, even before his inauguration, to dictate to the country.”

“A President-Elect has unhallowed power, if he so wishes.”

So here we are, a couple days away from the reality. My underlining dropped off a bit when the story covered the post-election debacle and slide into dictatorial horror that swept across a scared country. The novel rivals 1984 in its vision, and surpasses that book by being somehow funny, incredibly insightful, fully American, and much more tangible.

The parallels to Trump aren’t iron-clad across the board: Buzz Windrip is molded by a much smarter puppetmaster, a more classical war fervor is in the air, and newspapers are the relevant medium of the day. All told, the speculative presidential administration in the book is a combination of the worst parts of the Trump and Bush II eras. If that scares you, just remember, it can’t happen here.

Except for when it does.

 
1 Comment

Posted by on January 18, 2017 in Novels

 

Tags: ,

Flatland

Author: Edwin A. Abbott

Type: Fiction, novel

Full title: Flatland: A Romance of Many Dimensions

Published: 1884

I read it: December 2016

flatland

The world of Flatland exists on graph paper. The narrator who sums up the history is a square (as in an actual square, the shape), and therefore an educated middle class citizen. His society is strictly regimented according to “the divine origin of the aristocratic constitution of the States in Flatland.” It goes something like this: all women are merely straight lines. Up from that are the isosceles triangles, who are the working class. An equilateral triangle is better, and a square is a step up from that. Then the more sides the better: pentagon, hexagon, et cetera, and on up to the priest classes who have so many sides they are functionally circles. The only way to rise above your station is through evolving the family line to have more sides (because of this, the grandparents worship the grandchildren).

The immediate comparison that springs to mind is Utopia, although the descriptions of Flatland are presented by a citizen, not a visitor. It’s also apparent that Abbott is aiming for some sort of social commentary, although for the first half of the book it’s hard to know where he is trying to land. Does Abbott favor or mock the tightly structured society he describes? This is a society in which “the toleration of Irregularity is incompatible with the safety of the State.” Rebellions are extinguished and art is frowned upon, for fear of “the pollution of paint” and its “immoral, licentious, anarchical, and unscientific” nature. The most painful aspect for the modern reader is the position of women, with plenty of “Frailer Sex” references and the like. (Although the fact that the citizens live in constant trepidation that a woman can immediately stab anyone, and often accidentally, is amusing.)

Toward the end of Part I (“This World”) the square has a dream of the King of Lineland, who cannot comprehend anything other than the existence of points and lines. The square tries in vain to explain the dual dimensions of Flatland. This episode pretty much telegraphs the entire rest of the book. At the beginning of Part II (“Other Worlds”), it is “the 1999th year of our era” and the square is preparing for a new millennium. He has a visitor from Spaceland, who, you guessed it, exists in three dimensions. This sphere tries to enlighten the square, and the square, to his credit, eventually comes around after grappling with the mantra that the extra plane of reality exists “Upward, yet not Northward.” He eventually gets to go to Spaceland himself, to some alarm:

When I could find voice, I shrieked aloud in agony, “Either this is madness or it is Hell.” “It is neither,” calmly replied the voice of the Sphere, “it is Knowledge.”

Here it becomes quite plain that Abbott intends for us to question any reality handed to us. He does briefly address the subject of women when he has the sphere explain that “many of the best and wisest in Spaceland think more of your despised Straight Lines than of your belauded Circles.” The student even becomes more open-minded than the teacher, when he ponders the possibility of a fourth dimension. The sphere himself won’t follow his own logic: “The very idea of it is utterly inconceivable.”

This is a unique little book that I hadn’t heard of until I saw it on the Rock Paper Books site. The cover art (by Rutger Paulusse) sold me, evoking Escher along with the crystalline floating dimensions and cityscapes of a Lovecraft story. I could stare at it for ages. The lesson inside the cover may be a bit less revolutionary than when the book was published, although I like the mysterious use of the word “romance” in the subtitle. Romance about adventuring to new vistas? There are other worlds than these, and the lesson comes together to deliver a point.

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on January 11, 2017 in Novels

 

Tags: ,

Haroun and the Sea of Stories

Author: Salman Rushdie

Type: Fiction, novel

Published: 1990

I read it: December 2016

haroun

Haroun’s father, Rashid, is a master storyteller whose skills are in high demand. But when Haroun’s mother runs off with another man, Rashid’s skills start to fade. He is also crushed by Haroun’s question to him: “What’s the use of stories that aren’t even true?” The book is Haroun’s journey of discovery about the magical source of stories themselves.

Haroun stumbles into a strange world after meeting Iff, a Water Genie. He soon encounters other strange creatures, such as a mechanical bird with the humorous name of Butt the Hoopoe. Rushdie’s plot lends itself to all sorts of wordplay (the two characters just mentioned allow for a chapter titled “An Iff and a Butt”), as if this tale is a slightly more grown-up cousin to The Phantom Tollbooth. And like that book, the adventure is somewhat piecemeal and arbitrary. For example, the villain, Khattam-Shud, is pretty direct about his intentions: “The world is not for Fun. The world is for Controlling.”

Rushdie gives the expected commentary about stories. He uses the Plentimaw Fishes to illustrate:

When they are hungry they swallow stories through every mouth, and in their innards miracles occur; a little bit of one story joins on to an idea from another, and hey presto, when they spew the stories out they are not old tales but new ones. Nothing comes from nothing, Thieflet; no story comes from nowhere; new stories are born from old—it is the new combinations that make them new.

Does Haroun get his answer to the real use of stories? Sort of. He has a great adventure and sets the world to right and earns his dad the storytelling powers back. For Haroun, stories are important because he physically goes to their actual originating wellspring. On a more direct level, I’m not sure that Rushdie really cements a particular viewpoint about how stories work in the real world, or why. The birds, fishes, iffs, and butts are all good fun though.

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on January 4, 2017 in Novels

 

Tags: ,

Headstrong

Author: Rachel Swaby

Type: Non-fiction, essays

Full title: Headstrong: 52 Women Who Changed Science—and the World

Published: 2015

I read it: December 2016

headstrong

Rachel Swaby opens her book by telling about her inspiration for it—the obituary of Yvonne Brill. Published in 2013, the article started off listing Brill’s success as a mother and wife, as well as her cooking prowess. Only later did it mention that she was a rocket scientist.

This oversight spurred Swaby to compile a who’s-who of female scientists over the generations. Ordered by subject (Medicine, Biology and the Environment, Genetics and Development, Physics, Earth and Stars, Math and Technology) and then chronological by lifetime within each of those headings, she lays out miniature biographies of each outstanding person. One firm decision was to not include Marie Curie, “the token woman in a deck of cards featuring famous scientists.” (Although Marie’s daughter, Irene Joliot-Curie, gets a slot.)

Some of the recognizable names in the book might be Virginia Apgar, Rachel Carson, Rosalind Franklin, Sally Ride, Hedy Lamarr, and Florence Nightingale. Yet the public still knows so little about these women. For example, apart from Nightingale’s status as the pinnacle of the nursing profession, did you know that she was largely influential in using statistical data to address large-scale public health problems?

From school lunches (Ellen Swallow Richards) to Kevlar (Stephanie Kwolek), in vitro fertilization (Anne McLaren) to protecting workers against harmful chemicals on the job (Alice Hamilton), the book has story after story of eye-opening accomplishments. That part about “changing science and the world” is no stroke of hyperbole. Take Gertrude Belle Elion, who worked on drug treatments for diseases like cancer. She earned the Noble Prize in Medicine in 1988, and a research vice president explained that “In fifty years, Trudy Elion will have done more cumulatively for the human condition than Mother Teresa.” Undoubtedly true, yet I doubt many of us know Elion’s name.

Predictably, it’s also a catalogue of these women having to rise above their stations, push against sexist institutions, and pave their own way so that they can be allowed to handle the test tubes night after night. Several were uninterested in the “trivial annoyances of title, pay, and politics,” such as Emmy Noether, whose work influenced Albert Einstein. Many were inspired by the inherent draw of scientific discovery, as explained by Gerty Radnitz Cory (biochemistry):

As a research worker, the unforgotten moments of my life are those rare ones, which come after years of plodding work, when the veil over nature’s secret seems suddenly to lift and when what was dark and chaotic appears in a clear and beautiful light and pattern.

The stories, quirks, and dramas in the book go on and on, and unfortunately so many new facts can get lost in the shuffle. I spaced out my reading to try not to take in more than one entry at a time, so this book sat for months by my bed, as well as in the bathroom so I could flip through it while the boys took a bath. Fifty-two entries obviously suits itself to one per week, although I hope the content finds other areas of dispersal. For one, I think an email distribution where someone could elect to receive one at a time would be fun. And a few photos of each scientist might help to bring the reader closer to each biography. There is so much inspiration to find in the women themselves as well as in their incredible work.

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on December 28, 2016 in Essays

 

Tags: ,

A Collapse of Horses

Author: Brian Evenson

Type: Fiction, short stories

Published: 2016

I read it: November 2016

collapse

This review was originally published on The Stake.

In opener “Black Bark,” two men ride on horseback, trading brief exchanges in a Cormac McCarthy setting. One is badly injured but seemingly unfazed; the other worries for his partner and keeps pressing the need for rest. They eventually find a cave and start a fire. The injured man, who is losing far more blood than seems credible, eventually tells the story of black bark. It’s a strange tale and rubs his partner the wrong way. When the listener asks for clarification on an irrational point, the injured man says, “That’s not part of the story. That’s the part that gets left out.”

Brian Evenson’s collection builds miniature worlds on the tension and frisson of what gets left out. Some readers hate this: they feel that absolutely everything should be on the table by a story’s end. But what Evenson does here is the best kind of balancing act. Each story’s hook is keenly sharpened, pulling you into the center of a tortured psyche. There is forward momentum and the assurance that you are being led along for a reason. Revelations are revealed through a steady drip of plot tinged with unease, with each story wholly delivered and wholly strange.

Many of the stories create a psychological whirlpool, a grasping at the confidence of knowing one’s mind. “A Report” finds a man in prison for some unspecified crime against the state, and the prisoner is left to tease out potential messages he hears from other prisoners he never sees. The protagonist in “Click” is given a notebook to record why he committed an atrocity he can’t remember (calling to mind Jeff VanderMeer’s “The Strange Case of X”) until he slips so far inward that his world becomes flimsy cardboard. The most direct example is the title story, which asks a sort of Schrodinger’s cat question about the mind’s inability to hold two conflicting realities at once. We might instead call this quandary Evenson’s horses: are they alive or dead? (That is, has the character actually burned his family to death, or has he not?)

The acutely personal is explored in various relationship pairings: a man who can’t shake an unhealthy girlfriend in “Cult,” a son who wants to both approach and escape his deceased father’s influence in “Past Reno,” and the heartbreaking couple in “BearHeartTM” (expecting parents: do not read this story). Then there are pivots into speculative fiction, such as “Any Corpse.” With a minimal setup but just enough alien intrigue, Evenson crafts a “be careful what you wish for” tale that also connects to the potential dangers of artificial intelligence. “The Dust” is the longest story in the book, a sci-fi detective romp that reads like a paranoid twist on Isaac Asimov. The inevitable psychological horror will have you questioning your own motives and intentions, so firmly do you root for the security officer whose job it is to maintain order in an isolated facility.

What is my body? What happened to my mind? What have I done? Many of us seem to be swirling with these questions in these strange days that have us questioning the nature of our reality. If there is any comfort to be found in Brian Evenson’s book, it’s that he masterfully brings it full circle for the sense of resolution the reader wants. “The Blood Drip” refers to the very blood dripping from the rider in “Black Bark.” The book begins and ends with the promise of a story. I’m still not sure if we want to know the details. The part that gets left out might be what finally breaks us.

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on December 21, 2016 in Short stories

 

Tags: ,

The Best American Nonrequired Reading 2016

Editor: Rachel Kushner (introduction)

Type: Fiction, non-fiction, short stories, essays, comics, poetry, memoir

Published: 2016

I read it: October 2016

banr2016

The primary challenge of any anthology is deciding what to pick, so in this edition of the BANR series the curators tried to be explicit about their goals for the year. Daniel Gumbiner, on behalf of the BANR Committee, says “We have looked for texts that say something about what it means to be alive in 2016.” Rachel Kushner, guest editor, echoes the sentiment with: “Part of our objective was to encompass some of the critical themes and events of the past year, aside from the more general project of choosing excellent and hopefully timeless texts.”

Well, 2016 turned out to be a real shitshow. This book was releasd in October, so future copies should probably come with an extra sticker on the front: “The spirit of this book captures 2016 previous to the fateful election.” Or somesuch. Because the year is forever scarred.

Regardless, the picks do a nice job of capturing an essence of the modern world. Here are some of the notables. Let’s start with fiction.

  • The Grozny Tourist Bureau, Anthony Marra. A slow burn that ends with a stronger ending. It’s about restoration of both art and people, as well as the final moments of knowing loved ones (it also has a solid Jesus Christ/Jim Carrey joke tucked in there).
  • The Gentlest Village, Jesse Ball. A person undergoes a slow rehabilitation in a kind of distant utopia. It imagines what a functioning society might actually look like (we could dream). The subject/patient is encouraged to ask questions like “What is the imagination for?” and is reassured “You are allowed to make mistakes and to fail.”
  • Killing and Dying, Adrian Tomine. Of the two comics, this was the one I liked. I was initially hesitant because I wasn’t really feeling the hyper-realistic style (which reminded me of Building Stories) but the outcome was moving.
  • The Death of the Sky, David Wagoner. The poetry included this year mostly didn’t do it for me, but I could get behind this piece about a rollicking, bloodied cosmos.
  • Shadehill, Mark Hitz. Quite a gripping snapshot of family and death. For some reason it just feels particularly American.
  • Things I Know to Be True, Kendra Fortmeyer and Algorithmic Problem Solving for Father-Daughter Relationships, Xuan Juliana Wang. As the second title of this pair suggests, these are both stories of fathers and daughters, one from one perspective and one from the author. I’m actually not sure if they’re fiction or not, as they read like memoir, but my annual grumbling about not getting clarity on the point means they’ll have to fit here, dammit.

But the clear winner this year was the non-fiction.

  • An Oral History of Abdelrahman Al-Ahmar, Mateo Hoke and Cate Malek. An interview with a Palestinian who has spent many of his years in and out of Israeli prisons. Lots going on here, but one of his quotes struck me: “I think people who are really religious have a hard time with this kind of abuse sometimes. They pray to God for help, and when none comes, it breaks them mentally.” Not sure if this is a universal truth or just one possibility of what could happen to inmates who believe, but it’s intriguing.
  • The Teflon Toxin, Sharon Lerner. A bit dry, but an eye-opening account of a man-made compound called C8 created by the DuPont company. The article claims that the chemical is in the blood of 99.7 percent of Americans and that “C8 is expected to remain on the planet well after humans are gone from it.” This piece could have been a chapter in The World Without Us.
  • An Interview with President Obama, Marilynne Robinson. Wow, this is fascinating for many reasons, mostly because of the freefall intellectual decline we will see when transitioning from our current president to the next. We’ll always miss the eloquence and general “he gets it” quality that Obama has. Just a few of the interesting things about this interview:
    • It was conducted in Des Moines, and Iowa comes up in the conversation. Robinson claims that only Iowa and Maine never had laws against interracial marriage, and that Ulysses S. Grant called Iowa “the shining star of radicalism.”
    • Obama sees one main challenge being our lack of “a common conversation.” For example, “you don’t have that phenomenon of here’s a set of great books that everybody is familiar with and everybody is talking about.” I do wonder about this a lot (not for books in particular, but the lack of “common reference points”).
    • Another good point he makes is the fact that “when people feel pinched, then the generosity that you describe narrows to my immediate family, my immediate community, my immediate group.” I can attest to this one. I haven’t felt very generous or worldly in the past few years.
    • Robinson is not the clearest interviewer. There’s one candid moment when she asks a question and wraps it up with “you know?” To which Obama responds, “No. Tell me what you mean.” Heh.
  • Death-Qualified, Gary Indiana. I paid particular attention to this selection, because it’s actually a book review. It functions as kind of a Cliffs Notes for a book about the brothers who committed the Boston bombing tragedy in 2013, summarising the backgrounds of the young men and their family. There is subtly clever writing throughout: “The stellar expectations of the Tsarnaevs eroded in increments. Within a few years, they collected grievances like baseball cards.” Although there is acknowledgement that the perpetrators studied the Koran and other anti-Semitic texts, the author squeezes in what’s clearly his final angle at the end. He seems to blame the U.S. more than anything else, falling into “the narrative narrative” of avoiding directly mentioning the tenets of Islam in the final analysis. (Final note: this guy’s name is Gary Indiana, for real, apparently.)
  • The Trip Treatment, Michael Pollan. Perhaps the best selection in the book. Pollan explores a renewed interest in studying psychoactive drugs in controlled experiments. The most promising application for this is for “the betterment of well people” in which patients could undergo a guided LSD trip to get the best benefits of that experience. (It could particularly help with those facing death, to re-center their priorities and maximize their conscious experiences.) The benefits are similar to those found through meditation (see Waking Up) with one prominent psychiatrist/neuroscientist describing his own experiences of “something way, way beyond a material world view that I can’t really talk to my colleagues about, because it involves metaphors or assumptions that I’m really uncomfortable with as a scientist.” I hope the new field takes off.
  • Homer Dill’s Undead, Inara Verzemnieks. A scientific cyclorama (kind of a 360-degree diorama) of taxidermied birds exists in a building on the University of Iowa campus in Iowa City. The article explores the ambitions of Homer Dill, who made it happen. It’s a nice little portrait of present and past that ends with this vision: “And how many times do you have to visit, held back by the glass, before you realize it is a world entirely without us. A world wiped clean of our presence. As if we were never here.” I have to point out, once again, the connection to The World Without Us.
  • The Lonely Death of George Bell, N.R. Kleinfield. The details of dying alone in America. I wish this guy at least could have received the trip treatment.
  • Reluctant Citizens, Kyle Boelte. A firsthand account of being tapped for jury duty. Some very insightful stuff here about what it means to take on the responsibility and also the imperfect nature of it all. Some full chunks:
    • “The court’s rules are built on Enlightenment notions of rationality. When the judge strikes something from the record we are directed to forget it entirely as if we are machines. When we listen to testimony, we are to consider the evidence alone. We are directed not to draw conclusions until all the evidence has been given. After three weeks of evidence, when we are allowed to draw conclusions, we are to put our biases aside. The attorneys know that we are humans, not machines.”
    • “For three weeks, we’ve been told two conflicting stories about an accident that took place six years ago. Nothing was ever proven, just different opinions offered. As we deliberate, we make up the rules as we go, justifying, rationalizing our gut feelings.”
  • Brown vs. Ferguson, Endnotes journal. This is the book’s big ender, and it’s a good one. I was leery going in, as I wasn’t sure if there would be a particular agenda with this analysis of the Black Lives Matter movement. Turns out it’s engaging and clearheaded, with tons of facts and stats interspersed with small attempts at interpretation, such as trying to define “a unity of the potentially killable,” modern activists experiencing “the trepid, cautious dance of campus-based identity politics,” and police brutality ensuring “the global future of a humanity made economically surplus to capital.” The authors explore the complexity of how class fits into the issue, explaining how it contradicts the idea of the movement being solely about blackness or any easily definable cultural group. This is easily the most “2016” of all the selections in the book.

So ends a banner year for craziness. I’m already awaiting BANR 2017. If books still exist by then, that is. If we do, too.

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on December 14, 2016 in Comics, Essays, Memoir, Poetry, Short stories

 

Tags: ,

Exile and the Kingdom

Author: Albert Camus

Translator: Justin O’Brien

Type: Fiction, short stories

Published: 1957

I read it: November 2016

exile

I read The Stranger because it was a short one to check off the list, and then around the same time I found Exile and the Kingdom in the closest Little Free Library to hour house. The battered paperback was all too attractive (that yellowed smell) and it comes in right around 200 pages.

The collection is six short stories, all centered around isolation, foreignness, responsibility, and home. In “The Adulterous Woman,” the title character does not commit conventional adultery but rather steps out of her hotel room and into the night to have a spiritual experience with the universe itself. Unsure of her place and purpose, she reflects on the nomads she observes.

Homeless, cut off from the world, they were a handful wandering over the vast territory she could see, which however was but a paltry part of an even greater expanse. … Since the beginning of time, on the dry earth of this limitless land scraped to the bone, a few men had been ceaselessly trudging, possessing nothing but serving no one, poverty-stricken but free lords of a strange kingdom.

“The Renegade” is a loopy, stream-of-consciousness account of a man hiding along a trail and waiting to kill another man. He is a former missionary, at one time caught up in all the possibilities of his work (“I dreamed of absolute power, the kind that makes people kneel down, that forces the adversary to capitulate”). Instead, he is overwhelmed by the crazy cult that he thought he’d be able to convert, and then becomes so enamored with their effectiveness he becomes one of them before striking out to take action into his own hands. Frightening.

The workers in “The Silent Men” are much more recognizable. They are part of the working class, bending steel and shaping wood to make barrels, and their strike has just failed. The humanity is palpable, and even the boss comes across as identifiable. The men themselves are a sad sight as they try to grapple with their unchanged existence.

Yvars now felt only his fatigue and his still heavy heart. He would have liked to talk. But he had nothing to say, nor did the others. On their uncommunicative faces could be read merely sorrow and a sort of obstinacy.

No rest for the weary. The person coming to rest in “The Guest” is a foreign prisoner handed off at a schoolhouse temporarily shut down due to snow, though the schoolteacher still resides there. The schoolteacher must decide whether to let the prisoner go or turn him in, to trust him or fear him, as it is just those two in the schoolhouse for one night. The ethical implications are intriguing, but thankfully this story is not too harsh on its characters.

The artist in “The Artist at Work” has it kind of rough, though the story feels very specific to a certain kind of French art culture and way of life. The main painter’s followers are humorously obsessed with him, “remaining faithful to his esthetic” even though he himself “had only a very vague idea of his own esthetic.” If anything, the story is accessible in its depiction of a busy husband and father feeling claustrophobic and without aim. (It must be mentioned that his wife is a valiant character who does all the real work.)

“The Artist at Work” and the final piece, “The Growing Stone,” together make up about half the book. This final story, about an engineer sent to a remote village to redirect water, wasn’t the most interesting to me. It deals with culture clash, expectation, and the history and mystery of a place.

It seemed to him that he would have liked to spew forth this whole country, the melancholy of its vast expanses, the glaucous light of its forests, and the nocturnal lapping of its big deserted rivers. This land was too vast, blood and seasons mingled here, and time liquefied. Life here was flush with the soil, and, to identify with it, one had to lie down and sleep for years on the muddy or dried-up ground itself.

Six pieces, related by theme, often bleak but with streaks of humanity throughout: this book is a precursor to Black Mirror. There’s definitely a lot of ourselves to look at in Camus’ collection. The title seems all too appropriate, in these gray days when we contemplate our own kingdom, what may come of it, and who might be forced to go where. We have a long way to go before we figure out how to reckon with the strange ways of time and place.

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on December 2, 2016 in Short stories

 

Tags: , ,