Friday, June 26, 2009

Bits and Pieces

Along with my usual projects, the falcons are keeping me very busy. First flights should be coming up this week.

The last time I moved back east because the midwest had wiped me out financially, the first job I got was at a junk jewelry factory which got enormous sales from a single earring in the shape of a glove. This was a big look for Michael Jackson at the time, and that's the closest he ever came to having any effect on my life. But the love song for the rat was ok.

And no heterosexual male of my age group will ever forget Farrah. I've always gone more for intelligent brunettes so I was more of a Kate Jackson guy, but all that hair, all those teeth, that perky red swimsuit. Ahh.

I'd told you to expect a review of Rick Bass's new book The Wild Marsh--this is as close as I'll come to that because I hated it and quit after a bit more than two of the twelve months. I knew I'd have problems with his attitude toward animals--(Sure, Rick, the prey want the predators to kill them, and it's really sweet that you worry about how the same deer you kill are doing in the deep snow and that you feel bad for them because a mountain lion might kill them instead of you)--but the biggest problem for me was the writing style.

The introduction sounded promising with some Walden discussion and specific examples from a remote life such as teaching his children where the best berry patches are. But the Thoreau stuff gets the best of him with allusions to Walden both specific ("Are we still sleeping, or are we awakening?") and general (paragraph-long sentences overflowing with dashes and commas) and lots of spirituality and navel-gazing and not enough berry patches. I've enjoyed almost every Bass book I've read before this one but this style is better suited to the short magazine articles much of the book was previously. There was no way I was going to plow through almost 400 pages of this. Lots of people seem to like it; I'm definitely not one of them, and Bass is no Thoreau.

On the other hand, I read a novel which I loved and immediately started reading again because I wanted to write something detailed about it, but soon realized I had no time to give that the energy and concentration it deserves right now. But if the following description interests you, I highly recommend The Unit by Ninni Holmqvist. It's a near future where 50 year old women and 60 year old men who didn't have children or earn lots of money are sent to a place where they're treated very well and among like people actually develop more of a sense of community than they'd had in the outside world. Well, they're treated very well except that they're used in medical experiments and eventually have to donate some vital organ to a more deserving human.

It's primarily a personal tale of the people inside; we just get passing mention of how this came to be and its consequences. I enjoyed it because the characters made the same choices I did in life, but also because the natural world is repeatedly shown as the antidote/alternative to this regimented human world. Trees, flowers, snow, stars, a fossil, and memories of playing on a beach with a dog all make repeated appearances throughout the book. It's this aspect I wanted to pay more attention to on my second reading but that will have to wait for another time. Along with anything else I have to say.


Northland said...

I have been watching the Phoebe parents busily feeding their 4 young, who have grown out of the confines of their nest under our shop porch eaves. They are about to have to fledge or fall out of their nest. Not as dramatic as watching raptors make first flights, but with special significance to me, as it has been most of 15 years since some very evil renters at our place here had driven out the phoebes that had been at this nest site since we bought the place. Nearing success again, at last...

"I never cared for Michael Jackson", begins Katharine Wroth's "A reading from the book of Jackson" on the Grist site. The video contained there, "Earthsong" shows that he did think about saving the earth from us, though he didn't seem to bring sentiment beyond the stage.

I doubt that Bass will ever give up his hunting lifestyle. That is about all that he would probably be in agreement on with Bubba and the Wyoming Mtn boys back in the Yaak.
If you care to sell the book, let me know and I'll probably buy it if the price is right.

How is the job hunting going in Duluth? There must be some job (Food Co-Op or barrista?) that you could do there with more virtue than making jewelry at a factory?

greentangle said...

That's great about the phoebes returning. The falcons certainly do provide excitement, but I often say I'd enjoy watching a crow family just as much--it's such a rare and usually unappreciated opportunity to be able to watch animals live their lives without them being in a cage or a pet.

If there's anywhere I can accept hunting, it's as part of a remote way of life (leaving aside the question of how remote a famous author in regular contact with the rest of the world really is) but all the glorification of it turns me off.

Jackijo said...

I just read The Unit because of your description.I found it very haunting and beautiful. Thank you. The sense of love and community they had was definitely something to think about, especially compared to the isolation those without children or so called good jobs felt in the outside world. I I didn't understand the end. Was it more important to continue in the community, and die as part of it, than to again have complete freedom but perhaps isolation? I will have to think about that one.

greentangle said...

Great, Jackijo, I'm glad you enjoyed it and thanks for letting me know.

SPOILERS ahead if someone hasn't read it.

If I remember right, I thought a big part of her going back was a promise she'd made with another woman that they wouldn't disappear from each other's life by keeping it secret when one of them got notice of the final operation. I also wondered how much of a fugitive she would have been on the outside--would there have been a big effort to find her and bring her back--and if she could have found a way to support herself and child.