Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Review :: This House of Sky :: Ivan Doig

If you want to see the country, there's no advice better than that of Peter Jenkins: Go on foot, with your life strapped to your back and, hopefully, a friend and a good camera by your side.  There's no other way to get to know the breadth and depth of the land on a personal basis.

But if cross-country backpacking isn't for you, Greyhound is a good second. Maybe crowded, usually behind schedule, often hot, cramped, prone to arguments and the occasional fistfight, Greyhound pushes travel up in your face (and in your nostrils). It's a journey not simply through miles and landscape but through people, the ones who get on and off at each stop for a smoke and chance to stretch out their legs.

I've just returned from a few weeks by bus, a pilgrimage to my birthplace to help my family reroof their secondhand farmhouse. As the bus moved me from the treed hills of Wisconsin through the cornfields of Minnesota and the stark, unending sky of North Dakota, I completed another journey: Ivan Doig's memoir, This House of Sky. My dad lent me the book with a high recommendations two years ago, and I first peeled back its cover somewhere in eastern Montana, that time by car, as we drove home. Two summers later, the time had come to see Doig through to the end.

I'm glad I did. Making the rounds of White Sulphur Springs' bars and cafes with Doig, riding miles of potholed highways in the Smith River valley, fighting the windblown drifts high in the Big Belt Mountains--these are all pieces of life, memories and stories I share with Doig. These people, these places, this way of life brings me home.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

The July 8s :: Blogs

The July 8s :: Blogs - The most thought-provoking and world-opening blog posts I've stumbled on in the month of July

Monday, August 2, 2010

Review :: The Power and the Glory :: Graham Greene

In the last few weeks Cindy has read two novels about what happens when the world falls apart: The Year of the Flood by Margaret Atwood and The Road by Cormac McCarthy. She enjoyed both, I think. At the very least she's inspired me to give each book a read.

Her reading has also made me reappraise the book I've been reading, Graham Greene's The Power and the Glory. Like a good novel should, The Power and the Glory tells a good story--the story of the last priest in a province of revolutionary Mexico in where all the church have been forcibly shut down. The priest is all too human, crippled by alcohol and by fear, both yearning for and cowering from his inevitable capture by the red-shirt authorities. Greene writes beautifully. And, as one might expect of a Graham Greene novel, the hard question of faith--why believe?--emerges subtly in the texture of characters and events. The story is worth reading as a story.
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