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Notes from the overground: watching him watching her.
Agency Woman is an Absurdist novel, featuring a quote from Soren Kierkegaard twice in its text. Despair is at its center.
Absurdist spies who live in interior worlds people this story. Fyodor Dostoyevsky meets Franz Kafka on the way to a Woody Allen film, or Foinaven Mountain in the Highlands of Scotland in this novel.
Jim, the antihero or perhaps Byronic hero suffers from, among other maladies, an inability to find meaning in life or work, but leads us to believe he still seeks inherent value, despite his history with “The Agency” and his tortured (literal and figurative) past.
Kierkegaard developed his existentialism to meet these conflicts head on: commit suicide to escape absurd ineffable choices; choose a non-rational transcendent “leap of faith”; or finally accept the Absurd and achieve freedom from moral constraint. Freedom or lack of freedom figures prominently in Logan’s newest work.
Most of the male characters in this novel (Munroe, Tim, Samuel) seem not to have any meaning or purpose and the first-person narrator leaves it to the reader to figure out what they are doing and why. Their situation is absurd and they appear to have chosen to accept The Absurd. There are two exceptions: the German tourist and Lachlan.
Only the two female characters have been given a purpose: Lucy, the Agency Woman and Elsie, Lachlan’s aunt. Interestingly, they both claim to be or have been nurses, healers, real or imagined.
As Kafka used Gregor’s transformation into a giant insect, to tell us of an oppressive and inescapable system, trapping his subjects in bizarre situations, Logan uses a dream of transformation into scorpions to reveal the interior landscape faced by Jim; to tell of his self-loathing and despair. Kafka never told us why Gregor woke up an insect one morning. Logan’s narrator does not tell us nor speculate either. Jim is also a narcissist, looking at his own reflection in a mirror while a man lies dying in the same room, Lucy serving as a kind of accessory with red shoes, to mirror his existence. The absurdity of pop culture even makes several jarring appearances, in similes and metaphors.
There is in Agency Woman, however, a more traditional structure than we would expect from Kafka. But we find the same alienation, physical and psychological brutality, somehow not terrifying in this novel.
Dostoyevsky’s narrator of Notes from Underground does not even have a name. But like Logan’s Jim Balkergan, he is isolated, misanthropic, and fearful of attaining his goal. He is a veteran of the Russian civil service; Jim is a veteran of “The Agency.” Both are intensely attached to suffering. Both see themselves as unattractive. Both have a sense of the absurdity of their existences.
“But this menu of sea and sand and peace, it’s a foreign language to me. I need a translator. No , no, that’s wrong. I’m doing fine. Just lying here. I won’t need a translator, at least I wouldn’t need one, if I was just left alone here and not expected to talk about anything. But she will be here soon. For me. For the rucksack and its contents. For her Agency job. Her career. God, if they could just have left me in peace.”
About freedom, Jim says: “I’ve been asleep, dreaming, thinking who knows what. And now the dream is over. The nightmare of freedom, over at last. Now I’m a turtle that’s been flipped over on its back, left helpless, for later.”
“I had wanted the freedom, craved it, but once it arrived it had made no sense to me. Life, without the context of the Agency, I hadn’t been able to work out what to do with it.”
Some readers will be pulled in by the physical interaction between Jim and Lucy; some will be drawn to the beauty of the Highlands (Logan’s mastery of descriptive detail is wonderful); some will like the Peckinpah-like violence; but some, like this reader will respect the quality of the writing and the intellectual orgy of absurdism.
A people and their history swept away in four parts and fifty years. Horo, Mhairi Dubh.
“Ruscus aculeatus (butcher’s broom) is a member of the Liliaceae family. It has tough, green, erect, striated stems that send out numerous short branches and very rigid leaves that are actually extensions of the stem and terminate in a single sharp spine.” http://www.thorne.com
Butcher’s Broom, as an herb, appears in Gunn’s magnificent novel but also serves as a metaphor for the treatment of the Highlanders after the Battle of Culloden in 1746 through the early 1800s by their English factors and landlords (sometimes Clan chiefs).
Neil M. Gunn was born in the Highlands county of Caithness, and so had a personal interest in the brutal interruption of the Clan way of life, an abrupt end to agriculture and a forced reliance on fish and seaweed collection along the coast.
In fact, a factor, Mr. Elder discusses some of Gunn’s ancestors, the MacHamish family: “There’s only one bad nest of them and they’re up on the Heights—MacHamishes, a sept of the Gunns, thoroughly godless dangerous ruffians. There are some Gunns, too, but they’ll be evicted first of all, because they know enough to organise the Strath—and they would. All that lot live by breaking the law.”
These are the Gaelic speakers of Scotland, so not only a way of life was desecrated but also a language was largely obliterated. Their story is much like that of the Native Americans in the United States. They were literally burned out of their homes, the sick and elderly left to die of smoke inhalation in their thatched cottages. The people who were not initially butchered later suffered from previously unknown diseases introduced by the large-scale sheep farmers, replacing humans with sheep.
Gunn writes in some of the most beautiful and lyrical prose you are ever likely to find in a book about these incidents but makes them personal in the characters of Dark Mairi, Elidh, Davie, Colin, Colin’s son, Kirsteen and their neighbors.
Of Dark Mairi of the shore, he writes: “The fire danced in tiny spots on her black irises. Yet she did not seem to see the sky so much as listen to it; or listen to nothing, so still did she become for a time. Then a small sighing wind came down the hillside and from her mouth, and vague concern for her cow touched her. She got up, put her basket over by the meal chest, and went out.” Her name comes from an old Highland song:
The stars are shining cheerily, cheerily
Horo, Mhairi dhu, turn ye to me.
The sea mew’s moaning drearily, drearily
Horo, Mhairi dhu, turn ye to me.
Cold is the stormwind that ruffles the breast
But warm are the downy plumes lining its nest
Cold blows the storm there
Soft falls the snow there
Horo, Mhairi dhu, turn ye to me. (Dark Mary, turn ye to me.)
Dark Mairi and Murach had “the second sight.” “Usually persons with second sight are normal enough in every other way. But Seumas was a strange being, and when the others forgot him, Davie and Kirsteen remained sensitive to his alien presence.” Dark Mairi is a healer who knows the plants, lichens, mosses of the glens as well as she knows the back of her hand. “Indeed, in her steady unthinking darkness, she might have walked out of a mountain and might walk into it again, leaving no sign. The sick man had looked at her with expectation. She asked him questions quietly. She smiled her small weak smile. She put her hand on his forehead. Her hand was very cold. Her smile did not touch her eyes at all. She was not concerned. She would soon put him all right.”
She could not, however, heal the great dislocation about to befall her people. I did not want to reach the sea again, at the end of this novel, not only because I knew what would happen, but also because the language was so wonderful.
Lady Elizabeth Gordon, her factor Mr. Sellar, and the organized church are the villains in this novel, although their names have been changed to protect the guilty, all while the young able men of the Highlands had gone off to fight on behalf of this corrupt aristocracy. Patrick Sellar was tried for his role in the atrocities and found not guilty in 1816.
From a people thus described: “peat on limbs and faces, the bodies leaping and spinning in the circles of music, under a sky with stars paling to the east where a waning moon was thinking of rising upon her kingdom; here was more than the joy of the dance, something added to the mystery of the rhythm, a beat in the blood; freedom from walls, freedom from rules; escape caught in its own delirious toils between fire and music. The music put its frenzy in the boys so that they could not leave the fire alone. Out of the dark they came running with peats from the nearest stacks with the guitt of half-theft stinging their mirth. They would make a fire as big as the world and blind the moon and stars !”
To a defeated people thus described: “But Mr. Heller glanced at Mr James and smiled also. ‘What a handful of half-starved savages in the lost glens of the north may say is nowhere. Yet that is our business, and when talking to us he will make it his.’”
This is a story which will take your imagination captive, and especially if you have roots in the Gaelic North of Scotland or in Ireland, you owe it to yourself to read this novel. Neil M. Gunn is one of the few authors I have read to note the irony of the Gaelic Highlanders sent to Ireland to quash dissent and the Gaelic Irish sent to Scotland to quash dissent – all among their ethnic cousins. “It proved an interesting reflection that the soldiers from these glens who some dozen years before had marched away to the wars had seen their first service in Ireland, where a rebellion against His Majesty’s kingdom was being ruthlessly stamped out. And now here was a regiment of Irish being marched into the Northern Highlands to even the balance of immortal justice. So naturally these Irish were more eager for the fray than Mr. Heller or any of his prompters, for they came muttering of their own defeats and wrongs, of Tarrahill and Ballynamuck. The bloody Highlanders! The bloody Irish!”
This review is from: Out of the Mouths of Babes (Kindle Edition)
“For the hand that rocks the cradle is the hand that rules the world.”
“Out Of The Mouths of Babes” is a work of urban sociology first published in 1997 and revisited in 2013, reminding us a bit of Max Weber. It is also a character study. Hamley understands his fictional characters in their early lives more cogently than most authors, maybe better than most of us understand our friends and relatives. Hence, the reader takes a deep dive into the psychology of three people, all born on the same day, September 15: Julian, Grizelda and Gary.
“A little wooden building sat quiet in the dark and a small figure sat equally quiet , watching it. It was as if they argued silently together in the night, reasoning with each other, daring each other.”
The novel begins with a blaze at Mockbeggar House, home of Julian. son of Bentley-driving parents, who plan and provide well.
Shortly thereafter we meet the other two: Grizelda, daughter of artsy hippies and Gary, son of a single mother who scrapes by in a maisonette (for the American readers, a very small apartment).
Grizelda evokes Chaucer’s ‘The Clerk’s Tale’ in which a peasant girl (named Griselda) marries a Marquis and accedes to his every wish, and in which her patience is tested by his cruelty.
Hamley’s Grizelda professes feminist sentiments (at least to herself), but nonetheless lives with Julian, sacrificing principle for the advantages of having a rich man.
‘Then she kissed him. “You’re on the wrong side tonight and I could never vote for you, my love. But what’s a vote beside everything else we’ve got?”‘
The motion was: ‘”This House holds dear the principle of independent education”. The main speakers were from Westminster: a member of the then Conservative Government, not quite Cabinet yet but give him time, and a member of the Labour Opposition who was definitely Shadow Cabinet.’
Of The Apsley Club, Grizelda says: “I can’t believe you’re in that High Tory crap,….”
Gary carries the surname of “Lugg,” almost too heavy to bear. Gary was the most fascinating character for this reader, and in him Hamley’s insight shines brilliantly. Gary speaks sparingly. In response to what is your name, he says: “It might be Darren. It might be Kevin. What do people like you think people like me are usually called?”
We also meet Wanda Gates, “the live-in nanny from Ilford, cooked solid English meals and the successive au pair girls proudly and sometimes inedibly reproduced their own national specialities.”
Wanda plays a pivotal role in introducing Gary to Julian, and in shaping both their futures. So, these three from wildly disparate origins converge in Hamley’s 296-page novel.
“Wanda had always known that knowledge is power in this world. Wanda’s world had been the Realm of Nannyhood. At her peak, she saw herself as at its centre, receiver of news, information , secrets, which would help her to fight the perpetual war between the nannies and the Ladies of the House. She was, one might say, Queen of the Realm. Or she aspired to be.”
This novel is the story of women, perhaps as much as the story of their progeny. Julian’s mother, Georgina lives a life of leisure, with servants and cleaners. Grizelda’s mother Wendy can afford to pursue her hobbies: painting and drawing. Chrissy, Gary’s mother, works long hours, smokes cigarettes and drinks “Tesco gin.” Just as their circumstances differ so too their ends.
This novel does not really ask the question: nature or nuture? Instead it asks what happens when the starting line for some is miles behind the starting line for others? Hamley also asks us to consider if personality traits are fixed in early childhood; is a personality malleable; can one really evolve ?
This is a well-written serious book for serious readers.
“Angels guard its strength and grace. In the palace, cottage, hovel, Oh, no matter where the place; Would that never storms assailed it, Rainbows ever gently curled, For the hand that rocks the cradle Is the hand that rules the world.” –William Ross Wallace 1819 – 1881
Leila Smith for The Kindle Book Review. The Kindle Book Review received a free copy of this book for an independent, fair and honest review. We are not associated with the author nor with Amazon.
See also Karl Wiggins quotation in his review of this book.
This book is one of those marvelous stories we might have missed were it not for
the magic of twitter. Daniel Kenyon has spun a yarn of the Roma and the Irish
Travellers that will wrap itself around you and hold you tight.
Jack Powers wakes up in Yorkshire, but sure it could have been rural Ireland or
Scotland, having had a strange and unexplainable dream. Thus opens ‘The Bare
Knuckle Fighter’ with a bang and a whimper. In short order he loses his mam and
is taken away by “Paddy Powers and his band of outlaw Tinkers.”
‘The Bare Knuckle Fighter’ marries, literally and figuratively the Romany and the Irish
Traveller families, giving us a revealing peek into their lives and customs.
This reviewer especially appreciated the linguistic insights. Kenyon (an
Anglicized version of Keenan) peppers his text with the words and syntax of his
characters. We hear the word omadhan and potcheen variations of the Gaelic words
“amadán” which means idiot or fool and “potín” a 90-proof Irish moonshine. And
we hear lots of Romany words, too, like “gorgio” or “giorgio” – a non Roma
person. Or “chavie,” a Roma boy.
“Then, slowly and clearly he asked Jack to repeat, after him, the first few words of the ancient Romany oath. I chatksi tsinuda de tehara, vai de haino, khal tut. Jack closed his eyes.”
The family and given names in this book are true to their owners, meaning a
Traveller can tell by a surname a person’s origin and ethnicity: Connors,
Jack is a special case. He is an artistic sort with one foot in the spirit world and one foot in the English world. Jack paints and sketches scenes from his dreams and others’ – often places and people he could not have known except by way of the spirit world. He does his best initially to escape or sublimate his Traveller roots.
“His favourite game was to pretend that he had a loving sister called Mary. He would talk to her as though she were really there. This went on for years, until he felt he no longer needed an imaginary sister, or his imagination was no longer pure enough to keep her
alive and so he set her free.” Eventually, though, he finds his Mary, a Chovihani, and finds himself again.
The big impending bare-knuckle boxing
match is the backdrop for the story – ever present and inexorable, we just don’t
know exactly when or where it will happen. When the big men box, the
consequences are surprising and the blows reverberate for
Kenyon’s language is powerful, understated and rich. His characters are truly memorable and some of them truly menacing. The reader can see them in her/his mind’s eye.
‘The Bare Knuckle Fighter’ is a knock out and this reader is very happy to have met the characters in this very unusual book.
Leila Smith for The Kindle Book Review. The Kindle Book Review has offered and independent, fair and honest review. We are not associated with the author nor with Amazon.
“Since Claire’s death, Rosalind Evans was, like Jacob Marley, doomed to wander.”
The author describes her debut novel as “satire.” So we expect ridicule or irony to expose folly or evil. And we get it by the “Shovel” ful.
Let me preface my review by saying that it takes some doing to spin the protein sequences of a single gene (the Claire gene) of a single double helix of a chromosome, in which the genes are arranged in linear order, into a 408-page novel, but Ms. Simmon has done it with élan and considerable humor.
We live in an era where a Florida resident puts a 10-year-old grilled cheese sandwich, purportedly containing the image of the Virgin Mary, on eBay for $22,000; a country where the image of Jesus in a frying pan makes money for Texans; the “end?” times when multiple images of Jesus and Mary are found in pancakes in – you guessed it – Florida.
So, why not non-textured non-extruded protein sequences which spell out The Ten Commandments in a gene?
This reviewer says the “good” characters are beautiful, rich and brilliant (and live in wonderful apartments and have boats). The “bad” characters also have bags of money, though possessed of complexity and back stories, scheming and detestable as they are. Big Pharma, the Catholic hierarchy, the Jesus-TV stars, self-involved politicians, know-it-all IT guys, talking heads whose main qualification is reading TelePrompTers find themselves at the point of Simmon’s pen, skewered appropriately.
Lest we forget the “new age” (pronounced ahhhge) non-denominational churches, the reader will find one of those, too, complete with holograms and hot tubs. No dogmas, no problems.
Simmon is an expert at creating suspense, even in such an unlikely context. This skeptical reviewer kept turning the electronic page to find out what happened next, sometimes skipping two kindle pages in her haste. Your thumb will get a thorough workout!
There are many passages which seem more than a little “preachy” but they are counter-balanced by the poke at our willingness to believe any crackpot with a mission who surfaces on the internet or on a ticker tape. Enter “Starry Messenger.” (Siderius Nuncius by Galileo Galilei)
“We get four million viewers a night; Starry Messenger gets twenty times that. He’s more popular than God. Have you ever had a meaningful conversation where Starry’s name didn’t come up?”
David, husband of the protagonist Dr. Rosalind Evans, says: ““You talk about the genome with reverence and longing, the way some people talk about God.”
The [VERY] “Reverend Joseph Steele, televangelist, rabble-rouser, arbiter of all things moral” says ‘“Amen?”’ repeatedly. ‘The crowd cheered. “Amen!” Steele pulled the microphone close until it touched his lips. “I said AMEN?”’
Disgraced Governor Willard Hitchcock says : “You can’t prove a negative. It’s up to them to provide evidence.”
The “Shovel” Ron Vaniere says: “This is why I’m a legend… as he waited for the photo to download. He glanced at his watch: he would be ready for air with time to spare.”
The Archbishop of Chicago says to himself: “Does the end justify any means to silence her?”And the “Cardinal Duffy’s face twisted into a snarl that sent a chill down O’Roarke’s spine. “That’s how the enemy works. Subtle at first, disguised as something harmless, until it rears up and bites your head off.”
Mick “The Tech” Morrison (who slurps protein shakes) says: “Everybody wants me,” … a smile spreading across his chiseled face. “I can resuscitate a crashed hard drive just by breathing on it, and I can tell a Trojan from a worm by smell. I am the magical, mystical wizard of tech.”
Senator Bosch [always] said: “You had to keep it subtle, he always said, so that the pork would be hard to find in case anyone decided to read the bill.”
Are you getting the picture, Dear Reader? These are characters we can love to hate.
We can feel smugly that we would never fall for such malarkey. Simmon creates suspense, humor, irony and does a good job of spelling out the ABCs of DNA and the potential for its abuse posed by patenting genes and pharmaceutical chicanery.
The writing is excellent and the editing is good. Simmon makes cogent observations about the state of human understanding in the 21st Century, too: “No guile whatsoever. The fact that she was scared made it golden. Emotional appeal was the nut of any good story, and the king of all emotions was fear. The trick would be to dig through the layers, all the way down to the fear. What if this woman actually did find the Ten Commandments written in the genetic code? What if it isn’t sabotage?”
What’s not to like? I enjoyed reading The God Gene.
Leila Smith, for The Kindle Book Review. The Kindle Book Review received a free copy of this book for an independent, fair and honest review. We are not associated with the author nor with Amazon.
“…He has the chiseled behind of an Argonaut. Talk about dinner and a show.” “Decomposing corpses, blood, meth labs, mayhem. He really has a wealth of knowledge.”
Smack Wilder, Smartie Breedlove, Sneak Peek, Accidents Waiting to Happen: We get at least four stories for the price of one. This book is really worth the price of the download!!
We also get a stinging critique of the publishing world:
“He could have gone the self-publishing route. Truly, the stigma’s not what it used to be except in the minds of a few academics and New York old-schoolers who actually enjoy living with their heads up each other’s asses.”
At the risk of sounding clichéd, this very smart, sassy, hugely entertaining novel begins at “The End.” But there is nothing clichéd about this book except the ones it lampoons.
Our heroine, Smartie who channels Jessica Fletcher, but with silk dresses and no panties, wants to know all the literally gory details of every crime scene, every technicality of biohazards, she wants to know everything about everything.
“Can I come with?” she asked. “I want to see all your equipment and fracketty foo out there.” “Um… sure,” said Hewitt.
Smartie writes Smack Wilder novels (within the novel) boasting names like “Get Wilder,” “Splatter Cat,” “Doggy Style,” “Dead Sexy,” and you get the picture. She’s a bit of a genre writer, I think.
Ms. Rodgers is a character writer. There’s a character for everyone in this book and sometimes their names are as hilarious as their situations. There is the gold-digging floozy (Charma) who marries the billionaire. There’s “Cardboard Janny” who posthumously controls her widowed husband and posthumously releases books like ‘Janny’s World: A Ten Year Retrospective of America’s Gal Next Door.’
There are Tag Mason, Twyla and Digg, Inky Fujitsu, potential characters in one of Smack’s books. There are the unscrupulous divorce lawyers (SPF& E) whose troublesome defendants seem to drop like flies, and whose Suri Fitch which rhymes with witch seems to push every button in Houston.There’s Smartie’s love interest named Shep (ex cop gone bad) who pants after Suri while Smartie pants after Penn Hewitt, the biohazard man. Let’s not forget Herrick and Casilda – heck, there’s a cast of well, hundreds, or scores anyhow.
There are double-crosses aplenty and Ms. Rodgers keeps us guessing till the bitter end about “The End.” Who really double-crossed whom. Not to mention the surprise relationships that emerge, the red herrings, and the sushi.
There are the book clubbers, except in this case they all write books: The John Buchans(literary fiction) vs. The Quilters(more commercial).
There’s folk wisdom like “”Success is counted sweetest by those who ne’er succeed.”
There’s enlightenment and brand new uses for words, like “keelhauled, ” as in:
“You’re an honest man, Shep. And I feel your pain. I haven’t been properly keelhauled since…” She had to think it over for a moment. “Shlomo Taubechik. Guest cantor from Estonia. Five Sukkoths ago.” “Sue coat?” “Feast of Tabernacles. You do this yibber yabber with a lemon and a stalk of wheat. Ushers in the season of rejoicing.”
We learn lots of new expletives like “squids” as in:
“”Oh, he left rehab.” “What?” Smartie said with dismay. “After only a week?” “She says he’s drinking like a fish, but writing brilliantly.” “Squids.” Smartie sorrowfully mopped her neck…”
You get your porn and depravity (LILTART2920 whose real name is Kara Sweet,but tastefully done); your beer and belches, your fast cars, fan fiction, some classical music.
Least but not last, there’s fashion “She’d traded her bloodied Mildred Pierce getup for plaid flannel pajama pants and a Make Art Not War tee shirt, along with pink socks and a pair of disposable hazmat booties Hewitt had given her.”
I really loved this romp through Houston’s blood puddles and I think you will too. In fact, I think I shall read it again just to get the puns and humor I missed the first time through.
So, back to the “Gunsmoke approach: everybody in their own saddle with an occasional dust devil to keep the saloon door swinging.” You must read this book.
The Hurricane Lover by Joni Rodgers. Available on Amazon US and Amazon UK.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars To use the vernacular, The Hurricane Lover blew me away, September 30, 2012
Amazon Verified Purchase(What’s this?)
This review is from: The Hurricane Lover (Kindle Edition)
While some of us were sitting high and dry watching the coverage of Katrina on the wide screens, Shay and Corbin (and Ms.Rodgers) were wading through the fetid brackish sewage in what was left of “Nawlins;” Rodgers as a Red Cross volunteer, Shay and Corbin as the well-drawn main characters in Ms. Rodgers’s entertaining retrospective of Katrina followed closely by Hurricane Rita.
The Hurricane Lover is a murder mystery, a thriller, and an exposé of “Heck of a job Brownie,” Halliburton, Nagin, Dubya, Fugate, FEMA, Homeland Security and all the others who failed us as taxpayers and left the drowning residents of Louisiana gasping for breath and dying on their roof tops. From August 26 through September 27 of 2005, we follow an ensemble cast of rich and poor, babies to Nammas, including the grand old trees dripping with Spanish moss, the brocade sofas in the parlors, the sculptures, the art collections, almost all submerged by the power of that storm.
The scenes are terrifying:
“…she lost her footing and stumbled backward, the fetid current closing in up to her neck. Flailing against an unknowable snarl of God knows what–spider legs, cypress roots, rats, shrunken heads, voodoo hair–she fought for her feet, gasping, gagging, slapping at the twigs and piano wires and unidentified, terrifying shit that tangled in her ponytail and clothes. Trapped between the woman’s backpack and a tree branch, she went down again, grinding her knees against a submerged row of pointed pavers that lined the sidewalk…” Just remember: no lights, no potable water, no dry beds, no privacy, no food, no toilets for days on end, even for those “lucky” enough to get to the Superdome.
The plots and subplots are complex. The villains (and there is at least one) are ruthless. And there are surprise twists and turns. Who was that caller near the end who identified himself as “Halliburton?” But I must say, the Steel Magnolias steal all the scenes.”Mommi and her church ladies were doing pedicures for women at the Astrodome.” The men have their bourbon and Glenfiddich and mathematical models, but are they really predictive? And what about a woman’s predictive model? You’ll find out.
Meanwhile, the verses of a Cajun lullaby, like the assurances of FEMA (not), initially lulled us into thinking FEMA would take care of our fellow countrymen and women. “C’est la petite poule blanche, qui a pondu dans la branche, un petit coco pour mon bébé faire dodo …” (A little white hen laid in the branch a little egg So my baby could sleep) Now we know we are all on our own, should disaster strike, except for the kindness of the Red Cross, our local charities, and the random act of kindness of which Shay and Corbin found themselves capable.
Shay of the Houston Hoovestahls and the Dallas McKecknies had a dream of getting a really gritty hard news story to impress her boss and get a serious job at the television station. Dr. Corbin,of the Louisiana Thibodeaux family, would rather be correct than sorry. The two managed to achieve détente as well as copious “engagements”, despite the reality that she’s from a devout Republican family (in the way of Southern Baptists, perhaps) and he a “goddang” liberal who “preached the gospel of evacuation. Preached it like a Baptist.” “Hurricane Lover” is just one of the delightful double-entendres sprinkled throughout the book, some en Francais, some in English.We get a revealing peek at the Deep South in 2005. Ms. Rodgers is a skillful, very humorous and powerful writer and all the other characters: Char and Robert, Mickey, Guy, Bonnie, Millie, Watts, Sykes and Louisa live on her pages. My advice is to buy and read this book!
Poems From Leòdhas, June 3, 2013
Mr. Urpeth begins with an old Gaelic proverb:
An ràmh is fhaisg air laimh, iomair leis:
Row with the oar that’s closest to hand.
And then he does just that. Using the birds and words of his adopted island, he rows, conveys his readers from West to East, “from the marrow of an out-crop.”
Reminds me somehow of the song we sang as children: “…If you haven’t got a mug of cider, half a mug will do…if you haven’t a penny, a ha’penny will do and if you haven’t a ha’penny then God Bless You” much more complex, of course but for each eventuality, there is a substitution or a solution:”If the nest is empty, we’ll chew on feathers.”
‘Overlapping, at St Aulas’
St. Aulas, is an ancient chapel on the Isle of Lewis, home of the poet. Where time and tide overlap, perhaps; where the cliffs, perhaps, harbor those “guillemots [who] have the Gaidhlig.” Where the many bird cities and their tongues overlap; where the poet talks to the birds and they talk back.
‘The Emptying, The Finding’
Where the Bards of the Beach sing on Luinn,one of the Slate Islands, Firth of Lorn, in the west of Argyll in Scotland, and yet “On Luing, the poet found silence” enough.
Entreaties to the plover who answers the poet’s questions with avian questions of which Socrates might approve.
A wonderful poem, a celebration of Torcuil MacRath, brimming with words like these words:”and how you stacked the Earth’s words at your door for that winter fire burning in your memory of a thousand years.”
(In ‘Northings’ Urpeth tells us: “”That’s Loch Urnabhaigh,” said Torcuil, “Urna is an Old Norse word for a bend in the coastline. The maps have that wrong when they call it Loch Grimshader.” Then Torcuil points to the freshwater loch on the other side of the road: “That’s the real Loch Grimshader,” he says. “It’s a freshwater loch. I have an old ordnance map that has them both called Loch Grimshader, and you know when you see that that something is wrong.”)
A very interesting interloper in this book of bird poems – swords and trees. You’ll have to buy the book to find out!
‘East / West’
Two ways of living, overlapping – alliterative and in a dichotomous key. “while you played silent pavannes on a glass trumpet over the carved casks at Rodel church…”
What a wonderful surprise to find Gaidhlig embedded in this volume of poetry. It’s rare that a stranger, though a poet, so completely wears the mantle of his adopted island.
“… agus dh’iarr mi air an facal Gàidhlig airson ‘snipe’? ‘Naosg’ thuirt Fionnlagh, ‘Naosg a tha seo.’”
There are many more whence came those, each one as good or better than the last. The Volume, or Pamphlet, is divided into West and East, left to interpretation by the reader.
These are the words, the North Words, of a true poet whose birds sing the songs of the isles.