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Another fine mess

Reader fan critic teacher reader fan.

Currently reading

Ottessa Moshfegh
Knife Fight and Other Struggles
David Nickle
Far from the Tree: Parents, Children, and the Search for Identity
Andrew Solomon
The Good Lord Bird
James McBride
Ancillary Justice
Ann Leckie
Our Underachieving Colleges: A Candid Look at How Much Students Learn and Why They Should Be Learning More (New Edition)
Derek Bok
Dissident Gardens
Jonathan Lethem
Nightmare Movies: Horror on Screen Since the 1960s
Kim Newman
The Information: A History, a Theory, a Flood
James Gleick
Complete Novels
Dashiell Hammett, Steven Marcus
The Wilding - Benjamin Percy "One minute it wasn't there and the next minute it is, as if a trapdoor has opened in the ceiling of the night, depositing it at the edge of the clearing, twenty yards away."

Much about this novel screamed "stay away" to me. I used to whine about the spate of boys-gone-hunting-with-mom's-new-boyfriend stories in the 'eighties. (I blamed Richard Ford, who would probably blame Hemingway.) I find tedious most manly-man grappling with the Dark Heart of nature and the testing of one's mettle and the competition with the other manly-men and the boys learning how to be men in pitched battle with daddy and trying to make sense of the (one) Woman in the story.

But I do like me a good scary bear story, so what the hell, I picked this up. And listen: it's no doubt in that well-mined vein of American literary macho guff from above. But also look at that sentence, quoted up top. You get from these few words, the precise ticking like a countdown of the phrases between the sentences, a sense of the novel's constant foreboding and eventual nail-biting suspense. You get one small taste of Percy's talent for images--whether a figurative flourish like that "trapdoor" or an evocative, exact depiction of action -- a father taunting his son to shoot an injured beast, a terribly-insecure boy cavorting at home with enormous delight while clad in an apesuit, the skinning of a beaver, a man on the edge of physical breakdown fording some rapids and losing his footing.

And then there's the surprise in his prose--that shift into the present tense, something wasn't there then it is....

Despite many familiar conventions (my friend Jeff cracked wise about the shadow of Dickey's Deliverance which hangs over the book)... despite being another book about boys and men and violence and nature... it's constantly tripping you up, sentence by sentence. The writing is dazzling, and the story and characters--despite conventions well-trodden--are compelling. Good stuff. I've got to read his previous story collection....