What a thoughtful review. I'm happy to see it in The Independent. This is an important novel for Missoulians to read and discuss.
I find posts like this to be very frustrating.
The author seems oblivious to the blatant prejudice being expressed here against people of religious faith. Identifying religious faith as the equivalent of poverty and domestic abuse?
Additionally, we have a case here of factually incorrect accusations being made against a religious minority. The Mormon church excommunicates polygamists, labels them heretics, and has since the late 1890s. There is no interaction between mainline Mormons and polygamist Mormons. There are polygamists groups in Arizona, and Alberta, but they are isolated and do not interact with mainline Mormons.
It would be like claiming the Catholic Church is responsible for the actions of Lutherans.
The implied dynamics of a mainline Mormon marrying his daughter off to a polygamist is bizarre and farcical without any connection to the actual life experience of Mormons.
Yet this is eaten up and believed. Why? Because the prejudice against Mormons is so great that lies like this delight you.
Let's cut to the truth here. Mormons are not hated because they believe in God, nor because they are devoted church goers. Mormons are hated because they reject the sexual revolution and continue to hold to a sexual morality that most people today resent because it makes them feel guilty about their choices. Mormons are hated because they say God forbids drug use.
That's why Mormons are hated.
Yet if one considers it, is refusing to use drugs evil? Is refusing to have sex before marriage evil? Why?
Ultimately the claim comes down to that you don't like being told that what you are doing is wrong. It's the resentment of a petulant child who doesn't want to be scolded. Therefor you seek the destruction of those that refuse to abandon the standards that you have abandoned. You will tell lies and slander them, because truth doesn't work to destroy them.
Articles like this do not call Mormons into judgement. They call you into judgement for your decision to spread slander about those you disagree with.
Would it be a comedy if it was written with the man as the victim?
Thanks for your comments and for the correction on Holy the Firm, Mitchell. We made the change.
Forgot to add: good review.
Even those familiar with Dillard (and I've been reading her since 1974) can be surprised by her. I'd always thought her deadly serious, in a philosophic way, then had the experience of hearing her live and realized that while she may indeed be dealing with subjects that are deadly serious, she's also a comedian. Going back and rereading her I find puckish humor I had original missed in the dazzle of her language. For those new to Dillard, I suggest keeping an eye out for the tongue in cheek and the joke. You'll find things it took me years to discover. Oh, and it is Holy the Firm, not The Holy Firm. Though the second does sound funnier.
wow. you nailed it. I feel more alive just reading your review. it's clear Annie Dillard's expansive & exploratory consciousness has taken hold. in you - and now in me.
This review completely misses the depth of the story...one of loss and redemption. Of course, if someone expects genre hack mystery pulp, this will surely disappoint. The heavy weight champ of lyrical story and prose is at his very finest.
Great review, CLT. This one definitely goes on my list. Some day we shall share epic stories of road trips with dogs over beverages. My worst/favorite involves duct tape, iced beach towels, and trapped near death in the hell called Needles.
It's worth pointing out that while ponderosa pine pines are a very important tree specie throughout the west, they actually make up a very small percentage of total forest ecosystems, as little as 10% in most areas, and perhaps even less in Montana.
This is important to keep in mind because often times timber-industry friendly scientists and politicians make it seem as if all forest ecosystems in the west are, or were, dominated by ponderosa pine...and that's entirely false, except for a few spots in the southwest US.
Also, these same folks often make it seem as if historically all the forests of the west (not just ponderosa pine forests) burned with a high frequency, but a low intensity. That's also entirely false, as new science and research is finding every day. See this for example: http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?i…
Sure, give the book a read and learn more about ponderosa pines, but please don't think that higher elevation spruce/fir forests or many of the mid-elevation mixed confirm forests burned historically like ponderosa pine forests did. Heck, we are even finding that many ponderosa pine forests didn't burn historically like some would like us to believe.
Go David! Keep up the work. You're not done yet.
Thanks, for the correction, Shaun. We have updated the cutline online.
The baby in the photo in this article is McCarthy's godson, Missoulian Max Smith.
Excellent review of an excellent book.
One clarification: Krakauer did not rush the book. The book was complete early this year, and was slated for fall release. Rather, Doubleday rushed publication in response to Rolling Stone retracting its story about an alleged gang rape at a University of Virginia fraternity.
(He talked about this in an interview, possibly with Charlie Rose.)
I am just finishing up this book and I love that Gary remained voiceless throughout the book. It felt like a really powerful response and inversion of the power dynamic present in abusive families.
Haven't read this one but it sounds pretty interesting.
For readers who want another opinion:
I just finished reading BLACK RIVER and I disagree. This book has much more to offer than your review suggests.
Many people find it difficult to speak about how they feel, especially when their emotions are intense. Having known some of those people, one man in particular, I thought Wesley's character was an accurate portrayal of the way someone like him would respond to the situations and people he encountered. Wesley grew up in a small town where most of the fathers worked at the prison and most of their sons grew up to do the same. He was not a complicated man. He lived for two things: his family and his music. This is not a character who would have an "engaging" inner life.
I was impressed by the subtle ways Hulse wrote small moments into the story. Such as Wesley's comment after his wife asked him if it was hard for him to shoot an injured deer. All he said was, "It was the right thing." Those five words opened a door in my mind that allowed so much about his character to fall into place. And I thought the moment was perfectly timed, as many moments were in this novel.
Since I have been a musician all my life, I understand what it would mean to man like Wesley to lose that voice by losing most of his ability to use his hands. Music was the one graceful way he had to express himself gracefully in the world. Now he has frustration and chronic pain. And it's not likely he only experiences those only once in a while. You say, "ad nauseum." I say how many times do you suppose he would think about the torturous, violent destruction of his hands? Probably every time he felt pain -- which was nearly every moment of every day and night -- or when he could not to do something as simple as pull the ring top off a can of orange juice for his dying wife. And then there was the moment when he couldn't grant her dying wish. To me, that is not "ad nuseum." That is bringing a fictional character to life by giving him realistic thoughts and feelings.
As you suggested, there could have been more of Dennis in the story. But, quite obviously, in BLACK RIVER, that story is not over. Maybe he will have the starring role in S. M. Hulse's next book, which I look forward to reading.
Excellent review, Chris. Weaving an intensely personal story through a life of outdoors adventure sounds like a great combination to me. Can't wait to read this one.
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