Posts Tagged ‘Writers’

All is well under the sun! The events at Western Edge in Medora, at Books on Broadway in Williston, and Main Street Books in Minot prove the voracity of North Dakota readers (including visitors to the state). Thank you to the INDIE-bookstores and INDEPENDENT THINKING readers!

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William Kent Krueger’s ORDINARY GRACE:

Krueger delights those readers who pine for literature in a very fast book market, but the author of some fourteen mysteries does not displease the mystery/crime base he has spent years entertaining in his latest, ORDINARY GRACE.

The novel is a coming of age story—a tough trial for Frank Drum, our narrator, just thirteen—it is certainly a mystery, and it qualifies as a literary work in particular for its timely and pervasive examination of faith and of faith under fire.

Frank Drum’s transformation from child to young adult occurs over not more than two months of a summer marked by four deaths, several close to home in distance and relationship. Shut out by the adults surrounding him, seen as too young to be told all, Frank accompanied by his younger brother, Jake, probes and peeks for clues and for truth, trying to make sense of sudden death, natural passing, suicide, and murder. He emerges a changed young man.

Questions abound. What really happened to young Bobby Cole? Did the Sioux “troublemaker,” Warren Redstone have something to do with the itinerant’s death or the drowning of a teenage girl? Why are local ne’er-do-wells focusing on Frank and his family? How can a youngster defend himself against them? What drives the secrecy of New Bremen’s first family? Far from just a who-done-it, questions of why and what happens to the people near these deaths run deep through Frank’s investigations. Frank’s tender heart goes on trial at times but survives the brutality that surrounds him.

Nathan Drum, Frank’s Methodist minister father, fords turbulent waters with the family through its tribulations, proving to be an unusual and towering figure of kindliness, patience, and faith. His faith derives from experience— Gus, a war buddy and church janitor, calls Nathan, Captain—and serves not only to guide the family, the people of the congregations he serves, and the town through deadly damage but also does so in soft-edged, charitable way. Nathan exhibits what the town needs: firm faith far from the hard line judgment often associated, especially nowadays, with the deeply religious.

Frank’s father compares quite favorably with Atticus Finch of To Kill a Mockingbird, and may be a greater figure, as Nathan weathers storms far more difficult and trying than does Atticus. Reverend Drum’s sermon on faith, hope, and charity (love in this book) is deep and moving. His grace in the face of prejudice and righteous anger is exceeded only by his patience and insistence on talking things out. Krueger has created a saintly character, who emerges simply a human doing good.

The story grows very dark at times, confronts the wayward human heart, and remains in its fullness, quite optimistic, almost a miracle. In that way it is truly a Minnesota story.

 

I have been thinking about Lars and Trond, the neighbors in Out Stealing Horses. Do we get to see enough of their relationship to think about what might happen later, after the book ends? Maybe.  Here is what I think is so:

The two have common history rooted in the same place.

They enjoy the physical work of life.

They have lost a huge part of that they once thought their lives included: a father for Trond, a farm for Lars.

Neither went back.

They are over sixty and live within sight of each other.

I think this is a recipe for friendship, at least I would like to think so. Lars seems, to me and to Trond, like a decent fellow, careful, deliberate, thoughtful.

Each could use the other’s companionship even though neither moved there to be near. So, each could use the other’s forbearance too. On that, I think, they could count. I can see them doing some fishing together, working projects that are too hard for one man, keeping an eye out for each other. Cooking for two might be something Trond is willing to do, maybe even twice a week and on special occasions.

Well, we don’t get to see much of that. So, I wonder, what is Lars doing in that story? He intensifies Trond’s loss of a father. Yes, it is a greater loss when your dad fathers another man’s son even if just for a while. It raises our curiosity about the father’s life after Trond returns to Oslo.  If Jon had returned to find Trond’s father still there (his mother was, we know), I don’t think it would make sense for him to demand the farm. Are we, then, to think that he had died? Left? Or was he just living up stream still? (In that case, would he have been a father to Lars? Lars calls him “my stepfather” during the account of the dog shooting). I am not sure which is most likely.  We don’t really have to know.

But Lars is doing something else here. If it were just Trond who was suffering a loss – even though he was the boy in the golden trousers and lived a full live, albeit not without tragedy – alone, the story would be about an individual. More about him, less about us.

But there Lars is. He lived a life parallel to Trond in loss and suffering. He was booted out, young. He did not return. He also lost a father and, like Trond, a sibling (twice).  This makes the book more a tale of two men whose lives intertwined briefly but significantly.

If this is so, would Trond be the Sydney Carton who loses a father that another man might have one? The allusion strengthens the argument that Lars’ presence adds a universal scope to the theme. We have to see life as loss. How much it hurts will be up to us.

 

 

Food trucks and writers

Posted: January 26, 2013 by Jollymore in On the street
Tags: , , ,

What am I doing here?

That was what I asked last night as Carol and I wandered through the young crowd outside OMC, Oakland Museum of California. I had gone for the music.  Well, it was Funk.

Can I dance to Funk? No.  Can I listen to Funk? No, but I can’t not hear it. I had to steer Carol behind a thick glass door to talk and to be able to hear anything but Funk.

Drink? I left that escape behind 27 and a half years ago.

Art? The most interesting piece of art in the gallery was the expression of “protocols” stamped on the security guard: “Please, take your purse strap off your shoulder,” she told Carol, “and hold it in your hand.”  Well, I had to know why.  What possible reason could otherwise well meaning people – I assume OMC is filled with them – have to foist such an odd and intrusive request.  Why? “Protocol.” What is that? Well: P-perpetrate, r-ridiculous, o-or, t-tedious, o-obligations, c-coupled with, o-obnoxious, l-license on all passersby.  Why? Because we can.  We are security; you are the public.  The final explanation was given me by Emily, a museum authority, that the glass work in the exhibit could easily be broken by one turning around while shouldering a large bag.  I viewed the exhibit.  Most of the glass work was encased in, well, glass. Boxes that fully protected the “art.”  All right.

What was I, then, doing there? I discovered the reason: I had come to visit the Food-Trucks. Yes, Food-Trucks, is a proper noun.

What an assemblage, too:  a cupcake truck, a lumpia wagon, a creme brule van, a Mediterainean flatbread sandwich cason, and others less well defined but all organic, all local, all “off the grid.”   But not one taco truck (note: those are common nouns). I didn’t sample, but I did read and interview. I wanted to know who was “driving” the Food Trucks. I gathered from three conversations with truckers who were SOLD OUT and, therefore, accessible and willing to talk that to “do” the Trucks, you have to be 30 something or so, and have the most common credential, a diploma from a culinary academy.  The largest, a red sandwich truck boasted two Cordon Blue graduates.

Germane to this blog, though, was news emblazoned across each truck in singular and signature font, the requirement that to be a Food-Truck, just as I am told is true of writers today, you need to have a Twitter following, a Facebook page, a web site as well as, bien sur, a blog and email address. In short, we writers, like Food-Trucks must have a web presence.

So. What am I doing here? I am basking in “presence.”

Jollymore