Hieroglyphics and Nostalgia

April 30, 2008 § Leave a comment

Now reading: The Wet Collection.

A couple of brief notes here:

I read “Postcards from Costa Rica” right after my last post, which is too bad, since it fits so well there.  It’s a really well done piece: short sections focusing on a movement or vector, primarily of animals (ants, an iguana, a sea turtle, etc.)  There’s a focus on the hieroglyphics formed or left behind by these movements which linger in the memory.  In the final section, Tevis makes explicit the comparison of these tracks and the marks of language on a page.  Language as word-pictures, as an art of memory.

The next piece, “The Rain Follows the Plow,” is the longest in the book, and seems in many ways its core.  (I keep calling them “pieces” because they often blend elements of essay, story, and poem.  Belles lettres would probably be the closest designation, but it’s hard to drop that into a sentence.)  It threads together the story of a homesteading woman in the Oregon high desert and the author’s experiences as a ranger at the state park that’s been formed on that land by the damming of three rivers.

There’s a deep vein of nostalgia in this story, for me, and in some unexpected ways.  It’s very good on the wistful joy of new love kept at a distance and savored in a half-chosen solitude.  That’s part of it, the most obvious part, and the sweetest.  But there’s a bigger picture nostalgia here.  There’s a spur-of-the-moment cross-country car trip that would give anyone over sixteen a pang for a time when a trip from Texas to Oregon wouldn’t cost you approximately three gajillion dollars.  There’s mentions of folks in speedboats, RVs, campers.  Maybe it’s just me (actually, I’m pretty sure it is), but it already feels like a memo from a lost era.  How will teenagers be reading road-trip novels thirty years from now?

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