Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Indiana, Indiana by Laird Hunt

Awhile back, I reviewed The Exquisite for KGBbar Lit. It was my first review for them, and I was nervous. I was not sure how I was going to explain how I felt about TE; I was conflicted and confused and it took a reread to straighten that out, and even so, I think my review does not tell the whole story.

Since then, I have heard a whole bunch of nice things about Hunt. He also stopped by and dropped a comment, which I thought was very, very nice. I wanted to read some of this other stuff but wasn’t sure where to start. Luckily for me, the library had both The Impossibly and Indiana, Indiana. I decided to go with II because it seemed far away from the traumatized New York of TE.

When I got into II on the train from New York to Philadelphia, all of a sudden I was slogging through a fever dream set on a farm. I finished it that night on the floor of my childhood bedroom, stricken (again) with insomnia and the incredulity of having a brother that never came home. Maybe this was not the best time to read about a life marked by unfairness and misunderstanding, full of ghosts and loss. Maybe. But what I found upon reflection is that II is a story about the persistence of life and memory, two subjects that are forever nibbling at my ears and leaving inconvenient and embarrassing turds in my brain.

Here is the part where I would tell you about the plot but I actually don’t think it is necessary with this book. A few quotes should suffice:

Almost immediately his “babbling dreams” stopped. Noah associated their cessation not so much with what the Minister had said, but with the Minster’s imposing forehead and long arms and strong smell.

Noah looks down at his feet, decides where he can place them without causing too much damage, then turns. Or starts to.

What she did was1) hire a private investigator form Kokomo who all but hauled Virgil back to the farm, 2) scream, 3) pray.

The characters come alive mostly through the prism of one damaged man’s memory and the artifacts they left behind, and yet they each person’s story can be caught and examined through other alleys in the book. That is a tough thing to pull off. Hunt is great at creating spaces in this book where objects and rituals have arms that reach out and slap you around. Surprisingly, this is not overwhelming.

One of the things I have enjoyed about reading both II and TE is how the texts require thought and reflection. In fact they almost insist upon it; my mind was full of the books for weeks after I read each. Both are short works, but I like how they don’t really end until the thinking is done. Very satisfying.


Anonymous said...

Sounds like we had very similar reactions. I loved I,I as much as The Exquisite - that whole fever dream, prism approach. Let us know when you read The Impossibly.

Carrie said...

I think I like it more than TE, actually, but I think that's just a subject matter thing.

So glad to see you reading. Condalmo is daily reading for me. Please keep it up!