I don't know where it's going, but I'm going with it. Justin Tussing's The Best People in the World is not spectacular, but I'm interested enough. I sense there's some climactic episode about to happen and I don't know what it'll be. Thomas has run away from his family, has left Kentucky for the backwoods of Vermont with his lover and history teacher Alice and the local character Shiloh. The three are squating in a house and are on the verge of joining a cult/commune, led by an accented leader, Gregor. But it's Shiloh's sketchy friend Parker that I think'll be the crux of the story. Everyone seems on the verge of cracking, but who will go first? Will Alice's conscience get the better of her or will she simply abandon Thomas for one of the older men? Will Shiloh's secret(s) be revealed? Are Gregor and Parker even crazier and more dangerous than they appear? Or will Thomas come to his senses and leave the wilds of the unknown and return to his home?
"The Plymouth shivered up the loose gravel of those washboard, nowhere roads. The roads I chose petered out in trenchlike ruts, at muddy stream crossings. We found little hollows with one-room schoolhouses and corrugated steel hutches. Cornfields extended into narrow pie slices of land where two similar roads reached an agreement. We saw a young girl riding a chestnut horse in her underpants. A man, his car, and a long machine, alone in a clearing, split wood; the man fed the machine rounds of wood and the machine halved them. The land canted and tilted and fell away. I lost all faith in the here and there. The name of the countryside was deja vu. The roads digressed. I drove too fast and nobody tried to stop me. I caught myself grinding my teeth. The road straightened out. I slowed down. We saw a black car in the distance, but when we caught up, it was an ox. Loops of saliva were suspended from t he animal's gums. In front of the ox, a small boy was occupied with pushing a stick through the gravel."
Tussing's writing is concise, beautiful and purposeful, reminiscent of Hemingway. But it's not the writing I'm having trouble with, it's the characters and story. I feel for Thomas, the narrator, but none of the other characters have showed redeeming qualities, except Shiloh and his occasional words of wisdom.
Let the novel take me and I shall report what I have seen.
It's a good feeling, to be reading (and thinking) again and The Best People in the World was the right choice to crack me out of my spell. Though I've wanted to read Tussing's novel, I borrowed it from the library because it was small enough to carry around, unlike A History of Reading or the Whitman biography I picked up. Portability was the key.
Justin Tussing The Best People in the World
Balzac Eugenie Grandet
Alberto Manguel A History of Reading
Umberto Eco The Mysterious Flame of Queen Loana
Jose Saramago The Double