Tuesday, May 09, 2006

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.


Now reading:
Justin Tussing The Best People in the World
Balzac Eugenie Grandet
Alberto Manguel A History of Reading

On deck:
Umberto Eco The Mysterious Flame of Queen Loana
Jose Saramago The Double

4 comments:

Dorothy W. said...

Yay! It does feel good to get back into reading again, after a break. I'm hoping to stumble across a novel soon that I can't put down. I haven't had that experience in a while.

Stefanie said...

yay! Glad you're back reading again. I go through reading funks from time to time. I find they mostly happen after I have read a really amazing book. After that it seems nothing can compare. But then I get caught up in something, like you have, and things get back to normal :)

M. Barresi said...

Dorothy, if I had to recommend one current book, it would either be Nicole Krauss's The History of Love or Sarah Hall's The Electric Michelangelo. These, I couldn't put down.

Stefanie, I totally understand where you're coming from. Amazing books set the pedestal so high that anything else seems second rate. As for getting back to normal...my friends and family would like you to know that, that ship sailed a long time ago!

Ella said...

Glad to hear you've recovered, Mike. I'd never heard of Tussing, but it sounds great, a lot like Alice Thomas Ellis - you might enjoy her, too.

I hate reading funks. I once went a month without reading anything other than beauty magazines, and that was horrible. Even today, the cover of "Cosmopolitan" makes me break out in a cold sweat.