Archive for March, 2011|Monthly archive page

A Very Long and Unplanned Hiatus

Well, I’m back. And I’m no longer at the bookstore, so expect to see more pictures (couldn’t do it at work, took up too much time, and I couldn’t save the photos to the computer), and perhaps something more than just book reviews. In time, I may change the name of the blog. But I’ll keep it for now.

Instead of trying to catch up on all the things I’ve been reading since I last posted, I’ll just start with something I’ve read recently.

The first is Salvation City by Sigrid Nunez. To be honest, I read this because I am anticipating her new book, Sempre Susan which will be coming out in April. It deals with her time working for Susan Sontag and living with/dating Sontag’s son David. But I had seen this one at work a few months ago and decided to give it a try. The main character, Cole, is recounting his very short life thus far. He’s only thirteen but both his parents have died, he’s lived in an orphanage, and has been taken in by a pastor and his wife, in Salvation City. Though Cole’s parents weren’t the only ones to die. A flu pandemic has swept through most of the United States, killing millions of people. Some, like Cole, survive but with only bits of their memory intact. Though, the ones we are to pity are the ones left behind, in constant anxiety about whether they will catch it, and the confusion of how to go on living without the loved ones they have lost.

As Cole has been taken in by a pastor and his wife, the issue of faith is discussed quite a lot. Pastor Wyatt, or PW as he affectionately likes to be called, and his wife are fundamentalist Christians who believe that the panflu is a sign of the End of Days. In their small town, ninety-five percent of the inhabitants believe the same. Many of them have had visions of Jesus Christ and have faith that they will be saved. Cole remembers his parents and realizes that they did not have faith. Not just in religion, they were atheist, but also in the government and each other.

Before the flu became a pandemic, Cole’s parents were separating. From the mind of a twelve year-old, nothing seems important enough to make your parents separate. And because we don’t know what is going on in their heads, we can only assume that they have no more faith in their marriage.

As the flu spread and people began dying more rapidly, Cole’s parents were not ready. It became increasingly hazardous for people to go outside and thus had no access to food, water, or medical supplies. And, when it came to that point, they were practically starving, and Cole’s father was infected. Soon after his father dies, Cole and his mother become sick. Cole survives, his mother does not. He is sent, along with thousands of other children who have lost their parents, into an orphanage that resemble those in Dickensian London.

This part of Cole’s life is told in retrospect as he tries to fit in to his new life in Salvation City. He is homeschooled by PW’s eager to please wife Tracy, and attends bible school with an ex-drug addict Mason, while trying to suppress his love for the coveted Starlyn. Mostly, he tries to make PW happy, seeing in him the devoted father he lost so early. But Cole’s young heart is broken when Mason and Starlyn run off together, and oddly no one criticizes them after they’ve left, except Cole of course.

Ultimately, Nunez gives a sharp critique of contemporary society, reflections on our postmodern apathy, and taking a closer look at the role of faith and those within whom it is unshakable.

As I said, I’m not working at the bookstore anymore, and so I’ve been trying to do some freelance writing, which is not working out. And I decided, late, late last night, that I’m trying to imitate the writing in the New York Times. Then I came to a subsequent realization: a lot of their writing relies on puns and re-using cliche’s with different words substituted for what you would expect. For example, “The real estate magnate and art collector Aby Rosen, one of the owners of Lever House, was in his element (and a pair of jeans),…” (via). Granted, I have been reading a lot of the styles section, and really that is more about who/what is being described rather than how. And so, as I was writing/reading/editing the post above, I thought that the next one I write will be far less explanatory and review-y, and much more writerly. We will see how it goes.