Friday, November 20, 2009

The Lacuna (by Kat)


Just finished reading Barbara Kingsolver's new book "The Lacuna" late last night.

There's a pretty depressing review following the pretty picture. Just a warning. If you're in the mood to read depressing ravings, go through the forest (picture) and come out the other side. Don't say I didn't warn you!

Brrr. Snow!

I usually plunge into Kingsolver's books and emerge a day or two later feeling like a water nymph in the fountain of youth. I usually feel inspired to learn more about both current and historic political events. I usually start checking books out of the library dealing with wolves and other predators, conservation techniques, Nicaraguan refugees, cheese making, Appalachian history, development in arid lands. I can't look at a train without remembering that the conductor has to start applying his brakes just before the engine peaks at the top of the mountain pass. I look at stonewashed jeans and just cringe. I think to myself "a-ha, forgoing this purchase makes a bit of difference."

The Lacuna, however, just beat me down. It took almost a week to read, and at the end I just wanted to head out onto the street and exterminate the knee-jerk "patriotic" Americans who won't stand up for our constitutional rights.

Did you ever see the movie "Easy Rider?" Did you want to hunt down rednecks afterward? This book loaded me with ten times the vitriol, but aimed at people who want to teach creationism in public schools in place of science. People who wear their American flag lapel pins but want gun control. People living in America who think free speech applies to those who share their same values--everyone else should just shut up or move to Russia, they say.

The book ends up describing life in McCarthy era America. Some may see the book as a picture frame filled with troubling scenes of a by-gone era.

I saw it as a mirror.

During that era, the country fell under the spell of a few powerful people who convinced the government that anyone who doubted the direction of the current regime was a communist and should go to prison and/or face the death penalty. The citizens of America didn't protest their right to fair trials. They didn't protest their loss of free speech during the book bans. They didn't do anything when neighbors were hauled off in the middle of the night, under suspicion of communistic sympathies--even though the soviets and the US were allies up until the start of the second world war. As soon as Uncle Sam said boo, people were supposed to go back on everything they knew. AND THEY DID!

After all, getting rid of the commies was "best for the children."

On this side of the mirror, we're willing to put up with the same crap. Different war, different axis and allies. Same government saying you're with us or you're not American. Same government saying that, for the good of the children, we'll dispense with fair trial for anyone we think might be involved in terrorist activities.

Oh, and we won't let you know the evidence against you.

Oh, and of course we have the fight to tap your phone, even if the court says we don't have enough evidence to procure a legal warrant.

Oh, and Seattle's Mayor Nickel spent hundreds of thousands of dollars putting up signs banning guns after both the state and federal government told him that was unconstitutional.

Oh, and just read the paper. You'll see lots of people surrendering their constitutional rights. And calling themselves American at the same time.

The book was a mirror. What I saw was so ugly.

This time it isn't as easy as not buying the stone-washed jeans and learning more about predators.

This time it's figuring out how to combat the notion that laying down and taking it is good for the children.

I'm still crying.


  1. You're the second person in my world to have mentioned this book in the past two days. I LOVE Barbara Kingsolver, but had no idea she had a new book. I'll definitely be checking this out.

    Thanks for the warning, though - I think I'll wait til after the holidays!

  2. I wouldn't read this book in January. This is not a January book. Nope. Read it now, process it, and then decorate for Christmas.
    I couldn't process it last night, or this morning, but I took the day off and finished priming the stairs. I feel better.
    I'm washing the windows now, and I'm going to start hanging up icicles and snowflakes and paper spheres. It's a bit early, but very cathartic. Physical activity sometimes lubes the mental activity process, in my experience.

  3. I totally agree with your last statement there.

    With the stack of books I wish I had more time to read, it will in all likelihood be summer before I get to The Lacuna.

    My kids make fun of me for getting out the Christmas stuff before Thanksgiving, but I don't care. It's telling though, that I'm more excited about watching Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer than my two-year-old is.