Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Home again and words on A Parliament of Crows

  On the flight to Boston I read Alan Clark's new novel, A Parliament of Crows.  As engaged as I was, I was aware of being thirsty - again - even after having asked the flight attendant for water twice.  Pete and Orion were thirsty too.  We'd had no time between flights to buy water, and drinks served had been less than generous - so much that it felt a bit like rationing - and when we requested water, we got cups about a third filled.  Part of me was ensconced in the grim Post-Civil War world with the murderous sisters and part of me went to an imagined future, where drinkable water is scarce and precious, where thirst is a nearly constant companion. I conjured Heinlein and now I was a stranger traveling at high speeds over a world that humans had all but destroyed.
  No.  I don't want to be here!  I want Roddenberry!  I want technology to solve our problems.  I want reasonable and forward-thinking humans to create a world where the basic needs of everyone in an egalitarian society are met.

  I want science to fix us.

  For the moment, I'd be happy enough to lose this layer and simply enjoy Alan's book.  And it wouldn't hurt if the attendant would bring us something to drink!   Finally she did, and as she filled the serving cup, I held out my hand for the can and glared at her until she relented.

   After snacks and a couple of games of  Hangman, I fell into the story again in earnest.  It wasn't hard.  Alan's gifts run deep.  His words are fresh-turned earth - an irresistible mix of the grave and the soft promise of new life.  Set in part in the town of Milledgeville, Georgia, where I have both memories of childhood and dead relatives, the mix is especially visceral for me.  Alan can make the macabre beautiful.  But, you probably know that.
  Eventually, presently, I became aware that I was hearing this story in my head.  Hearing it as spoken in the rich drawl of my childhood home, possibly in the remembered voice of my late, great Aunt Ida.

The already chilling tale took on a new flavor falling from the lips of this genteel old aunt who let cats run freely across her fine tables and whose pristine lawn had more than once been graced in the deep hours of the night with a burning crucifix.

  I made some notes on the end pages.  One was to suggest a reading from A Parliament by such a voice, perhaps even my own, as when reunited inexplicably with my accent each time I cross the Rockies and polished to perfection with some excellent Old Fashioned.   My voice has deepened and textured in the years since peering through the banister at the Old House, wondering at the commotion that woke us and had the grown ups stirred up like a hornet's nest downstairs.

  But no, not me.  I must focus on making art and books.   Still, I'd like such a recording to exist.

    That my own gut-deep connection to Alan's Southern Gothic creation stems from the near orbits of our childhoods is a given.  But I can tell you that, southern connections or not,  A Parliament of Crows is a profound  voyage into a mind nearly as alien as a cat's, in a setting that you can smell and taste and feel.  It's an engrossing, chilling and oddly noble exploration, well worth it and not easily forgotten.

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