I finished it the other day, but I had to sit with it a while to figure out what I want to say about it. I’m honestly still not sure what I want to say about it. It is amazing. Simply amazing, just as a thing that exists in the world. But I also loved that even though Stone Telling goes to a terrible place where bad things happen, you don’t have to read a litany of bad things happening. There’s not a lot of suffering as plot point in the book. That’s not to say that people don’t suffer, just that it’s not a plot point.
I’m going to have to think on this some, because it seems to me that this is probably the most radical move the book makes (and in a book like this, that’s saying something)–to have a story full of women and children and poor people, with a realistic threat of war, and their suffering is not part of our entertainment.
It makes me wonder how much of Western literature about people who are really different from the author has an element of “sucks to be you” in it, when reading something that doesn’t have that element seems so strange and nice.
I keep thinking about all of the YouTube videos for “It is Well (With my Soul)” (sorry, had to add the echo in there) had either text or spoken words about the circumstances under which the song came to be written. I’m not sure I’m exactly clear on where the source of my discomfort is, but I think it’s in the fact that the recitation of this man’s suffering is clearly supposed to add something to the aesthetic experience of listening to the song. Your learning of his great suffering is supposed to add something to the song for you. It’s supposed to make the song better, more meaningful. More entertaining.
Which is not to say that I think it’s somehow wrong to learn about what happened or to learn about what happened and find that it does make the song more profound for you, since he has been through some shit and if he can find that it is well with his soul, well, maybe we all can.
But you know what I mean? It seems like there’s a difference between learning about what happened to him and having what happened to him presented to you as part of the aesthetic experience of the song.
I also loved Always Coming Home for the narrator, which made me feel a lot more sure about what I’m doing with the Sue Allen piece.
Anyway, good book.