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reading tiger

Reading Wednesday

I finished "Almanac of the Dead" late last week.

I liked it. I did feel like some of the sections in the latter quarter of the book -- "The Americas" specifically -- were a little rushed and lumpy, but I persevered. I liked its scope and its ambition and really, I would have read 300 more pages of letting the story air out a bit more.

There are also some oddities about reading a book with apocalyptic undertones ~25 years after it was written. Things changed, and then they changed back again, and so there's a weird sense in which the book was both wrong and still might be right. Like, drought, no drought, drought again. Weird, but appropriate.

And while I'm here, let's address the charges of homophobia I've seen leveled at the book. Yeah, I see what critics mean. Yeah, it didn't bother me overall, but then again I am not a white gay man. Yeah, I see Silko try to balance it out later with the AIDS references in the last section of the book, and I think that is not entirely successful. So, I am going to mark it up as "problematic" but in the non-euphemistic sense: there are problems with the way Silko goes about doing what she's doing with the homosexuality in the book (or, in some cases, the don't-touch-me asexuality), but I see why she is doing them, too, and so it's a problem that may have no solution.

As an aside, a lot of the landscape where "Almanac of the Dead" takes place has a tiny sliver of my own history embedded in it. My mother was born in Tucson and spent much of her childhood in Guatemala. My mother's family were border-crossers; my grandfather was born in Sinaloa and held dual citizenship; he met my grandmother in Arizona. I read a lot about cactuses in the Sonoran desert when I was a kid. etc.


I've been thinking about what seyewailo said in the comments of a previous entry, that someone had told her that reading "Almanac of the Dead" was "devastating" for white people and she wasn't sure why.

I'm not sure why, either, alas. Maybe it's devastating for the kind of white people who are able to forget that 500 years or so worth of fully justified resentment is a real thing that must be reckoned with? That it comes complete with a documented history that hasn't been forgotten so much as suppressed? That said history is really, really brutal, blood-soaked and death-filled? That there are indigenous people who haven't just said "well, might as well just accept the status quo"? That being personally sincere and pretending to be "mostly harmless" might not be enough?

...that the book doesn't spend enough time telling white people what they should do about it?

I am speculating.

But hey, it gives a shout-out to Marx (but not Marxism), so I'm good.

P.S. Silko's humor is wicked.