Exhibit 1.1.22

Dude’s Lyrical like Bernie Taupin

I think we’re all sick of language-driven novels published by obscure presses winning Pulitzers. Okay, so that never happens. Bully for the Pulitzer people and for Mr. Harding whose book is as remarkable as Marilynne Robinson says on the cover which is both a good thing and a bad thing.

And what’s remarkable about it is the writing. You really can’t talk about the book without talking about its lyricism which is, on some level, a detriment. I mean, I love lyrical, and there’s certainly something wondrous–though always in a strictly realistic way–to justify it here. Of course, there’s also just a lot of characters sitting and thinking and talking which all gets the same sparkly brush. Here, I’ll flip to a random page and grab the first sentence:

My goodness, I am made from planets and wood, diamonds and orange peels, now and then, here and there; the iron in my blood was once the blade of a Roman plow; peel back my scalp and you will see my cranium covered in the scrimshaw carved by an ancient sailor who never suspected that he was whittling at my skull–no my blood is a Roman plow, my bones are being etched by men with names that mean sea and wrestler and ocean rider and the pictures they are making are pictures of northern stars at different seasons, and the man keeping my blood straight as it splits the soil is named Lucian and he will plant wheat, and I cannot concentrate on this apple, this apple, and the only thing common to all of this is that I feel sorrow so deep, it must be love, and they are upset because while they are carving and plowing they are troubled by visions of trying to pick apples from barrels.

Ha! I swear that was random. Honestly, I was delighted when I saw the page. Anyway, I couldn’t have picked a better example of what makes this book awesome and, I hate to say it, admirably overwrought. It’s pretty much that all the way through and at times it’s beautiful and awesome–describing the electricity of a seizure, the imagination of a child–and at others it’s forced with the unworthy task of the book’s plot.

This maybe is part of my problem: the past is not, in itself, magical. I’m going to stop before I go off on some rant about nostalgia except to say that no one would write about their office job the way Harding writes about being a traveling salesman. It’s maddening to see such language applied not to the truly magical but to simply the past, as if beautiful things only existed between 1840 and 1962. And during those years, everything was equally beautiful–a sugar-glazed ham is identically as sublime as pulling a tooth with a pair of pliers.

It’s a minor complaint that one that kept me from really loving the book. I’m not even sure I’d say I liked it though I admired it a great deal (I’m obviously hedging. Am I the only one comfortable for having a category for art that I can like without, you know, liking?). So, in the end, an absolutely beautiful, marvelously written book and certainly one deserving of its accolades. But, at least to me, the book reaches for something more than just beauty and falls short. There’s a story about fathers and sons here, one about running away from a legacy, one about the painful gains and losses over a lifetime, but it’s all too slippery with rosewater.

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