9 internautes sur 10 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile
- Publié sur Amazon.com
This novel is very different and incredible beautiful. The prose was unusually rich and the story, at times, so emotionally intense that once, at the end of a chapter midway through this book, I felt a mild state of true ecstasy wash over me. I am still trying to figure out how the author managed to do that to me. I know it wasn't magic. It's never happened before. Perhaps it has to do with the way Bass builds phenomenal storytelling tension using long passages of incredibly vivid descriptive prose. Or, perhaps it has to do with his style of using paragraph-long sentences that read like incantations. I like the way he uses complex metaphors that make the reader stop and think carefully while the words blossom into extraordinary--almost otherworldly--images in the mind's eye. Whatever it is, I know this book touched me in a very special way.
So what about the story? Here, too, the book is most unusual.
The first three chapters take place in 1976 near Odessa, Texas. They tell the story of the unconventional romance of Richard and Clarissa. In slow, exquisite, and lyrical detail, we learn about the young man's intense, dogged, and sensual four-month pursuit to gain Clarissa's love. Richard is a promising geologist working for the local petroleum industry; Clarissa is a stunning local beauty. The problem is that Clarissa sees love as a trap. She wants nothing more than to leave Odessa, go to California, and become a movie star. The harder Richard pursues, the more she shies away. These three chapters appear to tell a complete and satisfying story. They also set the physical stage for the entire novel by describing the uncompromising grandeur and unique landscape in and around Odessa, in particular, the famous Castel Gap and Horsehead Crossing (of the Pecos River), and the otherworldly dry salt sea called the Juan Cordona Lake.
The next four chapters are set in the same area starting some twenty-five years earlier in 1951. These chapters tells us about the Omo family--an odd clan who live at the foot of huge moving sand dunes on the edge of Juan Cordona Lake. They eke out an existence mining salt. The focus of these three chapters is the inner life of Marie Omo and her fragile relationship with her dazzlingly beautiful, yet deadly environment. One day, a runaway circus elephant careens into her desert salt lake...and, for Marie, and many other people who participate in what follows, life is never the same again.
These seven chapters form Book One. When I finished them, I felt completely satiated. I felt like I'd read two impressive novellas. There was no connection other than place. I had no idea what Book Two would hold.
In chapter eight, which begins Book Two, the time is 1986 and the place is Mexico at the base of the Sierra Madres--here oilmen are despoiling the earth and the creatures that live there in one wild, last-ditch, multibillion-dollar race for oil in the "Last Great Play." The chapter focuses on Richard, the character from the beginning of the book. We find him working as one of the region's most successful and sought-after petroleum geologists. But we find that Richard has fallen in with "bad characters...liars, thieves, charlatans, conmen of the blackest hearts imaginable." The chapter explores the actions of these oilmen. We witness their heartless deeds and their careless treatment of the environment. The focus is on Richard's life and inner turmoil, but the chapter is completely stolen by a remarkable story within a story. This bonus is the drawn-out, unforgettable coming-of-age tale of a Mexican boy named Tomas who helps the oilmen with odd jobs.
Finally, chapters nine and ten bridge the gap between everything that has come before and creates a novel out of the whole. Once more we are back in Odessa. These chapters deal with the strange, intertwined fates of Richard and Marie. In the end, all comes together unexpectedly, yet appropriately; we are at peace with these psychologically turbulent characters. But more importantly, we are wiser, still in our minds, and at peace with our place in the world.
In the end we understand that a "strange land summons strange inhabitants, and shapes them all to its own desires."
6 internautes sur 6 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile
Jana L. Perskie
- Publié sur Amazon.com
I just finished reading Rick Bass' new novel, "All the Land That Holds Us." When I reached page 84 in Book One, (the novel is made up of 3 Books), I found that I was plodding along - simply bored with the characters and storyline. This first third of Bass' novel is a dense & difficult read. It is all narrative, no dialogue. The POV is that of an omniscient observer. I have read a few of the author's books: "The Ninemile Wolves'" and "The Sky, the Stars, the Wilderness." I really enjoyed them and respect Mr. Bass as the talented, award-winning writer he is. However, I do not think he is up to par in his latest offering.
When I reached the infamous page 84, an image came to mind. I was in an art gallery, or an art museum, and viewing the work of a famous, much lauded artist. "OBJECTIVELY," I recognized the paintings for their worth. I believed that the critics' and other viewers' praise was "on the money!" Now, "SUBJECTIVELY," the work left me cold. It didn't touch me personally. I thought of an artist, perhaps someone like Jackson Pollack, and know many art lovers who think his paintings are the work of genius...and they might be. While recognizing the greatness of Mr. Pollack's work, I am untouched by his paintings. So it is with "All The Land To Hold Us." I can appreciate the excellence of the author's prose and the novelty of the story he tells...but I am not moved by any of this. I have now finished reading the novel and understand, objectively, why so many people rated it 4-5 stars. However, I am left feeling that the novel has added little to my life, except for the knowledge I acquired reading about the "Land." I did complete the novel as it improved in Books 2 & 3.
"All The Land To Hold Us" is an apt title whose protagonist is the land - and it is a strange and powerful land. The harsh desert environment of West Texas is extremely arid, bitter and bleak. This environment shapes much of the novel's character and the characters' characters. The area receives much less rainfall than the rest of Texas and the temperature has been known to hit 120ºF in the summer. "An easterner, after making the stage trip and experiencing the danger of Horsehead and the Trans-Pecos country, wrote to friends back home that he now knew where hell was." The setting also includes Castle Gap and Juan Cordoba Lake, an inland salt lake.
This is also a tale of those who live on the desert's edge, where riches -- oil, water, precious artifacts & love -- can all be found and lost again in an instant. It is a sweeping saga of old Texas oil fields, salt mines, small town morality, and love.
The characters in "All the World to Hold Us" span three generations. Richard is a young and talented geologist who works for a Midland oil company. He is driven by his need to hunt for oil and fossils beneath the earth's surface and by his love for his girlfriend Clarissa. Clarissa, a beautiful girl from Odessa, dreams of fleeing the broiling sun of the Permian Basin and moving to Hollywood, where she hopes her great beauty will make her a model or a movie star. She slathers on sun screen many times each day to protect her skin so that the harsh sunlight will not mar her beauty. She hunts for fossils, with Richard, in the burning desert. Richard keeps what he collects, but Clarissa sells her million-year-old fossils to museums. As there is no dialogue here & little character development, I really have no idea who Richard and Clarissa are.
Herbert Mix is an elderly one-legged museum owner. He is greedy for gold and anything one might find while looking for it: bones, animal fossils, arrowheads, knife blades, clay pots, wagon wheels, coins, and human skulls, which he values most of all and refuses to sell.
A Depression-era couple Max and Marie Omo, and their two sons, live in another time on this bone-strewn land. Max and his sons make their living by trapping, harvesting, and selling Juan Cordona Lake's salt. The entire family, Marie, Max's lonely wife, and their sons, are transformed by their surroundings. The lake water they drink is brackish. The food, not much better. And for Marie, the loneliness of the place is devastating. Marie, like Clarissa, wants out of the harsh life in their desert salt pan home.
Oddly, in passing, a runaway circus elephant, makes his appearance, as does his Indian trainer. Bizarre - but this incident brings some humor and a bit of sadness to the novel.
Rick Bass paints a vivid portrait of a fierce place and the inimitable characters who populate it....who survive it. They possess the capacity to adapt to and also despoil it the land.
The author's prose is lyrical & lush, at times poetic. Mr. Bass brings much of his geologist background to the novel. He is the son of a geologist, and he studied petroleum geology at Utah State University.
Bass won the 1995 James Jones Literary Society First Novel Fellowship for his novel "Where the Sea Used to Be." He was a finalist for the Story Prize in 2006 for his short story collection "The Lives of Rocks". He was a finalist for the 2008 National Book Critics Circle Award (autobiography) for "Why I Came West," (2009). He was also awarded the General Electric Younger Writers Award, a PEN/Nelson Algren Award Special Citation for fiction.
I am rating this book 4 stars. I think, in the end, I liked it a little bit more than in the beginning, so came down on the side of a weak 4-star review. While it is not a favorite of mine, I do really recognize that many people might feel otherwise. And, as I just wrote, the authors writing is outstanding - subjectively and objectively....just a bit dense and slow paced at times.