Sunday, September 10, 2017
During my first passage in CHIDIOCK TICHBORNE, from San Diego to Nuku Hiva, the Marquesas Islands, in 1978, the boat was knocked down by a wave and, among other things, my bag of books was lost. Only one remained on board, DAS BOOT, much of which was about a German submarine in a storm in the North Atlantic in 1942. I read it twice in a storm in the Pacific thirty-six years later.
At the moment I write at 9:15 a.m. Central time, Hurricane Irma is over the Florida Keys. Live radar this morning has shown Marathon to remain mostly between the two bands of strongest wind. I watch the Weather Channel from time to time, but grow tired of their too-adrenaline charged reporters. They have one poor young fool standing ankle deep in water in Miami, which is visually dramatic, but totally unnecessary.
Last evening as Irma approached the Keys, I finished reading Peter Mattiessen’s SHADOW COUNTRY in which a hurricane hitting Florida’s Thousand Islands, forty miles north of Marathon, plays an important role.
SHADOW COUNTRY was originally published as three novels. Peter Mattiessen writes in a preface that he spent six years reworking them into one.
The structure of the novel is interesting. Each of the three parts portrays the life and death of Edgar Watson, a pioneer cane planter and criminal on the edge of the Everglades a hundred years ago, but from different perspectives. I must admit that I got bogged down in the second part in which one of Watson’s sons as an adult historian tries to discover the truth of his father’s life, though I can see its necessity. When in the third part, Watson tells his own story, the novel regained my interest.
The ending is beautifully written.
Watson raises what only he knows is an unloaded shot-gun toward an armed mob.
I took a deep breath and threw my shoulders back. “You boys want Watson’s gun that bad, you will have to take it.” And I swung the gun up in the face of D.D. House as if to fire.
finish it? that what he said?
well, he sure is finished
eyes come eyes go
in the star shadow
how the world hurts
this world is painted on a wild dark
I continue to suspend expectation, though I cannot repress some slight hope.