Tuesday, February 1, 2011
The Place in Flowers Where Pollen Rests
Oswald has reappeared in Palookaville, returned with a secret that's darker than a starless night on the reservation. Was he the one who killed her? He'd had his hand on her throat but they'd all been involved, was it his grip or one of the other actors who had finally caused her to turn blue from being held so tightly for so long? It was on the tape but he wasn't waiting around to find out and who was going to come looking for him on the Reservation? And as his Uncle George The Place in Flowers Where Pollen Rests nears death, Oswald finds a place to hide in caring for his invalid relation. As time passes however and their relationship deepens, Oswald's "care" amounts to little more than fussing while the nurse becomes reliant upon patient. When at last their earthly relationship is severed, Oswald is still haunted by his uncle's presence as he wanders through the swamps of Vietnam where he builds a "gook" from body parts of the dead that lie all about until he's finally sent home and back where he began. Back in his own village he finds the truth of his own narrative and attempts to find his place among the living as story teller in his own right.
Although the story seems straight forward and clear as described on the book jacket (and as I have described it), there is nothing linear or clean about Paul West's writing. From the first sentence you are on a wild ride of metaphor and description that forces you to pause and look back or wonder and reread and digest. It is as though you were eating the best meal you could possibly imagine and couldn't get enough, yet sometimes you just get full and need some time to let the food settle before you can sit back at the table to eat again. In one particular spot a single sentence flows through three pages! In another, a simple paragraph that concerns Oswald giving back his phone... "He phoned the phone company and handed back the shiny set. Now he had no number in his life" Here is a craftsman, whose intention is not to describe the phone but everything about loneliness and a man who was going to miss the half-life his character has built for himself as he moves on to think of his uncle who "shuttled back and forth between uncle and apparition... more like a cloud with a voice, a mesa in his own right." Poetry in motion, the story moves without the reader realizing they are being taken on an adventure. Oscar's time in Vietnam, begins midway and lasts a third of the book, is a cacophonous event that keeps the reader riveted even as the colors deepen and darken, twist and deviate. Characters flow in and out of focus showing us West's impeccably chosen dialogue. Each person has it's own lilt and sway as though you can see them walking down the street, smell their perfume. A masterpiece written by a master story teller, this has "Written for Hollywood" no where on it. It is simply too complex and lyrical to be on the big screen. I highly recommend this book to all who are ready to face the Mount Everest of fiction.