Who said I’d not like “Thirteen Moons?” Was that you, Jeff? I think so. Well, you’re wrong. Not that you don’t have company:
How, then, to explain the much more frequent patches of bad — really bad — writing in “Thirteen Moons”? This starts with the book’s very first sentences, which are so awful that they beg to be read aloud: “There is no scatheless rapture. Love and time put me in this condition. I am leaving soon for the Nightland, where all the ghosts of men and animals yearn to travel.” To be sure, there were plenty of passages like this in “Cold Mountain” — of prose that somehow managed to be simultaneously portentous, folksy and cloying, like banjo music on the soundtrack of a Ken Burns documentary. But the volume in “Thirteen Moons” has been cranked up considerably.
It seems to me I’m too middlebrow for the New York Times Book Review, because nothing about that passage clangs awful to me. It’s not that I have no discernment; I can find stink-o prose all day, but then, a good chunk of my daily reading comes from newspapers, where the soil is particularly rich. In fiction, my tastes have obviously been destroyed by reading too many pulpy mysteries. Somewhere I have a Mickey Spillane paperback where Mike Hammer shoots the gun out of the bad guy’s hand in their climactic faceoff. I always thought that should be the 1,000-point bullseye on a target — hit the gun in the guy’s hand but leave his fingers intact.
Anyway, back to “Thirteen Moons” — I’m enjoying it because it illuminates a part of history that’s a black hole in my knowledge, the pre-Civil War 19th century. Life was a little keener then. A historian once described to me what must have happened in a famous battle on the riverbanks in Fort Wayne: The initial volley by the soldiers using their muzzle-loaders, the fumble to reload, the rush by the Indians and the remainder of the fighting carried out hand-to-hand, using bayonets and hatchets and war clubs. The overwhelming smell on the battlefield would have to be excrement; I don’t see how the average man, red or white, could avoid shitting himself in fright under such conditions. The Indians won this skirmish, and described it in their stories as the Battle of the Pumpkin Fields, because of the way the dead looked on the crisp October morning, their newly bared skulls steaming and pink after the Indians collected their trophies.
I’m only halfway through, however. Things could change.
So here it is, Wednesday, and while I thought for a while yesterday I had turned the corner with this cold, it appears today that was a false dawn. Good thing, because the temperature is dropping, the wind is howling and I’m not going outside unless someone pays me.
Fortunately, there’s supplemental reading.
Bernie Madoff still has a trick up his sleeve, I just know it. You wait — the judge will sentence him to jail, there’ll be a poof, and he’ll simply disappear and rematerialize on a beach in the South Pacific.
It’s been a few days since I checked in at Coozledad’s retirement home for unwanted and amusingly named animals. Of course I missed a lot.
Amusing fact gleaned from Jack Lessenberry: Rep. John Conyers’ staff has a code word for his wife — “Ghetto.”
Back to bed. With “Thirteen Moons.” Work can wait another hour.