Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Book 2/50: The Amalgamation Polka by Stephen Wright

I should say more about this, but I've been sitting on this review for over a week. The novel is about the U.S.'s attempt to heal over the scar of slavery before and during the Civil War, and it combines some harrowing realistic segments (such as the battle sequence, Antietam, I think) with highly allegorical characters and situations. There's a few spoilers below, but nothing that should dampen your enjoyment of this novel.

The main character is Liberty Fish, the son of New York-based abolitionists, although his mother grew up on a slave-owning plantation in South Carolina. When she left, she never saw her parents or siblings again, but their hold on her (often amplified by their letters) hurts her terribly. Liberty heads off to war when it breaks out, but eventually deserts from Sherman's March to go meet his maternal grandparents, only partially prepared but determined to witness the Boschian horrors of the plantation.

Wright's eye for historical detail is thrilling. For instance, the segment of the book in which a young Liberty and his father travel by boat upriver along the Erie Canal (or is it the Niagara River?) reminds me of both Melville's The Confidence Man and Vigo's excellent movie L'Atalante, but it is also very different and true to the central conflict of his story. I think those expecting pure realism will be lost, but readers who enjoy woozy surrealism (it's not for nothing that Pynchon himself has a blurb on the cover) would very much enjoy this novel.


My photo
Cary, NC, United States
reachable at firstname lastname (all run together) at gmail dot com

About This Blog

From Here To Obscurity, founded ca. 2003, population 1. The management wishes to emphasize that no promises vis-a-vis your entertainment have been guaranteed and for all intents and purposes, intimations of enlightenment fall under the legal definition of entertainment. No refunds shall be given nor will requests be honored. Although some may ask, we have no intention of beginning again.

  © Blogger templates Brooklyn by Ourblogtemplates.com 2008

Back to TOP