Monday, March 17, 2014

Dispatch from the Fields: Joe says, "...each vivid sentence climbs over the last to weave a tale that begins on the page, and ends with your very being entangled in its web."
I will admit that I was skeptical about this novel, despite the high recommendations it came with. A story that takes place on a death row, told by an unnamed inmate and an unnamed Lady whose job it is to research the prisoners' appeals. And then I read the first page. And I was hooked.

What I assumed would be a bleak, soul-crushing story turned out to be an uplifting, exhilarating tour of the power of the spirit of humanity. It has shaken the foundations of some of my adult assumptions, things I have lost since childhood... when being unable to understand, or unable to know certain things left the imagination to make up the difference. Here is a man locked in a dank and dark prison cell, who has no access to daylight, or weather, and who misses these things, but in his imagination, through his senses, he is able to still experience them.  The Lady is lonely, and wants joy she sometimes feels she does not deserve. Her thoughts as she travels through the countryside, into towns nearly as bleak as the prison in which she works, and through the awesome spaces in-between are full of such longing, such old suffering, and always alert for the possibility of joy, dare she try.

This is a novel unlike many I have read: I would say it's avant-garde, but that would not be true. It is not difficult to read, nor is it told in some experimental fashion. I think that is the reason The Enchanted is so powerful: it is simply told, through two characters' perspectives, and each vivid sentence climbs over the last to weave a tale that begins on the page, and ends with your very being entangled in its web. I finished this book breathlessly and weeping with joy. At times, the novel reminded me of the novels of Jean Genet. It isn't just the prison setting, it's the understanding of the author of the completely other world that exists in prisons, and her objectivity in placing her novel in this world.

I urge you to read this book, to experience this amazing and view-altering novel for yourself. I'll end with a quote from the prisoner: "They can keep men in here, under lock and key, deep in the dungeon until the final moments of their lives, so that men like York and me will never taste the rain. But they cannot keep us from passing our condensation on to the sky. They cannot keep us from raining down in China."


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