So, my completion of The Wreath didn’t really alter my general feelings of apathy to the project– but what ended up being a more realistic, if not less borderline melodramatic, end to the thing than I’d expected did result in a smidgen more of approval for the novel. (The one thing, though, that still has me laughing? The fact that Kristin’s dad rides the same horse throughout the book, which encompasses a span of at least ten years– and yet the amazing creature never ceases to gallop all over the place and be a generally impressive specimen of broad-chested strength and horsy manliness throughout.)
But that done, and with a weariness resulting from an only OK pile of finished books put behind me over the last couple of weeks, I decided to move on to something more likely to float my boat– and George Saunders’ CivilWarLand in Bad Decline has so far not disappointed. Given, I’ve only read the first short story (of the same name as the collection in general). But if the rest of the volume is like that initial offering, I’ll continue to be blown away by the guy’s ability to hit you hard with a completely masterful, and unexpected, ending– all after having demonstrated why, if I were to teach again, I’d offer an ethics course using only his works. The man is a brilliant examiner of nuanced motivations, fears, hopes, and sticky dilemmas, without being remotely self-congratulatory about it all. The last few sentences of the opening story, and the actions therein, gave me such a grateful thump of hard-won beauty that my suddenly lumpy throat nearly pushed me to tears. That’s all I can say about it without spoiling it for others– so I’ll remain silent. Needless to say, though, I’m truly looking forward to opening up those pages tonight.