▸ literature

Read: Anthill

Wilson’s Anthill was considerably different from what I had expected. There was much more human interest story, more American (conservative) world view, and less ant. Also, the different stories stand separated. They could very well appear in separate books so little is the overlap between the ant and the human story.

Though I enjoyed reading Anthill I was a bit annoyed by the presumptuous descriptions of the American wild life. I do not know how certain animals look or sound like when I am just given their name. It’s nice that Wilson can add some diversity due to his background as biologist. It’s bad that you have to be a biologist yourself to fully appreciate this otherwise welcome diversity. More explicit description would have added more depth, more atmosphere.

The story of the ants’ struggle for survival, their circle of life was fascinating. I would have liked to read more of it. What I found, in the end, the most remarkable part of the novel was not the ants. It was the description of that particular American conservative world view, expressed best, I think, in the following paragraph: “Scooter, America didn’t become great by sitting on its ass. We had to be tough and we had to work hard. We thrived on war, to be perfectly frank about it. Just look at American history, and I don’t mean the girlie left-wing version they give students in school. We had to push back the Indians to get what God meant us to have. We went to war with Mexico to double the size of this country. That took us to the Pacific. I won’t say the way we did it was right and good but that just happens to be the way the world works. Grow or die! We, especially the Semmeses and the Codys and the other old families around here, were the winners, and that means there had to be losers. We didn’t win by sitting around writing poetry in nature parks. You’re a Semmes, Scooter, and I know you have the stuff of one. I’d hate to see you wander off into some liberal never-never land.”

Read: tinkers

And then there are debut novels that are almost perfect.

I do not know whether it is the genre or really the writing skill at the sentence and paragraph level, Harding’s tinkers is so much better written than the other debut novels that I have read recently that it makes me wonder why I have read them at all.

The length of tinkers is also just about right. On the other hand, I could have done without the fake encyclopedia-like interruptions. Sometimes it was also hard to remember whether it is now father or son Harding is writing about (I have read the novel in many small parts during my trips to the office, etc.). Yet, this feels right as well. The two generations, though different, share many characteristics. Why shouldn’t their stories blend with each other to be one?

I understand that tinkers is in no way innovative. The theme, death and random flashbacks, is not new. Father and son parallels are also not new. The literary style, the randomness, the digressions, and yes, the fake encyclopedia entries, are nothing new. Yet, it works.