February 28, 2013

Shadow Country

I finish Peter Matthiessen's “Shadow Country"… and immediately start re-reading it. Again.

I first read what became "Shadow Country” maybe ten or fifteen years ago in the original trilogy form, and found the entire trilogy unputdownable, especially the first and last books. It's as strong as ever in the single book form — and the middle section (Lucius's search amongst the ruins both human and physical) is still the weakest — but the complexity of both the story and Watson himself (mercurial, self-destructive (or maybe just destructive), smart, occasionally rueful, bombastic, violent, energetic, visionary, dealt a bad hand in life) keep me reading, make me want to re-read it all to get the details I missed again.

One thing I'd forgotten in those ten to fifteen years is the casually-destructive and often virulent racism underlying almost everything and inhabiting almost everyone in the story one way or another… (the other theme Matthiessen pushes — ecological destruction — just didn't strike such a raw nerve with me, even though it's both obvious and one of my don't-get-me-started issues…).

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