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Tuesday, January 7, 2014

"The Beasts of the Earth, the Madness of Men" by Brooke Bolander

First appeared in Nightmare.

Interesting, surreal if grotesquely described work. The emphasis is on style over plot, which is essentially:

Perth eternally chases after a whale. In the end the whale drives itself ashore, refuses to play the game anymore. But Perth insists and somehow--because the gulls pick the carcass clean--they've started anew.

It seems to be a tale in conversation with Herman Melville's Moby Dick. When we were in Clarion West, Howard Waldrop told us that another whale story couldn't be written. Here it is, Howard! I'm not sure if he heard me.

Anyway, Melville's is about the impossibility or folly of attacking a universal God. He was very keen on Nathaniel Hawthorne's opinion on his work, which Hawthorne blessed. So maybe Bolander suggests that we constantly attack the whale, forever, and just when you think you've killed it, it goes on. Or it could just be a gender examination contrasting how women attack a thing versus men. Ahab was bent on destroying, Perth the chase was all. Or it be a genderless thing where people have this illusive goal we relentless pursue.

Lots of food for thought.

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