Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Indian style

Picking up on what I wrote a few posts back, I think Silko's narrative style is fascinating. She reveals what she is doing, I think, through Root's internal dialog: "Calabazas calls it 'Indian style' when he talks and talks before he turns at the last moment, to the point he wants Root to get . . . over the years Root had learned that there were certain messages in the route Calabazas took when he talked" (215).

In this complex web of stories, all tied somehow to Tucson, Silko is taking us somewhere, and leaving "certain messages" along the way through character development and the plots within the novel. It's Indian style, my friends.

I think that Berna is onto something when she talks below about the fucked up characters. These people are messes. Can anyone choose the most fucked up character? I sure can't. I think the three characters with visible redeemable qualities so far are Sterling, Root, and Calabazas. And really, Sterling is the only one who isn't a drug dealer. And he's self-medicating through magazines.

I think if we accept Berna's premise about the legend, these characters are Silko's Indian style way of showing us how much of a mess European (for lack of a better word) influence has made of the Americas (and Africa -- I'm reading that book now, and haven't gotten through it enough to comment). These folks are on a head-on course toward self destruction, or they're sociopaths. We've hit rock bottom, and there's nowhere to go but up.

Calabazas says a few telling things: "Those who can't learn to appreciate the world's differences won't make it. They'll die" (203); and "But once the whites had a name for a thing, they seemed unable ever again to recognize the thing itself./ The elders used to argue that this was one of the most dangerous qualities of the Europeans; Europeans suffered a sort of blindness to the world" (224).

Is Silko's certain message here that all you have to do is look at these people to see that we've (everyone -- we're all participating in this European, for lack of a better word, hell) pretty much ruined everything and that things have got to change?

That's all I've got for now.


Janet said...

I have to admit it: I am not loving this book. I don't think I need to love a book to consider it an important book. It's challenging, which is perhaps, the best quality about a book. but, damn.

It reads so angrily. I appreciate the message: Indians reclaim heritage from evil whites. I get it. When Indians revolt, human peace will be restored. Sorry, but that is hard for a white girl to read without getting annoyed. I am not really into racial vilification.

That said, I do love how she has dissected humans and shown them as raw. We get a relentless, ultra-gritty look at the human condition and the pain that comes from inequality.

It's difficult and not only just because she uses words I need to look up in a dictionary.

Sly B said...

I like what Kris says about Silko putting in a clue to her writing style using Calabaza's voice. I had a difficult time getting into this book. In fact, I started it and left it 5 times before I finally got through it. For me it didn't have anything to do with race, but with style. I was schooled to read in a linear style and Silko is deinfitely spinning a web. Now that I am reading the book for a second time (all the way through) I find it easier to get through because I understand the book truly is the sum of its parts. While portions of the books may make good stories alone, the entire thing is what makes sense.

One other comment I have is that I never felt this book was about Indians reclaiming their heritage. The Indios is the story (at least as far as I've read) have not claimed anything. Sterling went back to the res after being away and he was kicked out - no reclamation there. The sisters were told by their grandma that they were Indians, but they have not reclaimed anything - one is a drug smuggler and one is a hardcore addict. They work on the Almanac because they promised they would not because they are reclaiming anything. It seems to me in the book people of all races and ethnicities are spiraling out of control. All characters are difficult to like - perhaps that's another reason I had a difficult time with the book. I know for sure that the violence in the book made it especially difficult to read initially and I find I still often get the desire to put it down. Having read it once before and wanting to pick up things I may have missed and now knowing it's one of my favorite novels keeps me going through the rough parts.