Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Jack Waits (1-17)

Finally, a nice meaty section to examine.

Well, this time around we find out that Glendon was a foster child, for lack of a better term, and a thief.

"No, it's what I always was, it just weighs more, this time around."

Monte seems to want to believe that Glendon is a good person and can atone for all his former mistakes but Glendon keeps trying to make it clear to him that he is indeed not a good person at all. Monte is reluctant to give up his romantic notions about Glendon's past and his future. Maybe the fact that Glendon prays...even over stolen food, is what gives Monte hope.
In fact, the description of Glendon's "salvation" experience pretty much says it all.

"He [Glendon] uttered the prayer a number of times and cried several times, feeling the mercy of God pour out like a cleansing oil upon his limbs, and late in the day he arose and ate a sustaining meal of frijoles with side pork and rode out from the Hole with his friends and robbed the Union Pacific as it climbed the Wyoming foothills."

He wants to change but he feels powerless to do so. He is just one of many who are repentant but lack the real devotion to makeover their lives.

The series of events with the snapping turtle was interesting. First of all hauling a snapper around in a small boat, even if he is surrounded by rocks, does not sound like a smart thing to do. But I guess it paid off in the end, as the snapper drug one of their pursuers down to a watery grave. (And by the way who was that? Not Siringo. But who?) Maybe the snapper was paying them back for not cooking him alive (as Monte suggested) and giving him the chance to be free.
I loved it when, after seeing the "bad guy" drown in the river with the turtle pulling him down, Monte says,

"Belatedly it seemed my finest virtue was the distance I had maintained from
death; now I had this freight to carry and no place to lay it down."

I feel exactly the same way, although I didn't come to the realization belatedly. I've always known how blessed I was to never have experienced the death of someone close to me. My Dad's best friend was the closest person to me to have died (and young and tragically, at that). I always knew that I was, fortunately, missing out on a normal human experience. But when my Grandpa died last year I joined the club; the gang of people that travel the earth with only a portion of their hearts because some small (or maybe large) segment has already moved on to heaven. It is a weight to carry that can't be laid down and it makes death seem closer and ready to strike again at any minute.

At the beginning of this section Monte says that he crossed the line when he stepped off the Davies dock to follow Glendon once again, but I disagree. I think at that point he was still just following his curiosity and was swept up in a sense of adventure. After all several times after that he considered turning back. I think it was when he saw his reflection in the window at Revival that he crossed the line. When he identified himself as someone who looked, "capable", "wary", and "of dubious intent", someone that Grace Hackle would admire instead of the "well-meaning failure, a pallid disappointer of persons, a man fading" he was hooked. He could never go back to be being a struggling author after seeing the fugitive outlaw hidden within himself.

As with any line written by Leif Enger there were several great descriptions in this section.
If you've ever driven through Kansas you immediately identified with these passages:

"Plain describes it nicely, both as grassy tableland and unadorned prospect. It's wide and there you have it. To one born amid forest and bluff on the upper Mississippi, Kansas is so wide and its sky so flat it's disturbing."

"I still hungered for a hillside or building to break the tedium. Sculptors call this relief and they are right. I learned to take pleasure in the windmills spinning bravely along the route, announcing farms."

"Before the windmill there wasn't no Kansas."

I'm uncomfortable with all of that open land too. And no radio stations for miles. I'm also uncomfortable with the dry West. Driving for miles and seeing only the smallest bit of dusty olive green in an endless see of brown is disconcerting. I need green in my life. Even in winter there is still some green around here.

I also loved the description of Siringo's demeanor.

"...[he] propped himself in the position of Visiting Bard and told stories."

So, who was in the boat that tried to run them down? What do you make of the name Jack Waits? How do you like the book so far?

Oh, I guess I didn't event mention Hood Roberts, but I like him and he's now my number one suspect for "so brave, young and handsome". What did you think of him?

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