Saturday, July 5, 2008

Art and Life

By Pat Browning

Talk about timing. CHASING DARKNESS, Robert Crais’s latest Elvis Cole novel, opens with a forest fire. The book launched July 1, and on that day more than 1400 fires were burning in California.

While forest fires are a fact of life in Southern California, June saw an outbreak of fires that literally set the state ablaze.

Crais has a good YouTube video for readers who like to hear authors talk about their lives and why and how they write. Here’s his comment on opening the new book with a forest fire: “The horror of fire is that it cleans out the old and uncovers things.”

Crais says that he began writing the Elvis Cole novels after his father died. Writing was therapy for him. Here’s a comment I especially like:

“Books are a very, very personal art form. They’re a collaborative art form like no other. When you look at the book, it’s actually not a completed piece of art. The art isn’t completed until the reader reads it.”

Some other examples:

The dust raised by the American Indian Movement (AIM) in the 1960s and ‘70s has never settled. While I was reading Margaret Coel’s THE GIRL WITH BRAIDED HAIR, American Indians were marching through Oklahoma on their way to Washington, D.C.

Coel’s book is fiction, but it’s about a crime on Wyoming’s Wind River Reservation where Lakota leaders find refuge with Arapahos after the ill-fated occupation at Wounded Knee. Years later, discovery of a skeleton stirs up old angers that lead to more murders.

In the real world, today’s AIM members are following northern and southern routes from California, planning to join up on July 10 or 11. They hope to meet with congressional leaders to address environmental issues, as well as legal battles over mineral rights and ancestral lands.

Meanwhile, in Austria, a Nazi war crimes suspect has created a furor by showing up at a soccer game. He’s 95, and his defenders say he “should be allowed to live out his days in peace.” Shades of Inspector Rebus!

I just re-read for the umpteenth time Ian Rankin’s THE HANGING GARDEN. In this one, Rebus pursues an accused war criminal who has lived a long and apparently blameless life in England since World War II. Another character says to Rebus:

“You are not investigating the crimes of an old man, but those of a young man who now happens to be old. Focus your mind on that. There have been investigations before, half-hearted affairs. Governments wait for these men to die rather than have to try them. But each investigation is an act of remembrance, and remembrance is never wasted. Remembrance is the only way we learn.”

Those books resonate with me not only because of ties to recent or historical events, but because they speak to the human heart.

9 comments:

Jean Henry Mead said...

Welcome to Murderous Musings, Pat. I'm glad that you joined us. I enjoyed reading your article, which focused on my home territory as well as my birth state. The Sioux in neighboring South Dakota are threatening to secede from the union, and I sympathize after driving through the Rosebud Reservation, and reading about their discontent over the years. The Arapaho and Shoshone tribes on the Wind River Reservation may be next to go on the civil war path.

Pat Browning said...

The Indians have always been so quiet that people tend to ignore them. This is a story with a million angles! How would anyone ever tell it? In a way it's like the story of World War II -- you can only tell it in bits and pieces. Well, if I get wound up here I'll have another post, so for now -- I appreciate the welcome. I'm happy to be here.

Pat B.

Beth Terrell said...

Thanks for posting on this, Pat. This is a topic that's always been of great interest to me. When I was about to graduate from college with a degree in special education, I contacted the Department of Indian Affairs in hopes of working on one of the reservations. I was told they only allowed Indians to teach there, but I still wished I could find some way to help.

Pat Browning said...

Beth,
I have a niece-in-law who is a special ed teacher here in Oklahoma. She goes to several Indian schools on different days of rhe week.
She bid on the job, and if an equally qualified Indian had matched her bid, the job would have gone to the Indian. She's about the only one in the family who doesn't have one drop of Indian blood, at least that she can prove.
Do you have any Indian blood at all, even 1/32nd?
To their credit, Oklahoma Indians are spreading their casino wealth around, in medical care, scholarships,etc. The Chickasaws are especially generous, even giving clothing allowances! One of my nieces was able to get her RN degree thanks to tribal grants. Even Bill Gates has joined in, with grants and perks to Indians as a "minority."
Pat

Maryann Miller said...

Nice essay, Pat. I'm never sure how to refer to these posts as they are more than a post to a list, yet not an article? And for some reason I don't like saying nice blog. That's such a general term.

Anyway, I enjoyed this. And I had not heard about the Sioux in SD wanting to secede, as Jean mentioned.

Sarita Leone said...

Very interesting.

Jean Henry Mead said...

Maryann,
Russell Means, Oglala/Lakota Sioux activist, said on Alex Jones's radio show recently that the papers had already been filed in Washington to take back the original Sioux land in five states, and to secede from the union on the grounds that a great many treaties have been broken by the government. There are myriad things going on in this country no longer reported by the mainstream media, including the July 3 incident on the Wind River Reservation when government agents broke up the Rainbow group's celebration. They shot people, including children, with rubber bullets to discourage any further group activities. It was reported in the Rawlins, Wyoming, newspaper.

Beth Terrell said...

Pat, my birth father and my mother's father have both said we have Native American ancestry. In my grandfather's case, I would be 1/16 Cherokee, and in my birth father's case, I couldn't find the details, but it would be at least 1/32--assuming it's true. In neither case is there any documented evidence. My gusband has starting looking into our respective geneologies, but of course, these are the branches of the family tree we can't find out much about. I don't even know the names of my birth father's parents.

Beth Terrell said...
This comment has been removed by the author.