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Ermahgerd. Berks.

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James S.A. Corey
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Architecture Of The Arkansas Ozarks

Architecture Of The Arkansas Ozarks - Donald Harington Sometimes I think I have a mild form of prosopagnosia. When people say kids look like their parents, I always have to smile and nod, unless we're talking Martin Sheen/Emilio Estevez levels of facial similarity. And then there's this thing I do where I think someone I know looks like a famous person, or I think two actresses look alike, and I'll say something and be gently corrected by my girlfriend ("Yes, well, I suppose both of them do have two eyes...").When I got about halfway through The Architecture of the American Ozarks, I wasn't entirely convinced I wasn't suffering from a case of literary prosopagnosia, because it was really reminding me of One Hundred Years of Solitude. Both books span a century (or more), chronicling the cyclical lives of the inhabitants of isolated rural communities (Macondo in Colombia, Stay More in the Ozarks). Both revel in the style of the oral tradition and are shared by winking narrators. Both love incest, but not in a gross way. I really thought I was onto something. I still doubted my judgment, but I was at least as confident as I am in the assertion that Adam Scott looks like Tom Cruise (it's the tiny mouth that really seals the deal). So I googled it. It turns out that Donald Harington freely admits that TAOTAO was directly inspired by Gabriel García Márquez! This made me feel slightly less clever, but relieved I do not have brain damage. Of course, then I finished the book and realized that the similarities are so thuddingly obvious that not noticing them might be an indication of brain damage (especially considering I just read 100YOS last year). They are different in one important way, however: Harington is better. At the risk of infuriating the gods of Nobel: a lot better.TAOTAO is, quite simply, the most satisfying book I have read in the last five years, and immediately one of my favorite books of all time. This means nothing to you, because you are not me, so: It is an intimate epic, following the offspring of Jacob Ingledew, the accidental founder of Stay More, from the establishment of the community through the 1970s. The history of the town is told in snippets and anecdotes -- the repeated visits of the traveling salesman, the time everyone ran out of fuel to burn and made do with living in the dark for a decade (this happened twice), the way the outside world tried and failed (the Civil War, World War I) and eventually succeeded in destroying a community that prides itself on looking askance at the institution they call PRO GRESS. These stories, these characters, as lightly sketched as they are, are alive in ways that few books and few writers can capture. They exist. Surely, they exist.Harington's narrative voice is deceptively simple. You can read this book quickly. It goes down easy. It is a great story. But the telling of it is masterful, all the more because he makes it look so easy. Nearly every page reveals his genius -- an image, a joke, a memorable turn of phrase. If I was an underlinder or a dog-earer, this book would be a wrinkled, ink-blotched mess. It's also a story that hits me directly in the heart and breaks it in two. My entire life I have been afflicted with the disease of nostalgia. I can be nostalgic for good times, and boring times, and shitty times. I can be nostalgic for yesterday. The denizens of Stay More are afflicted with nostalgia, except they don't know that word. And now I am going to quote a very long passage, because it kills me:Obviously she missed "back home," and it was Sarah Indledew who is credited with the coinage of the adjective "old-timey" in reference to the lost past. Increasingly, for the rest of that century and down through our own century, mass nostalgia would employ this expression that Sarah invented... although nostalgia isn't what it used to be.Nor was this merely a fleeting mood on both their parts. It lingered, and it infected those around them, who in turn infected those around them, until all of the people were in the grips of epidemic nostalgia. Although the French had identified the disease early in that century, nostalgie had not been identified or named in America at this time... But it began with Sarah's casual remark to Jacob, and soon everyone had it, and because it had no name yet and no one could name it, they simply referred to it as it, and noted that there was a lot of it going around in those days. People would stop one another and ask, "Do you have it?" and admit "Yes, I caught it last night, I think."This book gave me it while I was reading it, and now that I'm finished I have it even more. I am nostalgic for a world and a way of life I have never known, and for an author who has died, and for books I haven't read yet. I am nostalgic for the future.Near the end, the narrator is feeling it too: "We are so close to the end of this epic that if it were a snake it would bite us, as folks used to say in Stay More, but don't anymore, because there are so few folks remaining. Yet endings make me nervous, not because I don't know what to expect but simply because they are endings, and there is nothing beyond them, as there is nothing beyond death and nothing beyond the universe. There will be something beyond this ending, but not for now."Luckily there is, now: Donald Harington wrote 14 more books, many of them set in Stay More. Karen tells me that TAOTAO is like a Wikipedia entry for this world, and the other novels are hyperlinks to the larger stories of these people. I will read them. I can't not. I am already nostalgic about the day I will be done with them, and that really will be the end.I have only read this book, but I feel confident in saying that Donald Harington is a genius. I don't think its my prosopagnosia.Facebook 30 Day Book Challenge Day 27: Favorite fiction book.