Sunday, June 13, 2010

Haruf, Kent (Plainsong)

I am a sucker for minimalism. (Check out the last review: all that description drove me up the wall.) Probably all of my favorite books work hard to give you the basics and let you draw your own conclusions as you move from page to page. Even the title of this one tells you what to expect when you crack it open.

Haruf is drawing a painting here: a small town in somewhere America, populated by not-so-simple people, but drawn by Haruf so that they seem that way. Not until you get close to the end do you realize that he's said so much in such a short time. The loneliness of the two little boys, the base need to do the "right thing" as evidenced by the teenage girl, the fierce protectiveness never but once displayed by the boys' father.

It's not perfect: the father and mother are not realized as completely as I would have liked. Neither is the teenage girl-- all that potential misery, and you don't see 1/10 of what you would expect. Granted, all his characters are far more calm and/or laid back than you or me, so misery may not be in the foreground. It's almost like a lesson in how not to freak out over bad circumstances. When his characters do lose it, how he writes lessens its impact, somehow.

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