Sunday, June 27, 2010

The Power of Literature

I'm reading a novel about elephants.
I'm about 2/3rds through this magnificent book by Barbara Gowdy, called The White Bone.
In all seriousness, all the characters are elephants.
Well, there are humans, yes -- but it's the elephants that have the real talking roles! The humans just make an appearance as slaughterers. Bringers of mayhem and brutal destruction.
If you don't know how to speak Elephant… worry not. Mostly these elephants are talking normal English, and there is a glossary at the front of the book to help with particular elephant vernacularisms.
I will hold off on a review of the book until I am actually finished the thing -- at this point though I must say, it's an engrossing read! Who would have trunk... I mean thunk that elephants have such an intricate social system. Such culture and mythology.

A neat thing happened, as I was reading today in a Starbucks.
Of course, several other people were reading stuff, newspapers, books, things like that. Most people were just talking, etc. However, one elderly lady left the store and as she passed by the plate glass window, I looked up from my reading to see in her hand the very book in front of me. The cover of her book was the same as the image shown above, and I saw it clearly.
I paused.

I am not exactly a BESTSELLER reader. In fact, most of the selections decided upon in my Elite Little Book Club are rather obscure. Not deliberately so, but this is just as it happens -- the importance always being relevance, not sales.
To my knowledge The White Bone, published twelve years ago, is not exactly some sort of present-day chartbuster.
Yet here was a woman, walking past my window, with whom I sensed an immediate affinity -- because, whoever she is, she also knows Mud, and She-Snorts, and Tall Time, and Torrent. She is marvelling at the survival capabilities of young Date Bed. She is now far from my window… but perhaps still in mourning over what took place at Blood Swamp, as I am.



Stefanie said...

Elephants are such amazing animals. It is very nice that they know how to speak English too. who knew?

Jeane said...

What a coincidence you saw her with the same book. Too bad you couldn't strike up a conversation with her! Now I'm anxious to read it myself.

Erin in Boston said...

The talking animals thing - reminds me of Watership Down, where the main characters were rabbits. As in your book, the only role humans had were as evil destoyers and something to be run away from. To this day I still refer to cigarettes as "white sticks" in my head.

Isabella said...

I love, love, LOVE that book! It's one of very few books that ever made me cry, and I don't mean a little teary but WEEP. I've always had a thing for elephants.

SFP said...

The little fella on the cover of this one always breaks my heart. As does what's inside. Such a wonderful book, and how cool that someone else was reading it, too.

Cipriano said...

Such a wonderful book. I highly recommend it to you.

I know! It is bizarre. Coincidence. Fate. Kizmet.

Erin in Boston:
I've read neither of the Richard Adams books, though I have them both here..... I am a BAD rabbit!

Oh, ISN'T it grand? That elephants could do this to us?

Another appreciative reader of Gowdy! She is a gem. I want to read all of her books, after reading this one.