You have to throw the book against the wall

August 3, 2012

I’ve just finished reading Margaret Craven’s I Heard the Owl Call My Name. For a novel that’s 133 pages it took me a long time to read. It’s about an Anglican priest who is unaware that he has only three years to live. The bishop is told this by the priest’s doctor and sends the young ordinand to Kingcome, British Columbia to live with First Nations Indians.

The book is resonant and so poetic that it reminds me of Cornel West in the film Examined Life saying that reading Ruskin, Twain or Melville:

“You almost have to throw the book against the wall because you are so intensely alive that you need a break.”

The following passage is Jim, one of the major characters, describing the lifecycle of salmon.

“Both the males and the females die. On the way up the river the swimmer will pass the fingerlings of his kind coming down to the sea. They want to go and are afraid to go. They still swim upstream, but gently, letting the river carry them downstream tail first, and the birds and the larger fish prey upon them to devour them, and pretty soon they turn to face their dangers.”

The richness of the work is too much, although intellectually absorbed it takes time to settle at the back of the mind and deeper in the heart. So I put the book down and go back to mundane things.

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