Weird title, rapturous prose—a good read.
With phrases both crystalline and luminous, Vivian clasps onto small moments, ones that should be more banal than illuminating, and fleshes them out to their full glory. In 24 brief essays, trivial visions and quotidian observations form the basis of reflections as simple and sturdy as a Shaker chair, deep and insightful as a mystic vision. The essays are subdivided into three units—“Rootedness,” “Women,” and “Signs”—but the divisions do not mar the overarching unity of sincere reflection and remembrance. Beginning and ending with the bleak and barren landscape of Nebraska between Omaha and Lincoln, on roads that provoke in most people only a deadened ennui, Vivian shares his discoveries about life and living. One such observation on these roads (“Only in the glancing, improbable hereafter in fields do I sense a reason behind this sloping distance, or how this distance works itself in me, or how they work together to create a yearning for a different kind of life”) creates a moral typical to the collection, but the morals are unforced. Rather, these voyages of discovery begin in pedestrian places (a woman’s obsession with garbage, childhood vandalism, putting on tennis shoes) where the beauty of the trip lies in the fact that we reach a destination without realizing the journey had begun. The ravishing simplicity of Vivian’s prose is perfectly balanced by the peacock-plumed precision of his metaphors, such as the image of crows as the “dark hangnails of God,” the sound of a broken back as “the click of a gear lock, or a key turning in a rusty door.” The title essay concludes with the realization that what we love is with us always, which may well be the reader’s reaction to Vivian’s haunting prose.
Who knew such allure, beauty, and insight lurked under Nebraska’s snowy and stony facade?