â€œIt’s story time,” writes Leonard as he launches into an epic of acrobatic writing and meaty, hard-won whimsy, where the fault lines are love of knowledge, truth and crazy wisdom.
Meet Omar, a peripatetic â€œblind prescient” of Tuareg Berber extraction, and Mr. Point–â€œpoet, shape shifter cosmic clown and a bit of trickster”–as they go about this roaming, picaresque adventure through time and space in a world of miracle and wonder. Though Leonard is very much his own high-octane writer/conjurer, readers will sense flashes of Gerald Vizenor, Ken Kesey, Red Grooms and even Seamus Heaney’s soul-stirring word bombs as he meanders along in his subversive way, his sidelong take on the pageantry of existence, the bite of the human condition, hither and yon. Leonard’s characters are after authenticity and attentiveness–love, laughter, old tales, an intuitive awareness of the spirit world–and he gives their quest both panache and seriousness of purpose. Each vignette is sharp and provocative (though at times the author can be too boogie-woogie by half: â€œI ask you to keep an open mindâ€¦In the event of a water landing your mind may be used as a flotation device”), whether he is describing a practice room for flamenco dancers, the Senate Steroid Committee, the insular suspicions and occupation patrols of Northern Ireland, a nuclear energy dump, Spanish street forms, 110 million unexploded land mines buried in 68 countries or the angels singing for the dead from Vietnam to the Twin Towers. He coaxes the solemnity of Tibetan Buddhism from a man inking prayer flags and takes a fling at explaining the vagaries of chess tactics. Always, though, the story is on a mission to celebrate all that is worthy–cave paintings to tapas bars–and to remember, as a ghost whispered, that â€œ[a]ny day above ground is a good day.”
A great, sprawling story in the lofty pursuit of mindfulness.