Sunday, February 10, 2008

"bleedin' poetry"

If a novel were trying to talk big in an attempt to make itself look tough i think it just might be Channeling Mark Twain by Carol Muske-Dukes. This seems to be the first book in a while that didn't touch me personally, (other than reminding me of Vida~probably my least favorite Marge Piercy novel, or parts of The Handmaid's Tale, or my one ex-roommate). Before i figured out that it was actually set in the seventies i thought it was a little too hippy-heavy-handed~actually not a mixed metaphor however much it may sound like one.
I didn't find the narrating character all that likable~nor her motivations so easy to grasp~but with those caveats it wasn't the worst book i've ever read (hmmm...damning with faint praise anyone?) Holly Mattox is a Midwesterner (Minnesota to be exact in New York. She has just finished grad school, teaches at the New School and has some big ideas on social justice, feminism, radicalism, and all those other isms.
She has been part of an after-care program Women's House of Detention on Rikers Island and has just been granted permission to teach a poetry class there. One of the woman in her class, a Polly Lyle Clement, an epileptic inmate who was found floating in the East River and is currently awaiting transfer to a psychiatric facility (as about half the women in the detention center are), claims to be a direct descendent of Mark Twain and also claims to be gifted with "second sight", to be able to see into the future and the past and to be able to channel communication from her famous ancestor.
This was not an emotionally difficult book to read (nor was it painful to slog through). It was interesting despite my mis-connection and i'm not sorry i read it~though it did take me a while because i put it down several times (just not my highest recommendation here...)

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