Wednesday, May 02, 2012

Wild Animus

 In the past month, I've read two books.  The first, Wild Animus, I picked up at Value Village, a thrift store.  I bought it for $.75.  It was worth that.  However, from the beginning, I knew the book would not be easy.  It is a story about a young man unable to find his niche in society.  He is fresh out of Berkeley at the time of the Berkeley riots.  He is always strung out on LSD.

The young man's family is torn apart and dysfunctional.  He hooks up with a young woman by chance.  The chance encounter includes a magazine featuring a Dall sheep ram.  Sam takes this ram as of great significance, as the embodiment of himself and what he wants to be.  He changes his name to Ransom.  He and Lindy, his first love, become entwined in Ransom's quest to find a deeper significance to love and life.  This quest leads them first to Seattle, where Lindy supports him, by working as a waitress, and Ransom learns to climb mountains.  Lindy is sometimes resentful, of her role in Ransom's quest.  Her role is to completely support him financially, emotionally and even to buy his drug of choice--LSD.

Lindy wants very much to have a normal love, but she has chosen a man obsessed with deeper meaning and so they move to Alaska.  In Alaska, Ransom immerses himself in becoming the ram.  He has made a sheepskin head with horns, sheep hooves to wear and sheep skin leggings.  He longs to climb Mt. Wrangle, now convinced his god, of the molten hearts, of complete surrender, Animus, lies within the south crater, still volcanically active.  He must go there.  He is obsessed with a wolf pack.  He sees Lindy's love for him, her pursuit of him, as a wolf pack pursuing him, the ram, to consume him.  He fantasizes about prey surrendering their bodies willingly to a predator.

He climbs alone and puts himself into danger.  By now, he is living in a cabin in the shadow of Mt. Wrangle, sometimes with Lindy and sometimes without.  He has a sort of cult following, in the owners of a fly in business and resort rentals on a nearby lake.  He urges them to surrender, to live!  And yet he and Lindy's relationship falls apart, as his insanity and obsessions go unchecked, fueled by LSD.  He climbs while high on acid, and goes into ritualistic chants and becomes the ram, when high, and seems pursued by a real life wolf pack, many of whose members die off in the pursuit of Ransom, one by one.  They too have seemingly forsaken all to pursue him.

He is obsessed with obtaining the south crater, drawn on by communications with Animus himself.  He drags Lindy half up the mountain but a storm sweeps in.  They nearly die of the cold and cower in an ice crevice to escape the worst of the storm.  He refuses to return to the lake, with Lindy, when his friend, the pilot, flies out with Lindy.  They know he will try again for the south crater.  Lindy wakes in the night, another storm rolling in, and knocks on the resort owners door.  The wife says, earnestly, "Death will be a victory for him."

The book began with Lindy flying over the south crater in an approaching storm with a state trooper.  They spot a body.  Lindy nods, but the worsening storm demands they do nothing more.

Here is a quote from the books' website:

 “The notion that in love there is an element of self-destruction—a yielding up of the self in order to realize a participation in something greater—is familiar to many of us. Ransom perceives that if there’s going to be surrender between two individuals, then there will be a hunter and hunted. He develops a mythos around that, and tries to live it out.”

Here is another:
 “Creation has done the same thing with the life-forms on planet earth. If you look at any wilderness setting, you see a diversity of temperaments. A predator has one temperament, a grass eater has a different one. If we take our own natures and regard them in that light, we can have a better understanding of who we are and who we might be.”

I have been watching Grimm, the strange crime drama series, filmed in Portland, Oregon, that airs on Friday night.  The witty dialogue has kept me hooked but so too has the categorization of humans as beasts of various temperaments.  Only some can see the beast in all of us.  But we all have characteristics of various beasts.  While some humans mimic monsters, others are more benign and closer by nature to a hedgehog or a squirrel.   Grimm dialogue cracks me up at least once weekly.  Like last week, when a member of a clan of very timid creatures apologized to the detective, the Grimm, for not being braver.  The Grimm's reply, "Hey, you knocked on my door and brought me a pie and a quilt.  That took courage!"  OMG, that one made me laugh.

Explore Wild Animus here, on its website.

How do I rate Wild Animus, as a book?  On a scale of one to five, with five being excellent, I give it a two.

All I could think of, while reading this book, was the selfishiness and ego of this character, Ransom.  He fell head over heals in love with Lindy, a lost soul, who gave her all to him, believing she had finally found love.  Then he used her, to achieve his selfish drug driven enlightenment.  When he died in his quest, I was happy.  Lindy was free.

The second book I read last month "Once in a House on Fire" by Andrea Ashworth, is a stark but rich tale of family dysfunction told by one of the children, looking back.  The tale is too familiar to be comfortable and too common.

The books spans over a decade in a family that has already seen the two girls father disappear.  The mother has taken in another bloke, who beats her. The tale is rich in descriptive adjective, that keeps you unfocused on the horror going on in this family.  This rich descriptive detail is so distracting, providing the only meat of the book, that later I felt it must have been how the children survived, by focusing deeply on other things.

The story follows the family through the horror of this brutal husband, who carts them off for a time to Vancouver Canada, sure he'll make it big there.  But there, they cannot escape who they are either, and the couple fights brutally and the husband squanders any money they come upon in drinking, schemes and criminal activity.  Aunts rescue them and get them back to England, where the story began.  The mother eventually takes a squalid job in a city.  They live in terrible and violent neighborhoods.  Eventually mom gets another man, who at first seems divine and brings home all sorts of money and new gadgets for their home.  Soon he is carted away by the police.  He was stealing.  Once out of jail, and on the dole, he too becomes a drunkard and a wife beater.  Despite the horrible beatings, she won't turn him in. She takes him back over and over, ignoring the welfare of her children.  They often eat take out food, while the children starve on the wings.  When the daughters turn him in, the police simply give him a lecture, and when he nearly kills their mother, a judge turns him free with a small fine, only making matters worse.

The story is of the three girls, the one born later to their second father, and their attempts to survive, by immersing themselves in dreams of the future, of fashions and clothes unobtainable, of small pleasures, like candy, of boys and of school, their only escape.  School is also their ticket out of such lives. The older two girls realize this and work hard in school.  There is nothing easy at home.  They walk on eggshells there, so as not to begin the fights or get whacked themselves.

The book ends as the author, the oldest daughter of the three, who has studied hard enough to earn entrance to Oxford, walks out the door.

This is a grim book of family neglect, selfishness, abuse and dysfunction, told through the heart of an affected child.  The story is well known to me and to countless others, without needing to read the book.

How do I rate Once in a House on Fire?  On a scale of one to five with five being excellent, I give it a three.

No comments :

Post a Comment