Sunday, April 12, 2009

Geraldine Brooks's March, Part I

I am listening to March, by Geraldine Brooks, on my Ipod. This book won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction in 2006.

Brooks's writing is beautiful (I'm thinking here of (1) individual sentences, (2) short episodes, and (3) particular snippets of dialogue), but so far the plot, characters and themes are a bit sporadic.

The story tracks John March, the father of the Little Women who are the subject of Louisa May Alcott's novel. March is a chaplain in the Union Army; the Civil War episodes thus far have taken place on an island in the Potomac and then outside of Harper's Ferry.

March has an emotional // partially romantic connection to a slave with whom he interacts first as an itinerant seller of knick-knacks (and trader of books) in his early twenties and then, twenty years later, in his role as army chaplain.

My favorite parts of the book so far as Brooks's examination of March's self-righteousness; he is a committed abolitionist and prides himself on preaching a tolerant, accepting version of Christianity, but he's also very judgmental towards others' shortcomings (while forgiving of his own faults). So far, it's not clear if he recognizes his own self-righteousness, and I like this aspect of his character. For me, when I think I'm thinking or doing something "right" (rightly?), I don't generally view myself as being self-righteous -- and yet isn't that mental framework what self-righteousness is? It seems there is a fine line between telling yourself that you are approaching things in a good way versus a vanity of thinking you know what "the good way" is.

We had a wonderful Easter brunch out at Kingston Road this morning. The dogwoods are in full glory at the moment and we've seen blue birds both yesterday and today.

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