Thursday, October 23, 2008

Quakeland by Francesca Lia Block

They talked about how corny it sounded to say that writing had saved their lives, but also how completely true it was. They talked about how you could use it to give meaning to the worst things in your life. (167)
Quakeland by Francesca Lia Block is another example of how Block has grown creatively and how her characters have matured along with her story’s themes. Here she returns to the interwoven stories that she did so beautifully in Echo. But this is not a young adult novel and this is as close as it gets to being a disappointment. Block’s young adult novels, with their beautiful imagery, lyrical language, and above all how she touches on the most painful experiences with a delicacy that makes even the most nightmarish realities something that can not only be survived but can be survived with grace. There is a promise at the end of her young adult novels that is not present in Quakeland. Perhaps this is more honest. Perhaps with maturity comes the need to just accept that pain is inevitable. And yet, there is a sense of the human potential to evolve beyond the present reality (a promise hinted at by the perfect and marvelous illustration on the cover). This book is infused with the horrors of terrorist attacks, floods, tsunamis, and the threat of earthquakes. In the pages there is healing, a sort of homeopathic catharsis of words. I wanted to cry most of the time as I was reading. The pain was too familiar. Needless to say, I will return to this book and reread it. I will hold it close as I read the words and sigh. Maybe I will not want to cry. Maybe I will want to cry so much more that I will not be able to stop myself. And no maybe about it, I look forward to Block’s next book. Footnote: Unfortunately, I found a few mistakes in the printing that put me off, as they always seem to do. Mediate for meditate and they for the are obvious but I guess this kind of printing carelessness is becoming de rigueur and I need to lighten up. But when I see a comma in the wrong place—inside a word!—I shut down completely. I closed the book and couldn’t look at it for another hour. At least. I still resist lowering my standards and hold publishers up to a standard that will never include the ability to accept a comma inside a word. (I suspect it will be corrected but if you happen to have a first print edition, lying around, look at page 66 to see what I am talking about and grrrrr along with me.)

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