The Garden of the World


056) The Garden of the World by Lawrence Coates, finished October 5

Louis suddenly saw the entire vineyard in motion, all at the same time; pickers on their knees in the fields, cutting clusters into buckets and pouring the buckets into boxes. His grandfather, standing with the reins in his hands while Prince walked serenely up and down the allées and boxes were slapped onto the wagon bed. John and Angelo, emptying box after box onto the wire mesh above the crusher, himself using the paddle to separate the berries from their stems, and the juice and must falling in the gravity-flow design down into the basket press. For this moment, changing the living fruit into living wine. (163-164)
The Garden of the World is not a long novel (exactly two hundred pages), but it is rich. The basic structure of the plot is fairly simple, held to two major p-o-v characters, and all the characters have that Shakespearean quality of being complex enough to breathe while simple enough to be mere cog in the tragedy.

Lawrence Coates is an alumnus of the high school where I work and he came back last spring to visit some classes. Then he was good enough to stick around during lunch and let me pick his brain re MFAs (he runs Bowling Green's). And basically he talked me out of it. Which is good because I've been waffling. I feel better having made my decision. For now at least. And hey! Buy Byuck! Coming out later this year! From nonMFA Theric!

Anyway, he sent me a pdf of the Garden's first chapter and my AP class discussed it with him. The chapter is rich and compelling, and I'm happy to say you can read it on Amazon (but nowhere else, best I can tell).

The story is taps many archetypal wells. It's a Prodigal Son story! It's a vaguely Oedipal story! With strong Antigonal undertones! It's a number of things.

Perhaps my favorite element of the story is its pastoralism. I loved the look it offers at vineyards and winemaking.

As a kid, I worked at a welfare vineyard outside Fresno a couple times a year---once to prune, once to harvest. Obviously, these weren't wine grapes (we are Mormon and they were raisins), and it was only a handful of days total, but I thus have an appreciation for grapes that perhaps most people don't. But I think reading this novel will provide an excellent approximation. Any vineyard with a tasting room and a gift shop that does not stock this book is missing a prime opportunity to get their fans even more excited about all that goes into winemaking. Srsly, vineyards. Stock this book.

Back to my Shakespeare comment above (and no, this post does not have any firm structure, thank you for noticing), when I made that comment I was specifically thinking of the man of the vineyard and his wife. Both are complex characters, but both block off their complexity from themselves, thus becoming unable to prevent the novel's final tragic sequence. At first, I thought the wife's brightness and positivity would be innocent, even if it failed. But in the end, I see that her panglossiness is as guilty as the father's bullheadedness in damning the brothers to limited lives.

Nothing in this novel is throwaway, even if left less developed than might be expected of a novel twice its length. Consider:

The town journalist reports only the good, overlooks the bad. This novel could be seen as a restorative with its elements of darkness, but the novel is also filled with moments of joy. And so the question left at the end is: Who is at fault if joy dies? Are all equally to blame? Is there a hierarchy of blame? Is there an ultimate blame?

But I ramble.

Good book.

Let's just leave it at that.
four months or so

Previously in 2012 . . . . :

Read the reviews of 52-55.
055) The Skin I'm In by Sharon G. Flake, finished September 27
054) Lote That Dog by Sharon Creech, finished September 25
053) Hate That Cat by Sharon Creech, finished September 24
052) Wormwood, Gentleman Corpse: It Only Hurts When I Pee by Ben Templesmith, finished September 24

Read the reviews of 49-51.
051) The Zabîme Sisters by Aristophane, finished September 20
050) Little Death by Thomas Kriebaum, finished September 16
049) God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater by Kurt Vonnegut, finished September 11

Read the reviews of 44-48.
048) American Nerd: The Story of My People by Benjamin Nugent, finished September 7
047) Powers by Brian Michael Bendis and Michael Avon Oeming, finished September 6
046) Simply Science by a number of authors and illustrators for All Aboard Reading, finished September 5
045) Bonk: The Curious Coupling of Science and Sex by Mary Roach, finished September 3
044) The Strange Case of the Walking Corpse: A Chronicle of Medical Mysteries, Curious Remedies, and Bizarre but True Healing Folklore by Nancy Butcher, finished August 27

Read the reviews of 40-43.
043) How to Analyze the Works of Stephenie Meyer by Marcela Kostihova, finished August 13
042) The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie, finished August 10
041) Captain America: Man Out of Time by Mark Waid and Jorge Molina, finished August 1
040) If You Believe in Mermaids . . . Don't Tell by A.A. Philips, finished July 28

Read the reviews of 37-39.
039) The Smartest Man in Ireland by Mollie Hunter, finished July 27
038) Blockade Billy / Morality by Stephen King, finished July 12
037) Dispirited by Luisa M. Perkins, finished July 9

Read the reviews of 34-36.
036) Hyperion by Dan Simmons, finished July 2
035) A Short Stay in Hell by Steven L. Peck, finished June 27
034) Kampung Boy by Lat, finished June 22

Read the reviews of 29-33.
034) The Giant Joshua by Maurine Whipple, finished June 20
033) Fantastic Mr Fox by Roald Dahl, finished June 18
032) Wicked Plants by Amy Stewart, "finished" June 18
031) Make the Bread, Buy the Butter by Jennifer Reese, "finished" June 15
030) The Yiddish Policemen's Union by Michael Chabon, finished June 9
029) Mayflower: A Story of Courage, Community, and War by Nathaniel Philbrick, finished early June

Read the reviews of 25-28.
028) Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky, finished May 24
027) The Lover’s Dictionary by David Levithan, finished May 16
026) The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows, finished May 10
025) Dominant Traits by Eric Freeze, finished April 10

Read the reviews of 21-24.
024) The Elements of Style by William Strunk, Jr., and E.B. White, finished April 2
023) UNTITLED MS by Kyle Jepson, finished March 12, 2012
022) The Complete Peanuts 1981-1982 by Charles M. Schulz, finished March 4
021) The True Meaning of Smekday by Adam Rex, finished March 3

Read the reviews of 14-20.
020) Billy Hazelnuts by Tony Millionaire, finished February 25
019) Good-bye, Chunky Rice by Craig Thompson, finished February 26
018) Madman 20th Anniversary Monster HC by [everybody], finished February 25
017) Billy Hazelnuts and Crazy Bird by Tony Millionaire, finished February 25
016) Billy Hazelnuts by Tony Millionaire, finished February 25
015) Habibi by Craig Thompson, finished February 20
014) The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen: 1910 by Alan Moore and Kevin O'Neill, finished February 15

Read the reviews of 12-13.
013) Assassination Vacation by Sarah Vowell, finished February 12
012) Black Hole by Charles Burns, finished February 11

Read the reviews of 6-11.
011) The Complete Peanuts: 1979-1980 by Charles M. Schulz, finished February 4
010) Blankets by Craig Thompson, finished February 4
009) Cat's Cradle by Kurt Vonnegut, finished February 2
008) The Millstone Necklace (forthcoming) by S.P. Bailey, finished January 31
007) American Born Chinese by Gene Luen Yang, finished January 27
006) Across a Harvested Field by Robert Goble, finished January 23

Read the reviews of 1-5.
005) Hark! a Vagrant! by Kate Beaton, finished January 21
004) The Death of a Disco Dancer by David Clark, finished January 12
003) Bucketfoot Al: The Baseball Life of Al Simmons by Clifton Blue Parker, finished January 9
002) Uncle Montague's Tales of Terror by Chris Priestly, finished January 9
001) What of the Night? by Stephen Carter, finished January 5

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