Gap Creek - Robert Morgan, A ~ BitterSweetLife

Sunday, May 07, 2006

Gap Creek - Robert Morgan, A

Cold, Clean Water: A Flash Review

Gap Creek – Robert Morgan, A

Combining the gritty tone of Cold Mountain with the spiritual motif of Peace Like a River, Robert Morgan’s turn of the century novel is deceptively spare; Gap Creek leaves a clean, sweet aftertaste. His protagonist, Julie, speaks with an unassuming manner that would sound “postmodern” if stripped of its Appalachian mannerisms and placed in the 21st century.

Julie's blunt, uncompromisingly honest voice is the vehicle through which Morgan conveys a surprising depth of psychological realism—and does so with little more than a high school
vocabulary (today's high school, that is). Hemingway’s stripped-down approach came to mind, but the comparison fails, because Morgan lacks Hemingway’s deliberately experimental crudity of speech and his jaded edginess.

Nevertheless, Morgan’s writing falls into the school of
less is more; while not overly dark, his language is stark and minimal. His work has the added appeal of sustained surprise—I found myself pigeonholing characters and plot devices, only to be proven wrong. Gap Creek depicts poverty, loss, pain, and love—convincingly and unpretentiously—and then goes on to accomplish what very few authors these days even attempt: a believable fusion of life and spirituality, wherein characters wrestle with the demands of life on a spiritual plane and aspire to redemption.


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Andrew Simone said...

"His work has the added appeal of sustained surprise—I found myself pigeonholing characters and plot devices, only to be proven wrong."

I love how some books can do that. Frankly, I often try craft that feel in academic papers. While I like folks to see where they are going, there is something more powerful of progressing forward with expectations, only to lift the veil and see something very different--yet fitting--from what you anticipated.

I suppose redemptive history is much like that, now that I think of it. Perhaps this makes the approach all the more apropriate.

Will Robison said...

I think being continually surprising means that the author is close to real life. There is no way you can write something that is continually surprising and not have it appear that way, but if you right something that is real, it most often turns out that way. Because real life keeps us guessing whereas make believe usually allows us to guess what's coming next. Unless you're talking Prison Break or 24 - then just give up trying to guess. ;)

Ariel said...

Andrew, now I've got to see one of your academic your professors dig the "sustained surprise" theme? Your comment regarding redemptive history makes me think about Tolkien's term, "eucatastrophe" - something earth-shakingly good unexpectedly happening. Isn't that the essence of the gospel? Yeah, and God's work all down through the ages.

I like the thought, Will, that surprise is a trapping of reality. I just wish it were true more or the time, or that the surprises were more novel...of course, in real life, there is also the grinding tedium of predictability to deal with. I think a good novel has to strike the right balance.

Since I've mentioned Tolkien once already, I may as well reference him again: in LOTR, a completely fantastic story, the soul-scuffing tedium comes through very clearly. You feel the weariness of the heroes acutely. That's part of Tolkien's genius.

Ariel said...

UPDATE: Lindsay just finished Gap Creek, and has informed me that it deserves an 'A' ranking. She presented a pretty convincing argument, so a 'readjustment' may be pending.

When she reads this post, hopefully she'll explain her rationale a little. :)


Culture. Photos. Life's nagging questions. - BitterSweetLife