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Saturday, 25 July 2015

The King

The Back of the Turtle by Thomas King opens with a man trying to commit suicide, but who loses the moment, while rescuing people from the ocean.

I loved the book. I liked the sense of humour and enjoyed the ridiculousness with which King has painted the CEO of a large company and his absorption with making money and spending money. The dialogue is great, giving each character a distinct voice, and even though the book is longish, you never feel the weight of the pages. The chapters are short, the paragraphs, at times, just a sentence long and the writing whizzes along, carrying you with it.

I won't tell you what happens in the book, because I don't like those kind of reviews. If someone wants to know what happens in a book, they should read it. The book is about the environment, difficult relationships, materialism, and the disregard, with which the original inhabitants of this continent, are treated.

The Inconvenient Indian was another book of his, which I enjoyed. I don't usually read nonfiction, same way he doesn't usually write it, but his mixture of wit and fact, make it a good read for anyone interested in North American history.

"Helen was concerned that the word "property" might imply that I was suggesting that Indians were slaves. That's not accurate. We were more like
Moving Indians around the continent was like redecorating a very large house. The Cherokee can no longer stay in the living room. Put them in the second bedroom. The Mi'kmaq are taking up too much space in the kitchen. Move them to the laundry. The Seminoles can go from the master bedroom into the sunroom, and lean the Songhees against the wall in the upstairs hallway. We'll see if that works. For the time being, the Ojibway, the Seneca, the Metis, and the Inuit can be stored in the shed behind the garage. And what the hell are we going to do with the Blackfoot, the Mohawk, the Arapaho, and the Piaute?
Do we have any garbage bags left?
This idea, that Native people were waiting for Europeans to lead us to civilization, is just a variation on the old savagism versus civilization dichotomy, but it is a dichotomy that North America trusts without question. It is so powerful a toxin that it contaminates all of our major institutions. Under its influence, democracy becomes not simply a form a representative government, Christianity, and capitalism into a marketable product carrying with it the unexamined promise of wealth and prosperity. It suggests that anything else , by default, is savage and bankrupt."

And another one from the same book, which I feel is very relevant in today's world, and not just for "Indians", but also for Blacks, Hispanics, Chinese, Korean, and Muslims. Too many people view such groups as  monolithic. Here's the thing, though, that while all the others are races, Muslims belong to many different races, yet they are, far too often, lumped together as a homogeneous group. There is an excellent piece by Mohsin Hamid about this strange mind set.

"They get to make their mistakes as individuals and not as representatives of an entire race."

The Inconvenient Indian, A Curious Account of Native People in North America by Thomas King.

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