Friday, March 14, 2008

"I hate those guys."

Nazis. The early 21st-century symbol of unarguable evil. (I mean really, who can argue with Indiana Jones?)

After I talked about The Mysterious Edge of the Heroic World, I started thinking about Stephanie Kallos' Broken for You, because both involve Nazi-stolen art. Is it just our moment in history, or do we currently have some kind of fascination with how to come to terms with the sins of the fathers?

In Broken for You, people are broken, and china is broken. Most of the china turns out to have been stolen from Jews by Nazis, and one of the main characters uses the china shards to make mosaics. The novel is beautifully written. Early on, one of the main characters thinks:

"No one likes to see something break--even if that thing has no relationship to them whatsoever. Even if they're completely unattached to it. Why is that? I wonder. It is, after all, the inevitable fate of a plate, isn't it? If it's not shut away, that is. If it's put to its intended purpose--as a vessel, something useful, something human hands are meant to handle and interact with. The natural fate of a plate--and therefore the appropriate one--is that it be chipped or cracked or broken. Why should that decrease its value?"

But in addition to that kind of dreamy language, the observations are occasionally sharp:

"It is often said, in consolatory tones, that 'time heals all wounds.' But radiologists, who study and interpret physical proofs of the body's ability to store memory, know that this is a crock of shit."

Also there is what I think of as a commonsense tone of voice, running underneath most of the metaphorical cracking and piecing back together:

"We speak of 'senseless tragedies,' but really: Is there any other kind?"

None of the tragedies of the characters in Broken for You make sense individually, but there is a picture that only the reader can see, in the mosaic that the novel painstakingly reveals, piece by piece. It is as comfortable and old-fashioned as hating Nazis to close the book and believe that God has a plan which requires us to suffer at some point, but that we don't have the perspective to see His whole plan.

1 comment:

Aunt J-ha said...

Great review...especially your point about none of the tragedies in Broken for you make sense individually. I don't think the characters made much sense on their own, as well. But as the story wove them together they made perfect sense. I really enjoyed Ms. Kallos first novel and look forward to reading her work in the future.