Wednesday, 4 March 2009

Westward ho!

It has been suggested to me that I might be a little less cranky if I read less science fiction and listened to more country music. I gather that the science fiction gives me a jaundiced view of the future and if I listened to country music I would realise how well off I really am. After all, my husband hasn’t left me, I don’t have a dog to die on me and I don’t depend on the land or weather for my livelihood.

All these are good things of course, but I suspect a little Dolly Parton or Loretta Lynn is more likely to drive me to increased despair than to cheer me up. On the other hand, my daughters have introduced me recently to a lot of music that I would have previously classified as country, but which are according to iTunes, “alternative”, “roots” or even “pop.” It just makes me feel a little old.

However, never wanting to turn down good advice (actually I often turn down good advice but I’m trying to be a better person), I’m reading Joanna Hershon’s The German Bride which is the fictional account of a German Jewish woman in the 1870s who migrates with her entrepreneur husband to Santa Fe, New Mexico. It is a fascinating read mainly for the descriptions of the emotions of this sophisticated Berlin girl who ends up in the rough edges of frontier America. I picked it up at our wonderful mobile library service and borrowed it on the basis that it was endorsed by Maria Doria Russell (yes another scifi writer). It’s probably a bit literary for some tastes (see the review in the New York Times Sunday Review of Books), but it also provides a strong plot line and galloping narrative which can be missing in some of the more literary-loike/boring novels.

Reading this novel hopefully will serve the dual purpose of background information for my own writing and de-crankification. I’ll let you know how it works. Given its characterisation in the publisher’s blurb as “gripping and gritty portrayal of urban European immigrants struggling with New World frontier life in the mid-nineteenth century” it may not provide much cheer. I may yet have to rely on country music.


Vivi said...

I had a teacher once who used a country music station on her clock radio to wake her up in the morning. She said she hated country music so much, it got her out of bed directly.

On the other hand, she often found herself humming the songs in class, so it didn't wake her up fast enough.

Vivi said...

On another note, I just read "Territory" by Emma Bull. It's set in Tombstone, Arizona when the Earps were running the show, and is an urban (if Tombstone can be called "urban") history-fantasy. Nothing to do with German immigrants (although it does deal a little with Chinese immigrants) or Australia, but a great read.

And for another history-fantasy that does talk about the immigrant experience (Chinese, not German) in the Wild West of America, try "Sarah Canary" by Karen Fowler. One of those literary-loike, but still good, books.

(I may have mentioned these before. Sorry for the redundancy if so.)