Sunday, March 11, 2012


I thought I'd add something about the book I'm reading today, Assumption by Percival Everett (Graywolf Press, 2011), whose work I've written about before. I'm just 50 pages in so far, but I'm enjoying it: Ogden Walker is a small-town New Mexico policeman, the son of a white mother and an African American father. Deaths are starting to pile up in the area, and Walker is trying to figure out what's going on. Straightforward enough.

What interests me about Everett's work so far is his protagonists, who are heterosexual males, not macho but not extremely expressive, educated and intelligent, with full inner lives. That last matters, because I've read too many male characters who seem dulled or apathetic inside, and who don't use the intelligence they're supposed to have. Everett's protagonists are people worth knowing.

Ogden's hobby, which he learned from his late father, is tying flies -- not fishing, but making the lures.
Ogden finally asked his father to teach him to tie, not so much because he wanted to fish, but because he thought the flies were beautiful. He was ten at the time and he still remembered watching his first colorful streamer develop in front of him. He recalled the way ti felt to trim the deer hair on his first grasshopper, the pieces of feathers, how much fun it was to dub the muskrat fur onto the thread with his thumb and index finger ... He no longer felt sad when he thought of [his father]. In fact, the thought of him helped Ogden relax. They had been close, for some reason not having the conflicts his friends had had with their fathers. He wondered if his present profession would have caused a problem between them, in spite of his mother's assurance. He wondered because he himself had a problem with it. He felt out of touch with his time, didn't like people his age. He wasn't like a lot of people who became cops, didn't want to be like them, but then Fragua and Paz weren't like that either. They weren't hard men; some wouldn't even have called them tough, but they did their jobs. Ogden wanted only to do his job [49].
This pleases me because I often encounter recommendations of fiction about men who aren't like this. They are either flat and dull and apathetic, or huge screaming open wounds inside while trying vainly to look tough. The women in their lives fail them, of course, but that's depicted as a failure in the women, not in them. Of course the world is full of such men, but the fiction I've read about them never seems to lead anywhere; worse, it's praised as exemplary. Everett is doing something that works much better for me.