07 April 2010

Black Hills mystery

Well, I got an overdue notice from the Northfield library. It doesn't happen often.

You'd think I'd be able to read and comment on a 250-page book in less than 3 weeks. At least I think I ought to be able to do that. What happened?

The book that's now overdue is Brendan Prairie by Dan O'Brien. It's a mystery and more. Or maybe less.

O'Brien is one of the leaders of a geology/ecology seminar I'm attending next July in the Black Hills. I thought I'd read something he's written before heading west.

I had trouble starting the book. There's so much back story to be told and it takes a long time -- practically the whole book -- to get it told. There's very little that isn't back story.

Then there are the paeans to the beauty of Brendan Prairie, a bit of Black Hills beauty that is about to be developed as vacation housing for rich people attracted to the gambling mecca in the Black Hills. The prairie sounds like an environmental gem. But I was never convinced that it was priceless or unique.

There's also incredible detail about capturing and training hawks and falcons. Yawn. And somehow that seems contradictory to the adoration of nature when O'Brien writes about Brendan Prairie. How is the main character's semi-domesticating of a falcon different from the semi-domestication of a bit of meadow?

At the end, all the main characters are tied up in a nasty ball of string that leaves the survivors bound by secrets and guilt that will never leave them.

I guess this book is a short story, an essay about preservation of nature, a feature article about falconry, and another short story about youthful love and lust.

It never hung together for me. And that's my excuse why it took so long for me to read it and almost as long to get around to writing about it.

Have you read Brendan Prairie by Dan O'Brien? What did you think? Write and tell this little bit of the world what you thought.

Meanwhile I'm headed back to the library with the overdue book and I'll look for O'Brien's non-fiction about stocking his Black Hills ranch with bison. That's more appropriate to the summer seminar. I'll let you know how the book and the seminar go.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Read Brendan Prairie over the weekend. Disappointing. I expected Bill to dig in his heels about the development. I didn't expect he would be the culprit, but I did expect more of a fight. I am "in" environmental advocacy, and I know the drill. And I've been to many a meeting where the feds have already made up their minds and the public knows their arguments are futile... but then there's often a legal hook in their somewhere---endangered species, clean water act, SOMETHING. There just was no real fight in this book. If Bill really loved Brendan Prairie, he would not have forgiven Margaret for "just doing her job." She's a complete sellout. (I work with many of them as well.) And while I found the falconry interesting, and know falconers, and hunters, and fishermen, to be "good" conservationists, and I don't find it completely contrary to participate in killing/controlling/managing/taming the nature you're seeking to protect (it's all very selfish), I am personally opposed to it.

So yeah, not on my list of recommended reads.