Thursday, March 10, 2011

Charles McNair, "Land O' Goshen".

c. David Grim (taken 2/19/11)

So you're wondering what it's going to look like when the Christian Reformation is established in the United States? For one possible depiction of this possibility you need look no further than Charles McNair's "Land O' Goshen". The author has created a world where roadhouses serve tall glasses of milk instead of alcohol, and women learn their place once again. It's every Christian fundamentalist's dream, wherein all individuality is finally stripped away and compulsion is utilized to get everyone ready for the Kingdom of God.

Fourteen-year old Budd, is our tour guide through this nightmarish milieu. He's an orphan who has decided to shake up the new order by donning an outfit made out of roadkill fur in order to scare the living daylights out of the bullies that have taken over. Obviously McNair is not overly preoccupied with realism. If you are going to be put off by demands for suspension of disbelief, then you should give this a pass.

But if you are looking for a surprisingly lively romp through a hellish, fanatically-inspired, dystopia, look no further than "Land O' Goshen". It certainly delivers. McNair's descriptions of life on the margins during truly trying times are both entertaining and fascinating. Buddy spends a lot of his time off the beaten path in the wilderness, hoping to avoid confrontation with the hyper-violent Christian Soldiers who actively seek to cleanse their Earthly domain of non-believers. Still the fervor and repression of the new regime seeks him out, and eventually find him. I guess it's inevitable that our narrator finds and loses paradise, but Buddy's time in the woods with a new girlfriend sparkles with with wonder and sweet light.

This is a short, fast-paced ride, and regardless of how you respond to the author's philosophical outlook- you are not going to be bored. McNair's power of description invites the reader into this dangerous environment, and his skills as a storyteller enable a genuinely immersive experience. While it's true that at the end of it all I had a slightly unfulfilled feeling, I do believe that's it's preferable to leave 'em wanting more, rather than bludgeoning the audience with tedious exposition that aims to edify at the expense of entertainment. After all, this is a form of fantasy, no matter how bleak its surface.

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