Thursday, October 31, 2019

Bitter Grass by T. V. Olsen

Each night saw an all-night dance where the younger people stomped and swayed barefoot (for shoes would not have survived a single such night) in superb rhythm kept by chanting hand-clappers on the sidelines. It was a wild and beautiful sight that Alex watched for hours on end and never tired of, a highly improvised, life-pulsing promenade somewhere between Africa and hoedown country, with the fireplay of red light on quick lithe bodies and shining black faces. 

This is a curious novel. It is so full of incident that it has enough story for a McMurtry length epic and yet the page count keeps it in standard novel range. Olsen, is a mighty capable writer but here he seems to wish to leave nothing out of his sprawling story and often we simply have crammed episodes “And then this happened, and then this, and then this…”

When he takes the time to pause and slow down and dig in on a scene, we get a view of what might have been, a deeply realized epic. Instead, what we have here is a bit rushed and perhaps too surface for a man with such obvious talents.

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