Wednesday, May 02, 2018

"Anatomy of a Miracle", a novel* by Jonathan Miles

In recent months magazines and newspapers have been the primary reading here.  An effort has been made with a few books but none have truly diverted my attention.  Two sit next to my chair, bookmarks in each about halfway through.  "Anatomy of a Miracle" was a three day read, brisk in the first half or so, engaging after that until, near the end, it limped home to the finish line.  But it made it without question.

The book begins as an exceptionally comic novel, notwithstanding being about a paraplegic Afghan war veteran living in Biloxi, Mississippi.  The veteran makes an inexplicable recovery, and the mystery around that extraordinary event follows.  The humor reflects the characters and the place, and it is done with what could be called a loving eye.  The wry tone is always present but the story turns more and more into a reflection on death, dying, purpose, and just carrying on.

Some quotes from the book may be interesting.

From the Vietnamese convenience store owner --- "She's been selling beer across the Biz-E-Bee counter for sixteen years, and from what she can gather, being a teetotaler, it doesn't seem to make people happier or better, it just makes them come back the next day for more of it."

From the director of an attempted documentary about the event --- "But a villain, to my thinking, has to have evil intent or else a selfish disregard for consequences---and I had neither.  I did the best with the situation I was given.  No, there's a villain here, but that wasn't me.  You see, that's what makes this such a Southern story.  The villain was the past."

From the mother of another wounded veteran---"The best kind of people in this world D, but also the worst kind---they're riddles.  They do things that don't make sense, and no matter how hard you try you can't never figure them out.  But you can't help yourself from trying."

From the director---"God healed and revived people, right,but did he also, you know, just zap others---bury them neck-deep in a divine dump of shit just to see if and how they'd wriggle free?  As an adult he'd only ever been to church for weddings, so he didn't know;  most of what he knew about about God came from old Al Green albums."

"Her father was crazy, yes, a yowling sixty seven year old dervish, and his response to life had always been to flail at its mysteries and discordances with fabulist stories...Winton Lorimar isn't religious, but is fond, in his words, of  'the hoodoo in life': the cracks in our knowledge and perceptions, the existential equivalent of the unplayable tones lurking between the black and white keys of a piano."

Whether this gives anyone more insight into "Anatomy of a Miracle" is unknown.  The book was a welcome find here.


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