Wednesday, September 29, 2010

"The Wilding" by Benjamin Percy: Mother Nature is a Bitch

Of all the writers with new books coming out this Fall, none has gotten my engines revved faster or harder than Benjamin Percy.  And that's saying a lot in light of the fact that books by Stephen King, Philip Roth, and Joyce Carol Oates are on deck.  I've already spouted my love for his debut collection, The Language of Elk, and soon I'll have a review of Refresh, Refresh coming your way.

But Percy's big coup this publishing season is his debut novel, The Wilding.  The book combines Deliverance-style themes of man vs. wilderness, but also has a lot to say about marriage, the Iraq War, and father-son bonding (or, as the case may be, unraveling).

My review of the novel has just gone live at The Barnes & Noble Review:
Living as most of us now do in an urban and suburban world, we tend to idolize the deep woods as a place of natural beauty, a place to renew and reflect.  But it has not been long since the forest primarily evoked notions of threat, chaos, and alienation—the place where Dante loses his way. In American literature, glens and glades are ripe with symbolism, and everyone from Nathaniel Hawthorne ("Young Goodman Brown") to Raymond Carver ("So Much Water, So Close to Home") has harvested meaning right down to the last blood-dappled blade of grass.  By this point, you'd think that writers would have exhausted wilderness as both place and symbol.  After Deliverance, what remains to be said about pitting man against nature?
Plenty, if Benjamin Percy's debut novel The Wilding is any indication.  In these pages, landscape is as much a character as the three generations of men who set foot in the woods on an ill-fated hunting trip.  Grandfather, son, and grandson track trophy deer, but they are also pursued by the malevolent forces of weather and razor-clawed beasts.  In this book, Mother Nature isn't a benevolent provider of spiritual refreshment, but a merciless bitch.
You can read the rest by clicking here.

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