Friday, April 13, 2007

Fathers and Crows

Hot on the heels of the book on polar exploration (appropriately called "Ice"), I had a yen to re-read William T. Vollmann's "The Rifles," the sixth volume in his "seven dreams" series. I remember loving it and being moved by his descriptions of Resolute Bay and John Franklin's horrifying attempt at finding the Northwest Passage. "The Rifles" probably nurtured this tiny seed of my fascination with the Canadian north.

But no...that would mean skipping "Fathers and Crows," the second volume of the series. So I've decided to read it instead, which is a real treat because it's my favourite of his books.

I stumbled across William T. Vollmann when a University friend ("The Fantichrist") loaned me "You Bright and Risen Angels." I read it and fell in love with it, but the only other Vollmann books I could find were these strange historical fictions...and at the time, non-fiction was definitely NOT my thing.

But "Fathers and Crows" really opened my eyes. Majestic in its scope, somehow taking in the beauty of the landscape, the justifications of both the Jesuits and the Huron, the establishment of Lower Canada...this single (huge) book made me realized how much I had to learn, and how little of it I'd learn by reading Dean R. Koontz.

I've read it twice now, and when I think of it I get a little chill: scurvy, Ignatius of Loyola, political intrigue, exploration, the saving of souls, the Indians getting sick and the Jesuits being martyred. Beautiful and rambling and crazy, exactly the way it happened, and exactly what Vollmann pours heart and soul into.

Oh yes, and a sea monster.

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