Wednesday, February 10, 2010

What you Talkin' about? "Swallow Me Whole" by Nate Powell

At times, arranging and reordering was all i could do to handle the day. Didn't know they had a name for it and everything else. - Early on, I thought I'd found a way to exercise just a little control over my world, until I felt my size through it.

The first thing that caught my attention about this book (as with most books) is the cover. Beautiful, cleanly brushed linework and a muted color scheme grounded in drab reality... And a fantastical subject matter of a girl being carried over the trees by a swarm of insects. Glimpsing it out of the corner of my eye as I chased my daughter to the check-out counter at the library, I felt compelled to pick it up. And I was not dissapointed.

The line between what is reality and what is imagination is blurred in the Book "Swallow Me Whole", by Nate Powell. The story follows (I think) a year in the life of Ruth, a teenage girl living in the fictional town of Wormwood, Arkansas. Between Powell's lyrical, sometimes sketchy/sometimes clean but always precise, drawing style, and his well crafted writing, we are given a pretty clear picture of a girl, suffering from Obsessive Compulsive Disorder and mild Schizophrenia, trying to make sense of her world. a family trying to hold it all together, and a girl, suffering from Obsessive Compulsive Disorder and mild Schizophrenia, trying to make sense of her world.

As the book starts out, the family is going to see Grandma in the hospital. One of the things that struck me about this scene, is the way the details were handled. The hospital was clean, white... sterile. Grandma looked fragile and distant. The kids were sad and awkward, the way kids are in situations where they know they should feel a certain way, but aren't sure why. All of this was beautifully, delicately handled, but the thing that really hit me was the background. The doctor coming in the door was practically scribbled in... just a loose sketch in ink, because all too often, that's all a doctor is, somebody who's in and out, a fleeting character in the event of being in the hospital. the relatives out in the hall are loose drawings too, not on the minds of either the kids or of grandma. Their words just scribbled murmurs, hanging over their heads.

I'm a sucker for poignant moments, and subversive reinforcement of real social morality (is that even a word?) rather than the PC lip service that much of the media outlets feed us as "correct". Powell does such a good job of letting the reader identify with his characters. They know when they are doing something wrong, and as a reader I felt that. Also, even though Ruth felt like the world was (is) confusing, and jumbled she knew when something just was not right, and took a stand against it, when most of us wouldn't have. All in all, the book was a very good read, and I think I would score it a 4.5 out of 5.

Until next time, take care and be good.
Your friend,


Amanda Rose said...

Excellent. Can't wait to read/see it.

Nance said...

Not a book I'd be likely to pick up on impulse, but you've convinced me I should read it. I appreciate the educated artist's eye-view, too. And, of course, there are those diagnoses, which I find irresistible in my field. I'm currently indulging in fiction again for the first time in a while, with an Ian McEwan I had somehow missed, The Innocent. He brings to word pictures what you say Powell brings to his sketches.

kingcoyote said...

If you do read it, let me know what you think. Thanks for stopping in!