May 30th, 2017
(written by lawrence krubner, however indented passages are often quotes). You can contact lawrence at: email@example.com
I’ve put this on my list of things to read: (this also makes me want to reread Dune).
Herbert’s hero, as emperor of Dune, was a godlike figure with uncanny abilities who embodied both immense capacity for destruction and a chance for renewal, if only he could overcome the temptations inherent in his powers. Although de Men in some ways exemplifies the same struggle, Joan must confront the implications of her powers as well, a reminder that our ecosystems can suffer even from the acts of those with good intentions. But while Herbert’s writing, especially in the later Dune books, was marked by an airless abstraction, Yuknavitch’s prose is passionate and lyrical, very much in the moment. Fusing grand themes and the visceral details of daily life, she offers a revisionist corrective that shows the influence of writers like Clarice Lispector and Angela Carter. Like Carter, Yuknavitch writes about the body with an easy intimacy.
From her early experimental novels to her 2011 memoir, “The Chronology of Water,” and her previous novel, “The Small Backs of Children,” published in 2015 and partly set in war-torn Eastern Europe, Yuknavitch has exhibited a rare gift for writing that concedes little in its quest to be authentic, meaningful and relevant. By adding speculative elements to “The Book of Joan,” she reaches new heights with even higher stakes: the death or life of our planet.
Telling the truth with precision and rage and a visionary’s eye, using both realism and fabulism, is one way to break through the white noise of a consumerist culture that tries to commodify post-apocalyptic fiction, to render it safe. But in Yuknavitch’s work there’s no quick cauterizing of the wound, nothing to allow us to engage in escapism. The result is a rich, heady concoction, rippling with provocative ideas. There is nothing in “The Book of Joan” that is not a great gift to Yuknavitch’s readers, if only they are ready to receive it.