Much of the author's family's past can be found on the web, in connection with Manson. If a work needs a legend to be understood, then it doesn't work, in my opinion. True: sharing direct experiences with the author, they make the reading more intimate, they make it a personal experience (it makes me feel like reading Romana Petri or Cesare Lievi, for example, because I am a friend of the former and with the latter I spent days at rehearsals of his shows, and if you've never read anything about him, do it), but I believe that the work of art is what remains if, from it, we remove all the parts of non-fiction, so to speak.
Thus, the life of Claire Waye Watkins surely can be found in the novel (but I don't know if there were episodes with sects or holy men in her collection of stories that made her known and appreciated), but if the novel was all there, or in the his comments on the precarious condition of the environment or in the notes taken from his interviews, in my opinion it would not be a novel to remember. On the contrary, "American Desert" has its own literary dignity that goes beyond biographical or contingent aspects, it seems to me. I don't like the dystopian genre: for how it is conceived, for my tastes it remains too pamphletistic and does not create that empathy that I personally need. But there are dystopians and dystopians: "1984" is not "The Road", Thomas More is not Philip Dick, the genre has found other expressive modes and it seems to me that "American Desert" is undoubtedly part of this new 'phase'.
. I also find that there is no perfect balance in this work: some exaggeration, both linguistic and of action, and some repetition, digression or predictable event. However, I find that Watkins was extremely courageous in the use of the language and equally skilled in bending styles and genres to one's need: there are passages that are close to non-fiction, others that seem fragments of journalism, continuous changes of points of view, registers and space-time jumps. And without interruption: the rhythm does not waver, an uncontested unity reigns in the narrative. Of course, these 'shifts in gear' keep the reader always alert, for this reason it is impossible to create a true empathy with any of the characters; but precisely because the reader is not allowed to slip uncritically into the story, questions and reflections are piled up which remain even after having finished reading. Much and well has already been said about man's responsibility for the environment, his unbridled selfishness that condemns the earth and therefore man himself to death. But I was very struck by an aridity, a perversion of the human soul that goes beyond environmental catastrophe: human beings are basically dishonest, with themselves and with others, both before the apocalypse and after it. . There is no redemption, there is no salvation, even Ig has sometimes monstrous features (the big head, the inarticulate verses), or at least so it appears to the eyes of those who observe her (and loves her, perhaps, like Luz or Ray). The holy diviner is not an invention of drought, of the end of times, we do not even need to know about the misadventures of the author's father, about madmen affected by delirium of omnipotence who manipulate entire communities we have had and will also have in rainy times. Here, of the most classic dystopian novels, this one recovers the mythical dimension, as well as "The road": after all, the characters may not have names, they are humanity without contextualization, without superstructures. The characters that Watkins had the guts to create and make act do not put brakes on their impulses, they are themselves in every way, in a situation deteriorated by having been themselves. Eventually Luz discovers that she can finally go back to always being: a fugitive, a profiteer, the passage from which the original title comes is both terrible and splendid
This isn't a story. It's what awaits us in the near future if we don't try to fix what we've damaged. The eerie vibe follows us throughout the whole book and sent a child down our spine.
* The bacchanal in the tent with the girls who copulate with Levi and masturbate Luz seems to me out of time and not so much linked to Armageddon as to the madness of the Man who loses his sense of proportion (no, they remind us of scenes from books and films on lucid madness Nazi? Or on ancient emperors who decided on the life and death of multitudes?).
Rating: Didn't enjoy it as much as I was supposed to. That's a 3 out of 5