Author Goddard Graves resides among the mountains of Vermont, and, even well into this 21st Century, enjoys his reading and publishing the old-fashioned way: as the product of pulped trees. Fortunately, we could oblige him, with a copy of the recently published Clotho’s Loom in mass market paperback (available on Amazon and Barnes and Noble, and for order at your local library and bookstore.) Graves’ own novel, Harmony Junction, is a massive work that may especially delight music lovers, and lovers of witty dialogue–a review will eventually appear in this space. Meanwhile, it can be obtained directly from the author, who writes prolifically, under the name of Harry MacDonald, on LibraryThing. A link to his original review and profile appears at the end of this post.
You’re on, Mr. Graves.
In the interests of Full Disclosure, let me note three things. A: this is a serious book, which deserves not merely reading, but deserves, even demands serious attention. B: this Review will be extended and modified over time, but appears now in its present state, as I think further delay would be unfair both to the Author and to potential readers. C: while this in no way prejudices my evaluation, the Author exchanged novels with me, on my suggestion; I expect that he will find mine equally challenging, though for rather different reasons.
If one doesn’t recognize the allusion in this book’s title, or is unwilling to look it up, then that person probably lacks the moxie to make much of this five-hundred page psycho-philosophical work. Those who DO recognize Clotho, the Fate who spins the thread of human destiny, should understand that this memorable story is a prolonged — a hostile critic might say — excessively prolonged, even distended — meditation in why and how we travel our various paths. For reasons which we must accept — lest the whole massive structure fall apart before it rises — the two protagonists, William and the curiously-named Nexus, are almost entirely devoid of even the simplest ability to make choices. Odd as that may seem at first blush, this isn’t an implausible human situation. Soon enough, however, we know that we’re not in Kansas anymore when we find that these two young Americans (born, say in the late 1960s), have somehow managed to become married to each other: again, not appetizing, either in literature or in life, but still not totally indigestible.
Then however, things take an abrupt turn, and in one of this Author’s most skilled moves, he throws William into the nightmarish situation of being re-inducted into the United States Armed Forces — after having already served almost twenty years ago. Even without the Hell-drift which is American life during the “War on Terror”, this is pretty scary stuff. Now, though, for reasons we are left to ponder, essentially through the entire book, Will neither resists this action — nor even tells his wife about! She being not merely his Life’s companion, but also an attorney, would have reacted in any number of ways which any of us might do. But in the absence of information, she is simply (ha!) deserted, with the extra surprise of finding-out that she is pregnant. From that point, the story runs on parallel tracks, with William and Nexus working-out their various destinies, she as an attorney in a huge firm, described in endless mind-numbing detail, he as a sharpshooter/sniper in some unidentified theatre of war East of Suez, though I suppose it might just be Somalia.
Till now I’ve deliberately withheld a vital piece of information, lest a reader break into hysterical giggling and vow never to touch this book. As wild as it seems, far from cooperating in his new call to arms, William lets himself be recruited for the unidentified Enemy, and is smuggled out of the US to undergo training — described with tremendous, draining, nightmarish power — and then posted into rough country to kill a local war-lord. He does his job, is terribly wounded, and comes home.
Which is a little like saying that New York City is a wide spot in the road from Albany to Trenton. William’s experiences and the various states of consciousness are so complex, that by the end of the book — and I must at this point omit any further reference to Nexus and her pregnancy, except to say that there IS a sort of re-union — I suspected that I had missed, despite close reading, a point where the events had lost any connection to external reality, and were taking place almost entirely in William’s head. Whew.
In addition to being a long-thought-out piece, CLOTHO’S LOOM is also a pretty well-written one. I believe I owe it to the Author, and to the reader, to return to this Review and quote some of his better-wrought prose. At the same time, I must say that the further he reaches for a figure of speech, the likelier he is to fall on his face — and so he does, sometimes: splat.
OK, I think I’ve given the temptin’ taste which I want you all to share. Anybody who’s attempted serious reviewing knows that the toughest books are the ones worth reading despite serious flaws, and CLOTHO’S LOOM is surely one of those. There is so much mind-candy passed of as fiction these days that we should all be grateful for some serious with some real substance — even if it requires extra chewing.
A practical matter: Shawn StJean (pronounced “Saint Gene”) is a LibraryThing participant, and copies of his work can ultimately be obtained by communicating with him. I think it’s also on eBay (as a Buy It Now item). Incidentally, I for one hope to see more of his work available soon.
This review originally appeared on Librarything: http://www.librarything.com/work/12925941/reviews/88803077
Thanks very much to Goddard Graves for appearing here as our first guest-poster!