Friday, June 22, 2018

A Shout in the Ruins leaves a lasting impression

The challenging part of historical study is listening, having the presence to hear the echoes of life long ago and appreciate the contemporary implications of an age from which all personal experience has passed. Literature can fill the gaps between names, places, and dates on the timeline, distill the subjective knowledge of life long ago, the affective derived only from context, from seeing, hearing, and feeling what once was. 

A Shout in the Ruins by Kevin Powers is an instrument for hearing the echoes, a model for historical reflection, a consideration of the experience and legacy of slavery, the physical and mental brutality of the time, and its reach far into the future. With language lyrical and laconic, Powers tells a story of love and loss… of one man’s life in the century after the Civil War and his attempt, near his term, to go back in time, to make meaning, to listen to the echoes of his own life. George Seldom’s search is for knowledge, not the kind found in history books, but the kind found in memory and experience. From the formative George, those things were hidden by the raw, remnant residue of slavery and war.
There is intensity in the rhythms of Powers’ writing that allow the reader to feel the moments in time the story traverses… the violence, the sadness, the despair but also the hope that the long arc of history does indeed bend toward justice.

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