Pale Wire (Popscene)

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Tropical Depression

Other than my first visits to Falls Church's most famous honkytonk, JV's Restaurant, for chili and NASCAR with the gang (My favorite character being a mellow dude who broke his long-held silence to buzz a sharp critique of Jeff Gordon's performance on Celebrity Poker Showdown through a throat box), the highlight of my holiday weekend was reading Brian Moore's novel, No Other Life.

Set in the former French colony of Ganae, a place you might but need not compare to real-life Haiti, it's the story a well-meaning native priest turned populist leader, a character you might but need not compare to the real-life Jean-Bertrand Aristide, who struggles to blaze a path for his people out of poverty without compromising his values or encouraging violence. It's told in the first person by a priest at the local university still struggling at an advanced age to figure out how he, a farflung white man from Quebec, found himself caught up in the political intrigue of a tropical outpost of the Third World.

Jon Banville was right back in 1993 when he praised the novel in The Times Literary Supplement as "an honest-to-god yarn, complete with alarms and excursions, gunfire, identifiable villains, a beautiful bitch and, of course, a hero pure in heart," but I also agree with Terry Eagleton's criticism that the narrator doesn't reveal enough of himself to lend Moore's narrative its desired weight, which aims to surpass critical mass when our kindly Virgil faces his darkest doubts about the authenticity of his faith.

Any Brian Moore fans out there? This was my first exposure to his work, and it's certainly gotten my attention. What would you recommend?