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Seller Inventory GRP Condition: Used: Good. Condition: UsedAcceptable. Condition: New. Raintree County does not displace Melville's masterpiece, but it definitely comes in with the silver medal as far as I am concerned. This is an astonishing book. A family tale. A war story. An epic. A story that teases out the myths of youth that we carry forward to adulthood. A story about creation and loss and love. A local story. A universal tale. The novel is so lusciously sprawling that a summary is futile.
The story ostensibly takes place during the course of July 4, But the day is splintered by memories that reach back to the s and reach forward to Each character is fully formed, but they are archetypal at the same time. A politician so successful that you feel the slipperiness of him because he knows how to read the public and ride on the wave carrying the largest bloc of voters. He becomes a Union Army colonel at the tail end of the war--late enough to avoid real fighting but soon enough to boast of his soldiering credentials.
A man who debates fluently with Shawnessy about any number of things, metaphysical to sexual. Something or some one is always a barrier to their final happiness. The hypocrisy of freedom, the commercial abuse i.
To the northern Shawnessy, she is a beautiful mystery. Even a scar whose importance only becomes apparent later is mysterious and erotic to the young Shawnessy. I am leaving out a host of minor characters of the kind that fill small towns throughout America. However, another major character in the novel is America itself.
Lockridge often riffs off of Whitman in long prose-poem passages: America was a city by a river, a city of gloomily eclectic buildings, confused unhappy domes and spires of buildings that were trying to be the most beautiful buildings that ever were but couldn't be because they hadn't any souls. America was faces in the Avenue of the Republic, eager, excited faces with mobile eyes.
America was the place where all the world sent its third-rate art and gaudiest claptrap and where it was all piled up together and then became something hushed, exciting, wonderful because it was in America. Another non-human character is a central myth built into the mind of Shawnessy, of the fabled raintree and the creature of the lake. These myths and America weave in and out of the novel, haunting the edges, inspiring the noblest of human passions, and acting as the unmovable background on which all the characters act. As the day moves along and the characters become visible in the past, the story of where they are and what they've become emerges as a record of memory, though memory is not revealed as an American specialty.
The Civil War necessarily looms large in the consciousness of the memory. Shawnessy joins the war effort a couple of years after the conflict begins, but he enters the war to participate in Sherman's march to the sea. One of the minor characters, Flash Perkins, the fastest man in Raintree County until defeated by Shawnessy in a drunken race is with Shawnessy's unit. In a looting tangent, they face a small group of Confederates. Perkins wounded, keeps fighting until Here, surely, was the strongest life that ever lived, and it was dying, it was beating itself out in blood and fury.
He died choking with his throat full of blood, still trying to beat some unseen competitor who was too much for him. What I find so admirable in this passage is that it captures both the dignity of the man and the horror of war. Those emotions are enmeshed within the structure of the sentences themselves. I could carry on randomly like this for some time because there is so much that is delightful in this novel. I am still absorbing the weight and breadth of the novel, but I am certain it is a triumph. Lockridge, sadly, killed himself shortly after this novel was published in , but he left behind a masterpiece of fiction and I hope that others will discover its richness.
Mar 02, Whoopsala rated it it was amazing. This forgotten beauty is close enough to the Great American Novel for me.
It has everything such a idea contains: a sweeping look at America's most turbulent time on its own shores, a tremendous love story, glorious writing shot through with poetry, a mystical center that ought to lie at every story. People should read this. They need it. Apr 20, Gezagaz rated it really liked it. A big beautiful book, lost to us, but it shouldn't be. It is so American, so poetic, so magical. Come back, Mr.
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You shouldn't have killed yourself. Nov 19, Heather Powell rated it it was amazing. I have a first edition of this. Great story! Love, loss, friendship, war; it has it all and is written perfectly. Aug 21, Stephen Gallup rated it it was amazing. This is an ambitious work, probably a conscious attempt at achieving the elusive Great American Novel. My copy is old, with small print that doesn't contrast well on somewhat yellowed pages -- and so my first reaction on picking it up was to question whether reading it would be worth the trouble. A few paragraphs in, the intelligent, sculpted prose settled that.
Still, I agree with reviewers who say the book is too long. My edition is pages and by the time I got into the last few hundred I wa This is an ambitious work, probably a conscious attempt at achieving the elusive Great American Novel.
My edition is pages and by the time I got into the last few hundred I was thinking it could easily have been wrapped up by then. In fact, a shorter, more focused version would likely have been better and more conducive to the rereadings that would improve one's appreciation for what is done here. The story follows the life of John Wickliff Shawnessy, born in in a fictitious part of Indiana. He grows up fascinated by vaguely sensed mystical implications of a local river and of remnants from a long-forgotten past.
He ponders the meaning of the "Republic" in which he lives. Actually, the word Republic is used heavily throughout, until one gathers that it means something broader than the USA. Late in life, Shawnessy defines it as "the world of shared human meaning. Garwood, his rival for her affections, turns into a lifelong friendly rival--one of three men with whom he matches wits throughout life.
He marries another woman, and sorrow results. Wounded, he's sent to a hospital near the Capital, and his first act on getting out of bed is to attend a play at Ford's Theatre on that fateful night. Later in life, he is sometimes a self-effacing but much-admired teacher, sometimes an aspiring author or playwrite trying to make his mark in the Big City, and sometimes a small-town philosopher given to implausibly pithy observations while sitting on porch swings with his old friends e.
We are making a new myth It is the story of the hero who regains Paradise. Beyond those particulars, I think the story is ultimately about creation, or more specifically the mysterious process by which phenomena sometimes emerge out of formless chaos and acquire names, meaning, and significance--and then move past immediate relevance. Edenic metaphors abound. I might even say they are hammered on repeatedly.
When geography is the subject, there's the question of how this timeless piece of land, currently known as Raintree County, came to be something presumably understood and rendered on a map, its landmarks named. When language is the subject, there's the question of how living speech "the exclamations of young republics" acquires "the tranquil beauty of ideas. There are predictable meditations on the millions of tadpole-like messengers that must expire so that one can complete the mission and begin a new life. From the perspective of the other end of life, "Perhaps it was better to have no legends at all, no letters composed into rigid words and pressed on sheets of paper.
Break up the forms and melt the letters back. Let there be no more legends on the earth. Let life live and death die, and let there be no names for sorrowful recollection. A character with poor eyesight sees an approaching person first as a vague, "black twisting shape" that finally resolves into someone with discernable features. People waiting for a train see it transition from promise to reality.
More--or less--recognizable images of people who've sat for portraits take shape on the photographer's glass plates. One thing I particularly like about the writing is the way the author weaves threads together, especially when he does so in real time so to speak. There's a delightful scene, for example, in which Johnny is reading a newspaper that has the text of Lincoln's address at Gettysburg and is distracted from it every couple sentences by rowdy conversations going on around him.
The same device is somewhat less engaging on the larger scale. Because of the segues mentioned above, everything in Johnny's life seems to be happening at the same time. The War is always over, the War is always being being fought. Johnny is always a serene old man; always a young man with inexhaustible vitality and a strong competitive heart. Reading this and trying to rearrange the narrative in chronological order, I was reminded of Vonnegut's Slaughterhouse Five , which as I recall proposed that time is an illusion. I also noticed, as the pages went by, that important pieces of the story were missing.
For example, what happened in that long-anticipated foot race with Flash Perkins? What exactly happened to Johnny's son before Johnny joined the army? And for goodness sakes what happened to the lovely Nell, with whom he'd corresponded faithfully while away at the war? Toward the end of the book, these loose threads are tied up, and make for some powerful climactic scenes especially the foot race. Because they involve pain, backing away from them for as long as possible reminds me of what is done in another novel, Catch I wonder if Vonnegut and Heller were influenced by Lockridge.
This is an impressive, sprawling saga. I think the author intended to make a permanent mark in serious literature. There's a lot here that reminds me of Joyce, and also some that points the way toward East of Eden , although on the strength of this single book you can't put Lockridge alongside either Steinbeck or Joyce.
The writing convincingly brought 19th century America to life for me--the nation's clumsy, good-hearted adolescence. A little more of Johnny's internal life would have suited me, and room could have been for it made by cutting some of the speechifying. It's a pity that Lockridge wrote nothing further and that his book has pretty much dropped out of the picture. It's the most interesting discovery I've made in a while. Legend has it Johnny Appleseed wandered the midwest, carrying among his apple seeds a single, exotic seed from the golden Rain tree.
Looking for a place it would flourish and grow, he planted it somewhere in Henry County, IN, the place where Ross Lockridge grew up. Legend has it that those who find the Rain tree discover the realization of all dreams. Mr Lockridge takes us on a journey to find this sacred tree of life through the wanderings of John Wycliff Shawnessys life. The story begins on the morning of July 4, and ends on the same day after many flashbacks which take us from the early remembrances of Johnny to the current day.
Contained within these memories are the women who had a profound impact on him. His mother; his adolescent crush, Nell; his first wife, Susanna Drake; an actress whose name and demeanor changed several times; his 2nd wife, Esther Root and finally the story comes full circle with his daughter Eva who wanders off in the swamp and when found has flower petals from the magnificent Raintree. Our story spans history from , when Johnny is a mere child of 5 to as he ponders where his life has led him over his 53 years of life.
Sprinkled within these events are the coming and going of government officials and presidents. The concept of freedom is pondered and fought for. As Johnny remembers the events of his life it is with the wisdom and knowledge of hindsight. So he learned the gigantic labor by which the earth is rescued again and again from chaos and old night, by which the land is strewn with names, by which the river of human language is traced from summer to distant summer, by which beauty is plucked forever from the river and clothed in a veil of flesh, by which souls are brought from the Great Swamp in the the sunlight of Raintree County and educated to its enduring truths.
I had a hard time adjusting to the rhythm of this book. Shawnessy in that portion.
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It took a couple times for me to realize this. One of the characteristics of Mr. Very clever. After reading this book I rented the movie — bad idea. The movie had very little in common with the book other than the names of the characters, where they originated and a few plot points. The ending was completely incorrect. The development of the characters was choppy and inaccurate as well. The movie itself was focused on one small theme plucked out of a chapter and inaccurately portrayed.
The book had so many facets where the movie was one dimensional. Very disappointing Read the book… Skip the movie… Aug 16, Beth rated it really liked it Shelves: stuff-i-love , fiction. Well, maybe not, but it IS a great novel. This is one of those books that you could open at nearly any page and find something wonderful to quote. Lockridge creates his characters as inextricably tied to the very land of Raintree County; it shapes them, gives them life, calls them home, and helps them know their own identities. Its chronological setting is the latter half of the 19th century, with its cen Herman Wouk wrote in his intro to the edition I have that this is the Great American Novel.
Its chronological setting is the latter half of the 19th century, with its center as the Civil War. Lockridge sees the War as the major creation of a nation event of the 19th century, and he's convincing in that.
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You can't help but applaud the protagonist as he loves and suffers and philosophizes and grows old. One negative thing: you absolutely must suspend disbelief any time you're reading conversations between friends in this novel. Lockridge's characters are all philosophers, it seems, and they don't converse so much as they take turns giving speeches! In any case, this is a book for pondering. Quotable: He was always arriving in train stations from parts unknown to meet himself departing for unknown parts. He emerged from his schooling with the conviction that Liberty and Union were one and inseparable, that George Washington was the greatest man who ever lived, and that two plus two equalled four in Raintree County and throughout the universe.
Above all, he acquired a holy faith in the printed word.