Dalva - A Very Good Read

Last night, I finished Jim Harrison's Dalva. The last line of the book is We went down to join them. What looks like six simple words is actually the finishing stroke to a brilliantly crafted work of art. In other words, the last sentence fits, it's appropriate to the rest of the story, it has integrity.

Throughout the novel are "letters" from a missionary named Northridge who spent time with the Plains Indians as their culture was being phased out; truly a twilight of the gods. I'm copying a portion of one here due to it's truth. The "I" is Northridge:

I listened attentively to Reverend Gates who was also the President of Amherst College, who said something of the following, "The Savior's teaching is full of illustrations of the right use of property. There is an immense moral training that comes from the use of property and the Indian has all of that to learn. We have, to begin with, the absolute need of awakening in the savage Indian broader desires and ampler wants. In his dull savagery he must be touched by the wings of the angel of discontent. The desire for property of his own may become an intense educating force. Discontent with the 'teepee' and the starving rations of the Indian camp in winter is needed to get the Indian out of the blanket and into trousers - and trousers with a pocket in them, and with a pocket that aches to be filled with dollars!..."

If there's not something for you in those emboldened words, then I'm sorry. Go back to watching golf or something. As for me, I finished the book with a profound sense of gratitude for an artist true to his craft and also a gnawing sense of sadness at the supposed progress we've made since the days when the prairie grasses were tall enough to brush a horse's bridle and the wings of the angel of discontent had not yet covered the land. I fear the hell that haunts us is of our own creation.

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