Letters

Letters 08-31-2015

Inalienable Rights This is a response to the “No More State Theatre” in your August 24th edition. I think I will not be the only response to this pathetic and narrow-minded letter that seems rather out of place in the northern Michigan that I know. To think we will not be getting your 25 cents for the movie you refused to see, but more importantly we will be without your “two cents” on your thoughts of a marriage at the State Theatre...

Enthusiastically Democratic Since I was one of the approximately 160 people present at when Senator Debbie Stabenow spoke on August 14 in Charlevoix, I was surprised to read in a letter to Northern Express that there was a “rather muted” response to Debbie’s announcement that she has endorsed Hillary Clinton for president...

Not Hurting I surely think the State Theatre will survive not having the homophobic presence of Colleen Smith and her family attend any matinees. I think “Ms.” Smith might also want to make sure that any medical personnel, bank staff, grocery store staff, waiters and/or waitress, etc. are not homosexual before accepting any service or product from them...

Stay Home I did not know whether to laugh or cry when I read the letter of the extremely homophobic, “disgusted” writer. She now refuses to patronize the State Theatre because she evidently feels that its confines have been poisoned by the gay wedding ceremony held there...

Keep Away In response to Colleen Smith of Cadillac who refused to bring her family to the State Theatre because there was a gay wedding there: Keep your 25 cents and your family out of Traverse City...

Celebrating Moore And A Theatre I was 10 years old when I had the privilege to see my first film at the State Theatre. I will never forget that experience. The screen was almost the size of my bedroom I shared with my older sister. The bursting sounds made me believe I was part of the film...

Outdated Thinking This letter is in response to Colleen Smith. She made public her choice to no longer go to the State Theater due to the fact that “some homosexuals” got married there. I’m not outraged by her choice; we don’t need any more hateful, self-righteous bigots in our town. She can keep her 25 cents...

Mackinac Pipeline Must Be Shut Down Crude oil flowing through Enbridge’s 60-yearold pipeline beneath the Mackinac Straits and the largest collection of fresh water on the planet should be a serious concern for every resident of the USA and Canada. Enbridge has a very “accident” prone track record...

Your Rights To Colleen, who wrote about the State Theatre: Let me thank you for sharing your views; I think most of us are well in support of the first amendment, because as you know- it gives everyone the opportunity to express their opinions. I also wanted to thank Northern Express for not shutting down these types of letters right at the source but rather giving the community a platform for education...

No Role Model [Fascinating Person from last week’s issue] Jada quoted: “I want to be a role model for girls who are interested in being in the outdoors.” I enjoy being in the outdoors, but I don’t want to kill animals for trophy...

Home · Articles · News · Books · American Savage By Bonnie Jo...
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American Savage By Bonnie Jo Campbell

Elizabeth Kane Buzzelli - December 7th, 2009
Meth & Mayhem Make their Mark in
American Salvage
American Salvage
By Bonnie Jo Campbell
Wayne State University Press
$18.95
By Elizabeth Buzzelli
Bonnie Jo Campbell’s American Salvage, from Wayne State University’s ‘Made in Michigan Writer’s Series,’ is ugly in the stories of sad and stupid people who do harm to themselves and others, but beautiful in prose that cuts deeply into places where good writing should go.
These are tough tales from way beyond the fringes. Each story is a small room where people you don’t want to know live. The trouble is you find you need to know, that you crave understanding: who they are, why, and what’s made them become the barely salvaged human beings they’ve become.
In ‘The Trespasser” a 16-year-old girl, along with three men, break into a family cottage to cook meth. The men leave before the family arrives but the girl stays, pretending the cottage belongs to her family, that the things in it are her own. As the family returns she escapes, but in every room she’s touched things, moved things, and left behind odd art-like assemblages such as horseradish sauce atop mustard, surrounded by birthday candles laid wick to end. In a bathroom she created art from medicine bottles, and “in the center of the master bed sits an ancient nest of twigs containing pale blue robins’ eggs (collected and blown by a great-grandmother), which forms a nativity scene with a pair of wooden dolls.”
The trespasser’s need to be a part of the place is so pervasive the family can’t shake her presence. A daughter, near the same age as the trespassing girl, dreams she is the trespasser, in her own house, and even in her own body and is haunted by a smear of blood left on a sheet.
Campbell knows how to twist a tale, and the reader. In ‘Family Reunion’ she takes a terrible grievance and sets it right in torn flesh and terrible bits of memory as a violated girl yearns to be back at a family gathering, just across the river. She has used the year since the last reunion to learn to shoot, taking out many more deer than her father can fit in their freezer. With Campbellesque irony, the girl zeros in on the man who raped her the year before; aiming perfectly with an eye for an eye precision.
Two of the stories are about pervasive, infectious fears such as the millennium fears at the turn of the century. In ‘Fuel for the Millennium’ Hal Little is certain that all of life in America is doomed to end at the stroke of midnight, when the year 2000 is welcomed in. He finds ways to hoard gas but, with circular logic, also accepts the end in store for him, when religion will finally save him, and place him in a heaven with babies, and his dead father, and even the smiling people he’d tried to warn of what was coming.
And, in ‘The World of Gas,’ Susan, office manager of a Pur-Gas outlet deals with frightened men loading up on propane for the coming end of the world. Facing problems of her own, with kids and husband and a dead end life, Susan thinks, “that men were always waiting for something cataclysmic—love or war or a giant asteroid. Every man wanted to be a hot-headed Bruce Willis character, fighting against the evil foreign enemy while despising the domestic bureaucracy. Men wanted to focus on just one big thing, leaving the thousands of smaller messes for the women around them to clean up.”
She sees great advantage to a millennium breakdown. “Life would be quieter without power.” There would be no TV going on for hours. Factory lights and noises would stop and “Men of all ages everywhere—men talking about football, auto engines, politics, hydraulic pumps, and the mechanics of love—would finally just shut up.”
In ‘The Solutions to Brian’s Problem’ we are offered seven solutions, any one of which Brian, father of a baby in great danger from his meth-addicted mother, might choose to deal with his wife. This isn’t a ‘what-would-you-do’ kind of puzzle. These are seven sides to a problem not just with the wife, but with the man who should be protecting the baby and can’t quite seem to bring himself to act. His first choice is to leave and let the wife destroy the home he’s built with his own hands (unlikely). Second choice is to cut her meth with Drano. Third: Break her skull. Fourth: Pretend not to have a wife and baby. Fifth: Blow his own head off. Sixth: Call a counselor but then lie about the baby being in danger. And last. . . well . . . you’ll have to read the story to learn this sad, and most likely, choice.
In the best fiction there is always more truth beneath the surface than in non-fiction because the deepest recesses of the human heart can be shown. More important than fact is what humanity means. Campbell knows how to go there. In ‘King Cole’s American Salvage” a single line exposes how a murderer’s mind can chillingly imagine his crime away. After a bloody, bludgeoning murder, Campbell writes, “Slocum had never killed a man and he hadn’t wanted to kill this man, so he thought about buying carts full of groceries for Wanda’s kids and getting them medicine for their ear infections.”
Campbell, is a fine writer; winner of a Pushcart Prize, AWP Award for short fiction, and the Eudora Welty Prize, among others. Her stories are cruel little gems, the facets so finely cut you barely feel the knife’s edge until you realize what you’re reading and are appalled, or saddened, or simply stunned—that Michigan people live, and continue to survive, like this. You don’t want to really know about them. But you must. You really must.

 
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