You know how in that ground-breaking work of narrative fiction called The Great American Desert there’s all that talk about how the Piasa Bird has been moved, over the years, to various places up and down the river? Well, the peregrinations fowl has flown again. Not only that, but this time she’s been painted right smack on the cliff, and closer to her original location, the way she ought to be, instead of on a sheet of steel. They’ve used a different drawing as the basis for her this time, too. The colors aren’t so garish, and she’s lost her cross-eyed look. Check it out at http://www.altonweb.com/history/piasabird/.
Funny thing happened, by the way, at tango last night. Ran into a guy who bought a copy of the novel at my first book signing. It was nice to hear what he had to say, because there’s a fool with a Ph.D. in literature who has somehow finagled a professorship in my home commonwealth of Virginia who complains that, while the writing is very good, there’s not much of a story. Humpf. Anyway, the perspicacious reader I spoke with last night complimented me on not larding the tale down with a lot of foolish plot.
I asked him, as I am wont to do, what he thought the book was about. Clever fellow, he refused to be pinned down in such a restrictive fashion. Said that reading the book was like taking an extended vacation in Jerseyville, getting to know the people and the town, getting some insight into the way people think there, learning something about life. Had an interesting thing to say about the Prelude in particular, that first section in which I introduce most of the characters and themes, and go off on a long digression about the Piasa Bird. Said that it was the hardest part to get through, but then when he’d gotten to the end of it, it occurred to him that it made him feel like a Jerseyvillian. Probably, he said, people out there get a little tired of hearing about all the local history, too, yet at the same time it is an essential part of who they are.