Posts Tagged ‘Valerie Martin’
Friday, November 5th, 2010
Kate Evans is a Brisbane-based Radio National producer who works across a number of different programs including – recently – the Book Show, Hindsight, MovieTime and Australia Talks. She reads a lot, but not as much as she’d like to.
I couldn’t sleep this morning, and so at about 2 am I entered a hearing of the House UnAmerican Activities Committee in the 1950s, to see a fictional writer being questioned and harangued near the end of Barbara Kingsolver’s novel, The Lacuna . I could hardly breathe for the stress of this awful encounter, and then the wit of the replies made me laugh and let me be – almost – relieved.
Kingsolver has created a character so believable, in Harrison Shepherd, that I had to check whether she had entirely invented him or not. She had. He’s a novelist, eventually, but he starts out as a boy in Mexico who helps to cook, and so knows how to make plaster so well-kneaded and light that Diego Rivera takes him on board as assistant in his mural making. With Rivera, comes the forceful opinionated peacock that is Frida Kahlo, who sweeps through the novel so defiantly and entertainingly, that you miss her when she’s gone. The first half of the novel took me along without pause, with its colour and paint and food and politics, and then there was a slight harumph while I readjusted to the later section, where at first the politics and history sit a little too heavily. But Kingsolver writes so well, interspersing voices from the past with a complex fictional world, that soon I was back. It’s a helluva read, and made me search out paintings and murals, so I could reassess Kahlo’s black eyebrows and Rivera’s political murals, squinting hard to see traces of the lanky Mexican-American made-up Harrison Shepherd.