Monday, March 4, 2013

Customs of the Country - Madison Smartt Bell


I’ve written in several posts on how lucky I have been in my life to not have been exposed to some of the more unpleasant aspects of humanity. It’s easy to watch the news, read a newspaper (people still do that right?) or scan an article online to realize what that our lives on this planet, as short as they are, can be crammed full of violence, hatred, anguish, love and passion all intertwined in a mixed up glob of feelings…confusing and damaging. Once again, literature allows me to live a life that I’ve never lived. A life of abuse, loss, mistakes, addiction, sorrow, hate, dependence and rejection.


It’s through literature that we learn of those who live this sort of life every day… and we learn, hopefully, to be empathetic towards others…knowing that they could be living a life similar to a character you just read about as you reclined in your easy-chair.

Customs of the Country is such a sharp story. I think the language pulled me in – and Bell did a wonderful job of developing the characters. Violence is an incredible thing. Knowing that violence moved our species forward out of the desert, the jungle, the trees, I wonder when and if there was a time that compassion, or holding another human prevailed over striking them down.

I would like to think that in all the human relationships that exist on this planet that holding another rather than hitting another surpasses the violent act.

Sadly I have my doubts.

Too many wake in the morning to a slap rather than a gentle hug or kiss. Perhaps it’s not even a slap but just the lack of any sort of recognition of their existence. Perhaps it’s a hurtful word or two (which could hurt as much as or leave deeper scars) that is uttered rather than a pleasant good morning.

And my heart hurts as I look at people and wonder, as they placed their feet on the floor to stand and take their first steps of the day, did they wish that they never woke? Were they happy to be alive?