Tuesday, November 3, 2015
Another long walk
I can understand why some readers might prefer the subtlety and surrealism of Hopper's version of this story, although I favor Joyce's. Both are worth reading, however.
In Hopper's novel, Etta, a woman in her 80s, sets off walking from Saskatchewan to the Atlantic Ocean, leaving her husband, Otto, to fend for himself. They met many years before when Etta was a teenage teacher in a rural school and both Otto and his friend, Russell, were among her students. She and Otto were married after his return from World War II, yet Russell, always nearby, has long carried a buried passion for Etta. When she sets off on her walk, Russell is the one who takes off after her. Otto patiently waits for her return, creating amazing folk art in the meantime.
As for James, he is a coyote who accompanies Etta for much of her long journey. He keeps up his end of the conversation, or at least she imagines he does.
Hopper alternately tells us what Etta, Otto and Russell are doing now and what happened during those earlier days when Otto left school to go to war, but Russell, who couldn't pass the physical, stayed behind. Much of the novels consists of letters written during the war.
This is a tender story about long-term love, just a bit too ambiguous for my taste.