Temporary People by Steven Gillis
Temporary People, Steven Gillis. Black Lawrence Press, 2008. $15.08 - $20.95, US.
Temporary People by Steven Gillis is one of the best fiction novels published over the past few years. The subtitle designating his work as a fable deserves credit. Departing from aspects of our reality and our literature heritage, the author creates a brand new society. Examples of real data are given in the book. In terms of literature, let us not ignore the major influence of books like 1984 by George Orwell. However, he succeeds in giving the story a whole new touch. Departing from a completely different point of view and voice of the author, he succeeds in bringing the reader questions, symbolism, cruelty and tenderness in the most unexpected situations.
A short context: Bamarita is an invented country with a tradition of rebellions. This land is governed by a dictator and situates itself in our perception of our world, events and political possibilities. Questioning by the author is separately discussed below. Symbolism will be illustrated with one example. Two towers are built by the main characters of the book, both with a dissident view on rebellion – dissident from the opinion of most Bamaritans. The towers symbolise the tower of Babel as no one really listens to each other but are mainly stuck in their own point of view. Hence understanding and effective communication on how a rebellion should be conducted, is hard to find. Certainly the point of view of the protagonist who built the first tower is questioned as he tries to turn to peacefull resistance. Perilious situations evoke emotions, cruelty and tenderness both know their extremes in this book and the author succeeds in making them more than human, touching and so intense on the least expected moments.
From an idealistic point of view this work of fiction could be viewed as a severe criticism on the modern society of America, this again by using the literary concept of a fable, avoiding censorship and political issues. Steven Gillis will certainly not be the first to use this medium and form to criticise and discuss some major aspects and evolutions of American society as it is and was under the government of Bush. Let us hope his work raises important questions in asking how a society could be run. The true beauty of the above perspective is found in his writing as one can find nowhere a ready made answer or a dictated view on how things should be run. Merely questioning and considering pros and cons of political organisation of a society and the different forms of rebellion are the issues offered to the reader. By feeding a critical mind and analysing options quite succesfully the talented author again succeeds in what almost seems impossible to obtain from a fable.
As political organisation and the use of different rebellionstrategies are questioned, ruled out and then ruled in, the story takes on the identity of a fable. If one subject leaves the reader pondering, it is certainly the consequences of rebellious acts. But let us not draw too much on the content: the story is there to be discovered! The reader gets fully caught up in the story, not in the least because the author often writes from an the perspective of an eye-witness, which engages the reader but remains a very hard task to accomplish in a completely imagined environment. Another consequence of this writerperspective lies in the fact that the reader finds himself in the middle of the story. The style of the author is fast, to the point and differs ever from the environment. These are some of the major points, but most importantly they all bring you an enticing, fascinating and excellent story. Once you start reading, you don't stop.
p.s. to keep my blog complete I will insert once in a while a piece from guestblogging. This review can be found too on http://bustill.blogspot.com