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Wild Life by Molly Gloss
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Wild Life (2000)

by Molly Gloss

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3101535,978 (3.59)33
  1. 10
    Sarah Canary by Karen Joy Fowler (lquilter)
    lquilter: Gloss writes beautifully, as does Fowler. The settings are similar -- 19th century Pacific Northwest. The premise is also related; an almost realistic novel that slips into SF-ality.
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» See also 33 mentions

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Finally finished this book...I kept waiting for our intrepid heroine to actually have the wilderness adventure mentioned on the jacket. Charlotte is a modern woman, an author, struggling to escape the strictures of motherhood imposed on her, but she comes across as very self-centered. When her housekeeper's grandchild is missing from a Washington lumber camp, Charlotte seizes the opportunity for an adventure by going to join the search. Written as an amalgam of diary entries and excerpts from supposed writings of our heroine, introduced by quotes from actual writings in the late 1800's/early 1900's.
Now I can see why the blurbs mention "historical accuracy" and "literate". A number of the entries discuss the role of literature, women's literature, and "light" novels, we have primary sources for the attitudes and experiences depicted, and the style of writing closely mimics the dime-novels of that era. However, I am not enamored of that writing style and, not being an author or English major, wasn't looking to read old discussions of what makes good literature. Perhaps it will appeal to other LT readers.
Some typical quotes about literature:
"...since women are rarey mentioned in articles and other works of literary criticism that present a history of literature, these omissions are compensated for by including separate chapters dedicated to 'women who write' and preparing collections of stories and essays just for women (that in general are not read by men). One can presume the literary standards in such a 'one-eyed, blinking sort o' place' must suffer accordingly." (p.103)
"the one thing worth doing as a writer is to dwell upon things that arouse the imagination--upon swords and gabled cities and ancient forests, upon temples and palaces, giant apes in their revolt, and imprisoned princesses inn their unhappiness." (p.104)
I'll be donating my copy to my local library's sale as I can't think of any of my acquaintances I would want to inflict it on. ( )
  juniperSun | Jan 5, 2017 |
original, fascinating, educational... I've never read anything like it before but I will remember the author's name and look for more by her! ( )
  Cheryl_in_CC_NV | Jun 6, 2016 |
Set around the turn of the (last) century, Wild Life by Molly Gloss presents the “found manuscript” of a novel or diary, and leaves the reader to decide what’s true and what’s not. If the story’s to be believed, there are more things hiding in the forests and mountains of the Pacific Northwest than modern man has seen (though loggers saw a lot). If not, there’s a perfect example of an “unreliable narrator” telling this tale. But you’ll have to read it yourself to decide.

In the early 1900s, pulp fiction sold well enough, though women authors lacked the opportunities given to men. Narrator Charlotte Bridger Drummond supports her family by writing, struggles to balance her time, and never seems quite clear of who or what she is. Certainly she wants to be more, and when a child goes missing she jumps at the chance to share the experience of searching the trackless forest, a task that soon has her sleeping at the loggers’ camp and listening to tales of strange scary creatures who just might steal the helpless away in the night.

Cigar-smoking, bicycle-riding Ms Drummond is, of course, not helpless, and man might be scarier than beast. Ms Drummond observes, thinks, comments, and writes in her journal. Soon she’s amazingly real as readers are pulled into the dark and light, and the scents and sounds that surround her. Her past is shrouded in the mystery of a husband’s death. Her future is clouded by her children’s needs. But her present becomes a wonderful trek of bravery or fantasy, presented with newspaper cuttings, historical factoids made real, and a wealth of personal musings.

Does this novel blend history and fantasy? Is it a real-world tale where nature and monster combine? Or is it magical realism, believed but not entirely believable, born of the fictional author’s need to be more than the real world allows? Perhaps there are mysteries inside each of us, natural selves that are finer than myths would tell, and hidden strengths that are more than duty and love. Wild Life invites readers into the wild of nature and self, hides as much as it reveals, and offers a deeply enthralling, curious read.

Disclosure: A friend gave it to me and thought I might enjoy it. I did. ( )
  SheilaDeeth | Mar 26, 2016 |
Tiptree winner . The story was OK, but what I really enjoyed was the sense of place - not just the wild forest but the muddly little logging camps, the sad burnt-out areas on the edges of the forst - everything was sharply focussed and I was totally drawn in to the environment. ( )
  SChant | Jan 30, 2015 |
I really wanted to like this book, because it had a number of elements that normally appeal to me: strong female protagonist, feminism, and an historic setting (in this case, the Pacific Northwest c1900). The main character, a widowed mother of four, sets off to help find a missing child and goes missing herself. Unfortunately, the events that followed seemed a bit far-fetched, and the account of her adventure was interspersed with other writings, making it difficult to make sense of the work as a whole. ( )
  lauralkeet | Aug 21, 2012 |
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Epigraph
There were giants in the earth in those days; and also after that. (Genesis 6:4)
Dedication
Pat Zagelow ("For my sister, Pat Zagelow")
First words
April 5, 1999

Sara,

You said you wanted to see the whole thing just as I found it, so it's un-messed with, except I'm the one who rubberbanded it with cardboard.
Sat'y 25 Mar '05


The death of Jules Verne was reported in the morning papers -- a great loss to France and to the world.
Quotations
...there may yet be something inherent in our natures, some potentiality which wants only the right circumstances to return us to the raw edge of Wildness. (p.206)
It has long been a tradition among novel writers that a book must end by everybody getting just what they wanted, or if the conventional happy ending was impossible, then it must be a tragedy in which one or both should die. In real life very few of us get what we want, our tragedies don't kill us, but we go on living them year after year, carrying them with us like a scar on an old wound.--Willa Cather (1896) [LT member note: yes, I am quoting someone who was quoted in this book rather than something Molly Gloss wrote, since I felt it was one of the few portions of this book worth quoting]
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0618131574, Paperback)

One of the many pleasures of Molly Gloss's extraordinary third novel is watching it repeatedly change shape and direction before your eyes--a feat all the more wonderful since the narrative consists almost entirely of the fictional diaries of one woman. Charlotte Bridger Drummond--an early-20th-century single mother who supports five young sons in the just-tamed wilderness fringe of western Oregon by writing pulp fiction--presents herself as a bluff, free-thinking feminist, the kind of woman who would tumble her youngest son off her lap and onto the floor for whining. When her housekeeper's frail young granddaughter disappears from a logging camp, Charlotte unhesitatingly sets out to join the inept search parties. So, within 90 pages, Molly Gloss (The Dazzle of Day and The Jump-Off Creek) whisks us from pitch-perfect historical fiction to unsentimental lament over the devastation of the "dark and supernatural woods" of the Pacific Northwest to a kind of wild and woolly mystery story.

All of this is immensely engaging, mostly because Charlotte herself is such excellent if occasionally astringent company. But the book really catches fire when Charlotte herself gets lost in the woods. The diary continues through the harrowing days of wet, cold, hunger, hope, despair, and then her fantastic rescue by a band of semihuman giants of the deep woods. Introducing the Sasquatch legend into an otherwise scrupulously realistic historical novel might seem like a risky narrative ploy, but Gloss brilliantly pulls it off. Indeed, so deft is her fusing of the fantastic and the actual that by the end, the narrative transmogrifies once more into a profound and troubling meditation on wildness, nature, and human nature.

Wild Life brings to mind the works of Jean M. Auel, Marilynne Robinson, Ken Kesey (that dank Oregon setting of Sometimes a Great Notion), and more distantly Willa Cather--but the breadth and daring of Gloss's imagination really puts it in a class of its own. In a sense, unifying all of the many strands of this fictional tour de force is a fiercely candid portrait of the artist, an artist who in Charlotte's words fears "coming face-to-face with my Self on the printed page--it would chill me through to the heart," but who does it anyway. --David Laskin

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:00:42 -0400)

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