Monday, June 4, 2012
"Loaded like a freight train' Flyin' like an aeroplane." Song lyrics
Denis Johnson is an award winning poet and short story writer who studied under Raymond Carver at the Univeristy of Iowa.
In "Train Dreams," Robert Grainier is a type of Everyman. His story begins in 1917 and through his eyes we observe many major events of his life and presenting us with the underside of his history. Through this, the reader can experience what certain events were like in the early part of last century.
Grainier is there while the Spokane International Railway was building its lines. He assists when a number of men decide to attempt to throw a Chinaman off a bridge. The man's offense, stealing from the company store.
The man makes his escape by jumping into the water below and while Grainier is walking home to his wife and infant daughter, he seems to see the Chinaman in many places. In one "...dancing up and out of the creek like a spider."
We see flashbacks to Grainier's earlier life and picture the scene when he comes upon an injured man who asks that he give him some water and when he dies, to tell the sheriff the name of the man who robbed him and caused his death.
As in many books dealing with the development of areas in the country, he describes returning to his home one summer after earning money while away. A fire was consuming an entire area, causing people to flee in every direction. What happens to his family has a profound effect on the rest of his life.
This novella was an enjoyable read and gave me pause to consider the hardships that
others have gone through to get us all to where we are today.
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