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Susan Stinson

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01:45 pm: People of the Whale, a novel by Linda Hogan
I just finished reading People of the Whale by Linda Hogan.  It's one of the most beautiful books I've ever read.  Here is a passage from a chapter in which an A'atsike man who is a veteran of the Vietnam War, grieving and frozen by the terrible things he did in the war, goes to the Vietnam War memorial in Washington:

There are many kinds of walls, like the wall Thomas built in front of the water. There are walls of history, and the secrets of history. There are ones no one can breach or climb, the invisible boundaries of humans. Some walls seem righteous instead of ruthless. They don't claim property or hold something in or out. They keep things separate, but now, in the District of Columbia, it comes together for Thomas Witka Just.

Here in this Washington is a wall of revelations. A strange word, Thomas thinks, like the end of the world in the Bible. But at The Wall, it is the ground he sees first, as if it is not possible to look up. So he sees a box of donuts; some boy's favorite food. On the ground, a baseball sits before this portion of the wall. On it is written, For Dad.  A batch of carnations sits, still in its wrapper, leaned up against the heat of it all. There is a letter to a soldier, even a gold button with a rhinestone on the ground as if to signify a blouse this man's hands once unbuttoned?

Momentos. Poems are engraved on plaques. Someone took such care to write them, to preserve them. There are now nearly sixty thousand names and the reflection of light on one whole side of it. In the place of America it shines. The whole crying light of it.

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