David Nelson's Reviews > The Pesthouse

The Pesthouse by Jim Crace
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's review
Jun 16, 2013

it was amazing
Read in November, 2010

A while back Mojo and I were talking about the film Lake Mungo over email. There are interesting aesthetic and structural storytelling aspects to the film, but what we both came back to was the essential dignity with which the film treats its characters and audience, and by expansion, the whole of humanity. Contrast this to . . . almost anything, really: any film or TV show with a serial killer, any story where a cop is portrayed as in the right to hurt a criminal, most any revenge story, or any story where a gun-toting character--good, evil, amoral, or impartial--mows down a bunch of extras, be they vampires or zombies or Nazis or unwed pregnant well-fare Republican candidates for Congress, or whatever. As a nation of storytellers and story-consumers, we seem to have quietly, perhaps accidentally, drifted into the default setting of "Contempt for Creation." Ethical opinions aside, it's a simple fact that such cheap story's are often pretty boring, and that bums me out.

Just like Lake Mungo , Crace's The Pesthouse is another text that, at its heart, treats humanity with dignity. It's an American post-apocalyptic dystopia written by a Brit with a fantastically nuanced sense of our national mindset. It's an optimistic dystopia; because it is a foreign mirror being held up to our face, it manages to show us not just the faults we are hyper-aware of ourselves (that we are weak and clannish, cowardly and ignorant), but also our handsome features, as a nation, which we all-too-often discount: That we make due, and get along, and step up to challenges, and are eager--even in squalor and want--to find and maintain a dream of contentment and Good Enoughness. A very good, quick read. Amen.

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