Jul 12, 12
Read from March 05 to July 01, 2012
Mind-bendingly fresh, unique, eerie, opinionated, macabre, and touching -- what a parable about slavery and revolution would be like if America withered under economic collapse, you threw in Ocean's 11, hints of the Odyssey, a serious love for music, and a whopping hit of acid.
I read about 70% of this book in one sitting and got so lost in it I felt like I needed to come up for air. Slattery's characters, references, and lexicon are memorable, unique, and entirely consistent with his freaky, psychedelic*, dream-fugue of a universe. As I do with all books like this, I OD'd and then had to wait for a few months and start over because I wanted so badly to do it all over again.
Language aside, what is most memorable about Liberation is its visceral depiction of desperation and resilience and its probing, relentless description of things falling apart piece by piece and then being built back up again.
"In the days after the collapse, when the lights blinked out and the alarms went off, and police cars slept on their sides in the street, there was blood on the walls of their towns, men with rifles walking from house to house, whistling come on, come on, we won't hurt you, while the brewer and his neighbors crouched in a ditch, water up to their shoulders, hands over their children's mouths. They watched small wars break out and die, a man killing his boss with a chisel for sleeping with his sister, two families sharpshooting at each other through the windows of their houses over the unsettled lay of a property line. Two women knifed to death in the pink booth of a family restaurant; nobody every knew why. A chain of exploding barns; machinery gutted and dismembered; the tension that law enforcement stifled, released at last, scraping across the country, peeling of years of progress. They slept in shifts, remembered to duck, taught their kids algebra, told each other to hang on. Now the wars are over and the apples are tart and sweet, the wells filled with clear water, and they shoot deer with arrows from the roof of their garage, hand the animals from their porches and invite fifteen people to share the meat. They throw parties in the winter that last for five days, hours of firewood and dancing, windows fogging with steam and smoke, a band doing their best James Brown with the accordion and guitar, motor parts, an old trombone, and everyone shouting about getting on up, clapping their hands on the two and four until the rain stops and dawn comes. They ride horses home, cars rigged to run on batteries; they walk long the quite, cracking highways with groggy children on their shoulders, tugging their hair, and thing, this is what they survived for."
"She walks to the brass telescope mounted on a table, angles it and gazes down the row of derelict office buildings on Madison Avenue, fastens onto the corner of the public library, the outside of which is being cleaned by volunteers. The building and all of its books are still intact, she knows; the employees of the library made a spontaneous pact to defend it as soon as the police force stopped working, and now they just live in the building. They hauled beds into the offices and corners of the huge reading rooms, put plaid couches against the marble walls. An army of cats patrols the halls, has litters on the stairs. She imagines that some of the librarians are fulfilling a long-cherished fantasy. It's just them and the books now, the stamped serifs, the margins smudged with fingerprints. You can still go to the library, to the yards of windows casting long stripes of light across the stone floor, the long tables, the wood paneling, the paintings on the walls. You can still go and read the books. Except for the large firearms that the librarians carry, it's like nothing happened, as if every noon, businessmen are still eating their lunches under the lions."
*in my memory this is the only time I've ever been compelled to use this word, let alone in a positive way