Lori's Reviews > Almanac of the Dead

Almanac of the Dead by Leslie Marmon Silko
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Jan 04, 2008

it was amazing

I wrote my master's thesis on this book, thus I've lost track of how many times I've read it. This is not for the faint-of-heart. Silko is putting Western, Euro-centric culture on trial and the evidence she cites is pretty damning. She has said in interviews that the anger that seethes on every page of this novel is not her personal anger but the anger of the Earth. Anger over the cruelty, greed and destruction that dominate the rise of European culture over Native American culture and other native cultures around the world. She refers to this era as "The Reign of the Death-Eye Dog" and subliminally allies it with the current incarnation of the world as defined by the Mayan codices (codexes?). Known as the 5th World in Western terms, this era is slated to end in 2012, and Silko predicts that the next era will be defined by a return to a more "traditional" way of living. She dubs that "The Reign of the Fire-Eyed Macaw." This is necessary not for the survival of humanity, she contends, but for the survival of the earth. I've always thought that the earth was the only sympathetic character in the novel. The Earth, in its spiritual aspect, is always at the heart of Silko's fiction, whether it's embodied in a character, as it is in Ceremony, or omnipresent as it is in Almanac.

This is all encoded in the text, as befits a novel based on the writings of the Maya, but I think that it's pretty essential to understand that concept to stick it out to the end of this novel. The world Silko portrays is defined by the evil that men do, and very few, if any, of her characters have any redeeming qualities. She is, in a sense, holding up a mirror and daring us to confront the reflection. This is ferociously unapologetic fiction. It is an indictment. But it's important to note that Silko has not reduced her themes into a Western=bad, Native=good equation. In the world of the novel, everyone is either corrupted or corruptable.

I love books that are puzzlesque, and this stands (outside of Ulysses, which I could never get through) as the most complicated puzzle of a book that I've ever read. Not a beach-read, not a feel-good read, but if you can withstand the brutality, it is an amazing journey of a novel.
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06/20/2016 marked as: read

Comments (showing 1-6 of 6) (6 new)

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Cole I am currently writing my master's thesis on this book, and I really appreciate your review. If you don't mind my asking, what was the angle/argument of your research work?

I'm so thankful to find someone else who was changed and challenged by this great work.

Deborah Thanks for your analysis. I specifically joined this website to find a forum about this book. It's been inside my head for years now and I have failed to persuade a single friend or family member that it is a must-read. Hardly a week goes by that I'm not reminded of this book by something in the news. Margaret Atwood's chilling meditation on the future in the Handmaid's Tale is another one that comes to mind frequently these days.

Jeremy O i hope your master's thesis on this book is about how such a rambling piece of junk can get published.

Annasaurus Rex Can I read your master's thesis? Please, just because i'm a nerd for literary theory obsessed with this book and leslie marmon silko. and i've been out of school for a couple years. anna.ostow@gmail.com

Kathleen Roberts Actually, I'm with annasaurus. If you sent your work to freshkleen @gmail, I'd love to read it.

Eric Morris-Pusey I'm glad so many theses are being written on it; Silko seems permanently underappreciated (at least here in the south), which I'm sure is in large part due to how white much of the criticism is. I just started this today and I'm excited to experience and learn from it.

Has anyone here who read and got a lot out of this one read Bolano's 2666? I finished that earlier today, and it deals with some of the same themes (the culpability of white Americans in and their blindness to the problems faced by the rest of the world, especially people affected by the drug trade).

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