Wednesday, October 12, 2005

musings from the media center

last week i read mark winegardner's crooked river burning. this novel sets the love story of david zielinsky, the son of a connected union organizer and a small town starlet, and anne o'connor, who's family is to cleveland what the daley's are to chicago, against the social, political and athletic history of cleveland. throughout the novel david and anne attend the ill-fated coronation ball of allen freed, the self-proclaimed progenitor of rock and roll, participate in the golden era of indians baseball and browns football, the scenes that featured satchel page were at the center of my emotional experience of the novel, and find themselves in the midst the race riots, racketering, economic shifts that comprise rust-belt era politics. the story of anne and david's on and off again, at turns naive and adulterous, relationship provides a strong enough plot. however, it is the detailed descriptions of their individual attempts to form and maintain their identity within the city limits of cleveland that i found most compelling. i was especially drawn to david, who throughout his journey from a bright-eyed and ambitious politician to a middle-aged man whose ideals were broken by city hall and busted by the electorate, always retained a vestige of his initial hope. through david, winegardner is reminding us that we will all be exposed to the subtleties of evil and will, at some point, find ourselves playing life from both sides. however, although he has deep sympathy for the situations and circumstances we will ultimately find ourselves in, winegardner still believes that a conversion to corruption or an embrace of a thoroughgoing hermeneutic of suspicion is still the result of a choice. in essence, even in the midst of the most despairing realities, winegardner believes that we can choose hope.

in the end, as other readers far wiser than i have noted, winegardner reminds us that by telling one story well, even a story that is set among the unexpected twists and turns of the cuyahoga, a writer can tell the story of us all.

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