Here are my thoughts after reading the book.
Lives of the Spirits by John Anthony Pappas
Actors like Robert Duval believe that art should never corrupt or misrepresent the truth.
Well, Mr. Pappas obviously subscribes to that philosophy in this intensely researched adventure.
Though a sequel this first-person account of life in the early 19th century Indians of the Pacific North West stands on its own.
Rendered in a concise and straightforward manor the romantic adventure story is deceptively simple in its structure while dense and intimate in detail .
It touches on things as mundane as the various culinary traditions while also addressing the distinctive social, political and spiritual practices of a people who could fairly be described as late Paleolithic.
The story draws analogies and contrasts with the burgeoning modernity about to engulf and all but extinguish their way of life.
It is in the meditation of it’s a difference in the ‘greater’ world outside where the story takes on its real depth.
Whether essentially Marxist in its outlook I cannot say what was in the author’s mind but it does sell it’s point rather neatly that the magnitude of commerce has fundamentally changed the character of the relationships in the contrasted civilizations.
Nowhere is this change more evident than in the existences of slaves.
The Indians , to be sure, had slaves.
But the life of a slave among the Indians was not nearly so different from their captors as they were in the West where the difference in a slaves life from his ‘owner’s’ was of a cruel order of magnitude that can scarcely be believed.
I thought it particularly elegant the congruency the author sees in the spiritualism of the old Irish with the Indians.
Our protagonist is an Irishman who’s mother imparted in her son an appreciation of the old animistic ways that resonate with the Indians spirituality.
This opens this alien world up to him in a profound way.
But this is a world at twilight and the zombie apocalypse of small pox about to hit is rendered in equally grim detail.
Plenty of action , plenty of humor ,plenty of detail this is a ‘little’ book of plenty.
I Thoroughly enjoyed it and respected the author’s research.