By Susan Neville
Quarry Books (an imprint of Indiana University Press); $19.95
Through a series of essays, Neville invites us along her water journeys, be they to envision the Lost River, which preceded the Ohio; to plumb the essence of water-based gambling; to discover the well-spring of the ur-author Marguerite Young; to cruise the essentially un-navigable White; to find the river of light in Jane Owen’s New Harmony; to trace the source of misfortune, as in a mis-alignment of the stars; to ponder genetics and climate — waters from the sky as drizzle, rain, snow, sleet, hail; to wonder how mental illness may have become a conduit for 20th century art; to dissolve landscape and sky into river while tubing on the Little in Tennessee; and ultimately to gather all these ruminations into two ideas — “that conflict between the fluid universe on one hand and the straight lines of human reason and control on the other, is at the heart of much of Indiana’s literature;” to struggle between the conflicting streams of “freedom and restraint, passion and control, between wildness and the sacrifices and joys of domesticity.”
These two final essays reach beyond the intent to investigate literature and give credence to the daily struggle to stay afloat in the grappling undertow of life as a Hoosier. Take time to savor Neville.