Montanan - Volume 13, Number 3
by Susanna Sonnenberg
n March 16, 1978, 61-year-old Aldo Moro, the devoutly religious leader of Italys Christian Democratic Party, headed off to institute the "historic compromise" with the Communist Party. Kidnapped by the Red Brigades and held for nearly two months, Moro was never seen alive again. "The name of Moro," historian Richard Drake writes in The Aldo Moro Murder Case, "now stands for an entire period in Italian history, which was ended by terrorists who came to be regarded by the public as a collective Lee Harvey Oswald." In an effort to illuminate a case that still haunts the national consciousness, Drake has compiled a fascinating and comprehensive guide to the Italian political and legal system. He deftly places the Moro murder in the intricate weave of Italian society, providing a compelling discussion on everything from the court system to the Red Brigades.
After outlining Moros life and career, which brought him to the head of the Christian Democrats by 1978, Drake moves beyond the man to portray the emblem. A pivotal and controversial figure, Moro was concerned with creating a sort of impossible harmony in Italian politics. Drake imagines him as something of a martyred prophet who foretold his partys doom and the collapse of the governments credibility.
Drake does not believe in the conspiracy theory that maintains the Christian Democrats and Mafia acted in league with the Red Brigades to destroy Moro, yet he presents persuasive reasons for why such a theory has seized the imagination of a country poisoned by government scandal. His clear and informative look at the fabulous intricacy of Italian politics draws an intimate portrait of a society fostering revolution.
Writer Kevin Canty takes you by the hand, then scrapes your knuckles over the pavement. The stories in A Stranger in This World have a three oclock-in-the-morning quality of adrenaline, waste and danger, and to read them is to get as bruised-up as his characters. These people of Florida and Montana and of the nameless suburbs have nothing to lose and little to gain. They live on instinct and impulse, hunger and nerve.
In "Dogs," an anonymous protagonist exterminates strays at the pound in the middle of the night. "On the verge of divorce, they headed for Florida," begins "Moonbeams and Aspirin." In the title story, a young woman cant shake the ghost of her husband, dead a dozen years. "Her heart would not remember that it had ever woken up," writes Canty.
These stories are rough and assured, with a knowing ache to them that makes us wish there wasnt quite so much to know. Confidence races across every page, as Canty sharply etches the lives of these people into stories that wake you with a jolt.
The elegant writing keeps these heart-hardening people close to us. In "King of the Elephants," a son takes his drunken father on a road trip to collect an equally damaged mother. "Headlights threw my shadow out in front of me in the dirt," the son says to us. "A long thin shape of a man racing around in a half-circle as the trucks passed by and then lost in the darkness, to form again as another pair of headlights passed."
Canty encloses his characters in a world of fine-pitched observation and half-swallowed dialogue for an effect that is sometimes heartbreaking and often glorious.
In T. Crunks authoritative debut collection of poems, Living in the Resurrection, the speaker-a brother, son and grandson-strives to make sense of his history in the unforgiving world of Kentucky coal mines and Christianity. Shifting between stark poems and luxuriant prose pieces, Crunk names this family and traces its origins in the very dirt.
Crunk captures the confusion inherent to children who puzzle together family ritual with a biblical weight. In "Souvenirs" he writes of his father:
and through the windowThe brother in "Earthly Garments" tells the speaker that dead people turn to coal when buried, then are burned to make electricity. Gothic imagery infuses daily simplicity with a religious significance, as in Crunks interpretation of the father and mother repotting "the dumb cane and peace lily/jobs tears and pennyroyal" in "August." Miners songs ring sweet as hymns.
I watch the fireflies
among the trees,
which, you told us once,
were dead people lighting cigarettes.
While there is the unmistakable hum of nostalgia in the recurrent streetlights, inhabited windows and even in the ellipses with which Crunk sometimes ends a poem, the poems always startle us. In "Summer Evening," a poem that begins in soft almost sentimental tones, Crunk writes, "In a few years we will no longer live here. In a few more it will be a house I drive by to look at when I visit home. In a few more I will stop driving by, and in a few more I will have nowhere to visit."
The progression from the plural future tense "we will no longer" to the single, stark "nowhere" is devastating. This world is scattering away like dust and "raw corn stubble" (in "Reunion"). With brutal accuracy and lyrical translation, Crunk sees "a raised welt of railroad tracks," reads coal as "dried clots of earths blood," hears "the clocks wooden notches in the silence" and describes how "the last coil of smoke/lifts like a moan through the chimney."
Crunk has taught us his iconography with such precision that when we come to the reversed image of "baptism by earth" in the extraordinary "Redemption," we have learned a language that includes the dried blood, the coal that is buried bodies, the souls passing up over the "blistering corn." We know that those empty flower pots tended by mother and father speak of what is lost and lonely. We have tasted this land-"this hollow earth"-that is starkly illustrated in rich, hard language.