David Rensin, 2008, HarperCollins, ISBN 978-0-06-077331-1
Very well then, the short review is Get this book and read it, ok?
The short review with a little bit extra tossed in is Get this book and read it, and while reading it, try to keep the transcendent meanings of ˜good & evil’ always in mind, and watch in amazement as they morph from one thing to another, and even trade places with each other, shrouded underneath a nimbus of time and circumstance.
Ok, that’s enough right there for those of you with dull sensibilities, sound-bite sized attention spans, or dogmatic world views that cannot admit to the existence of equally valid alternatives, other than your own constricted visions. You probably won’t read the book anyway, and even if you do, you’ll find a way to take the wrong message away from it after you’re done. You may go now, you are dismissed.
Now, as for the rest of you, now that we’ve gotten rid of the idiots, let us perhaps see if we can examine things in somewhat greater detail, shall we?
Ants reap all the benefits of life in the colony, and succeed mightily as a result and have taken over the world, but in the end they must always remain ants.
Edward Abbey did not think very highly of ants, however. Go read Desert Solitaire sometime. Might just do you some good. You never know.
Dora shared many of Abbey’s approaches, although I’m none too sure that either curmudgeon would have approved of the other. But I could be very wrong here, since I do not really know wherefore I speak.
Dora seems to have approved of very little, actually.
And he was a lying thief with a spiteful mean streak, too. A real small-timer. A bum. A failure.
And yet again¦
He somehow rose above it all to truly ethereal heights where few have trodden, aside from a very few saints and madmen.
And this of course is both the problem and the solution, all at the same time.
Surfing is so overburdened with counterintuitiveness and self-contradiction, that it would seem that it could not stand another log to be thrown on to that fire, lest the entirety of it self-immolate and disappear in a cloud of smoke, leaving a bitter residue of ashes behind in the mouths of those who would seek to understand it.
Dora seems to have thrown the entire forest into the blaze, and yet he got away with it somehow.
His story is allegory, and it enfolds and encloses no end of substories and branching paths that lead off into the murk with nary a street sign to show the way.
Some of these places are pretty nasty, but others seem to shine from within by their own ghostly light.
This review is already turning into the worst sort of bullshit.
Considering the subject matter, could we have expected otherwise?
I’ve been long convinced that there is a book the likes of which few have been written, lurking within the Dora cloud. A book that could use this impossibly fertile ground to nurture and coax from the black and fecal substrate, a grand tale that examines the core issues of what it really means to be human being.
I’m not quite convinced that this is the book, but I may be wrong. Right or wrong, this book is a thunderclap of a good effort, and may even provide the launching pad for an as yet unknown or unborn Shakespeare to really sink their teeth into things and extract that which needs to be extracted and distill it into a Worthy Thing.
And, as with its subject matter, it presents one face even as it hides other faces in plain sight.
It’s easy enough to let this one pass through your fingers as a mere recounting of things that were, things that were said, and things that were done, and no more.
But there’s a lot more than that going on underneath the surface, for those with the time, patience, and eyes to see any of it.
Up on the surface of things, this one is drop-dead simple: A tale of the man’s life, from start to finish, as told by those who were around at any given time, as well as the occasional cryptic snatch of prose from the man himself, with a few black & white photographs tossed in for good measure.
Of course it is.
And yet again¦
Patterns self-assemble and evanesce with their own sentience, as the story minds its own business, plodding forward in time.
Dora took the measure of those and that, all around him, and found nearly all of it wanting.
At which point he very reasonably decided to keep his own counsel, and veer off on a path of his own choosing, opportunistic, never permitting anything or anyone to dictate terms to him.
Except for the waves.
The waves dictated his entire life, and he was content to everlastingly dance to their tune.
But the ways of waves and men run counter to each other, and following one will cause grave problems with the other.
Dora had no doubt whatsoever as to which one was worthy. Which one was real. Which one was the Right Way.
And blast and damn any and all who might seek to interfere.
Which is the entire nub of the matter, in similar fashion as a single molecule of DNA is the nub of each of us, one and all.
Much flows from this deceptively simple premise.
Dora, perhaps more than anyone ever has, and perhaps ever will, in a world of proliferating security cameras, biometrics, secret databases, and jackboots, took this disarmingly simple premise to its furthest logical conclusion, paid dearly for it, and yet never looked back and never reconsidered his choice, once it had been made. Despite the Gordian knot of falsehood that he partook of, surrounded himself with, and promulgated, he remained true in the most adamantine definition of the word true that can be imagined.
All of this is woven into the heart of this book, at sub-basement level, and illuminates all that happens within it.
David Rensin presumes his readers to have sufficient intelligence to work things out for themselves, and mercifully assembles the tale with a feather-light hand. The story itself can do its own talking thank you very much, and it’s a breath of fresh air to encounter a writer who has tackled such a profound subject and yet dispenses with the pedantic, the didactic, the morality tale and the fable, and instead simply lets things speak for themselves.
Like I said before: Get this book and read it, ok?