the hour of blue

0_robert froese

I read one of the North Country Press’s Maine-related books–published in 1990, by Robert Froese, playing on the Gaia hypothesis. Slow of pacing, science fiction.  Maine science fiction?

The explorer’s dream of Norumbega (as Maine was once known) is part of Maine’s history; a mistake thought likely to have proceeded from copyists making maps of exploration based on those composed by cartographers in Nuremberg, Germany. But Norumbega became the fabled land of gold somewhere up the Penobscot River in Maine. Fabled land that never was… but somehow still exists in a mythic and historic imagination.

Amos, the narrator of THE HOUR OF BLUE, muses while in Manhattan for a job interview.

Lincoln, Hudson, Manhattan – the President, the Explorer, the Indian Chief. History and myth weather down to place names. Language is a museum.

Sometimes I want to live long with a book, reenter its pages after weeks or months in order to continue this story at whose end I have not yet arrived. I keep myself in touch with these “other” individual worlds, sometimes for years. THE HOUR OF BLUE by Robert Froese is like that. After several months, I read its epilogue. But lengthy reads should not be so unusual: it takes me far longer sometimes to write a book — in which I am inhabiting that world, along with its characters over a period of time. I do not say I’m getting to know the author, per se, when I read, but what interests the author–yes. As reader I am really getting to know, in common with the writer, his or her muse…. Maybe the craft, the sensibility, what interests, all’s captured there on the page, and shared with the reader’s imagination — so I guess even there it is a collaboration, three ways.

A three-way collaboration: muse-writer-reader. THE HOUR OF BLUE is a stitching together, an interleaving of history, faux history, science, faux science, myth–and the natural world of Maine, its environmentalism. The ragtag industrial coastal setting with diners and taverns and banks and houses, camping, motels…. The pacing is quiet and lifelike and rural; the narrator’s sensibility lifelike and quiet, almost a matter-of-fact telling in minutia. Lots of what daily life is really like here, interspersed with the telling of its flaws with its pain (that quietly done). Except that it is a work of speculative fiction, the fantastic, telling a truly outlandish idea with outlandish and spiritual repercussions.

Froese’s work here reminds me of Edward Abbey’s (a bit) without the desert, and maybe John Nichols’ (The Voice of the Butterfly) without the energy and profanity. Should I mention there is a chapter-section titled The Frankenstein Effect?

Here’s a sampling of …exchange, description, perception, sensibility.

“I was just thinking… about all this.”

“You mean here?”

“Yes, here. What we’re going through. Your trees and my dolphins and this weird whatever-it-is-going around. We seem to be waiting, the two of us, for… I don’t know what.” 

William A.K. set his cup down, massaged his chin. “Knowledge, sir, is a slippery matter. What’s knowledge to one is fantasy to another. With all due respect, I’ve shared knowledge before and seen it rejected like poison in the bloodstream.”

Froese’s Dr. William A. K. Thomas is speaking here, I think, of scientific understanding poisoning the bloodstream of ideology.

The room to which Furst had summoned us looked like a library in a gothic novel, rather than the office of a busy man. To the right of an oiled mahogany desk, a window seat held a telephone and several looseleaf binders and manila folders of what looked like technical documents, computer print-outs, and other forms of the literature of industry. But the desk itself was spruce and spotless beneath walls of books, leather-bound and gilded. Not reading material, but the cosmetic suggestion of knowledge stored — part of the decor, in other words. 

I stood apart during this initial exchange feeling vaguely absent, as if my consciousness were still in transit to this room, arriving only in stages. It was all I could do to back myself into a chair beyond the door and sit down. Other things, too, were said. I only half-heard. But with an unnatural clarity, I saw everything. In fact, more than everything.

robert froese

I’ve never read Maine-related science fiction before.  I have written Maine SF.

5 responses

  1. History and myth weather down to place names. Language is a museum.
    –beautiful observation: weather down to place names, yes. History in names.

    And this:

    “Knowledge, sir, is a slippery matter. What’s knowledge to one is fantasy to another.”

    Absolutely, yes. People dismiss truths, knowledge, as superstition, magic, something lesser, because it doesn’t fit into their taxonomy of seeing.

    And I also like your idea of a collaboration between muse, writer, and reader. Certainly the work is only complete when all three have joined in.

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    • thanks for stopping by, friend. Norumbega was a fascinating erroneous construct, inspiring to the earlier European exploratory imagination. imaginary muse working overtime there. the reading muse is kind of distinct for me. sometimes i get a nudge to read, some hint, and it develops into a real glimpse of desire. there are various reasons for reading, interest in a friend’s work–Pen Pal was this for me, and it became an interest on its own. but that’s a bit different. the other is a kind of intuition, possibly? have you felt it, ever?

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      • The kind of intuition–you mean in reading? I think so, yes, though when I feel the thing that I’m thinking of, I always wonder if it’s me feeling a deep vibration that’s in the work, or whether it’s that the work has set something in me deeply vibrating (which is a different thing), or both. … Is this the sort of thing you mean by a kind of intuition?

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        • i don’t experience it often … but i mean a quiet prompting _before_ ever reading, and am not talking about the conversation between reader, writer, and muse.

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          • That sounds like a wonderful feeling. I’ve felt promptings like that from time to time (alas, I have not always acted on them…) but I don’t think ever with regard to reading something. I suspect those promptings come to us in very particular ways. . .

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