April 06, 2006

Nostalgia, and a comic

The neighbourhood I grew up in wasn't your typical suburb. I suppose suburb is the best way to describe it, but this wasn't a dense thicket of virtually identical houses on cul de sacs and meandering streets named for trees that had been cut down to build the houses. All the lots in the neighbourhood were two acre parcels, and all the houses were custom or spec homes -- built individually, not en masse. Back before the white people moved in and cleared the land, my part of California was the Sierra side of the chapparal -- a huge forest of live oaks, digger pines, and manzanita. A forest that survived, at least through my childhood, in the form of 50 or so acres in the contiguous back yards of the neighbourhood where I grew up. We had a stream, that I made various successful and not-so-successful attempts to dam and bridge, and a big hill, and a sink hole from the old gold mines. It was, in many respects, the furthest edge of a very small city, in the exact place where the suburbs began turning to countryside.

'Nostalgia' comes from a Greek phrase -- something like 'sadness at being unable to go home again'. Classically, it was exemplified by Odysseus-type characters, whose literal journey home was thwarted by fate; but in our society, where the children of the middle class move far away from the family home at 18 and only sporadically return, the journey home is a logical, not just logistic, impossibility. 'Home' itself becomes destabilized -- neither the soil dam on the seasonal creek, nor the rainy suburb where I went to college, nor the big city I wandered around in for a while, nor the small midwestern town I've confined myself to, are my home. But nostalgia -- even if it is ultimately a maudlin feeling -- gives me a way to go back home, for just a little while.

And that is the value of Hope Larson's Salamander Dream. Be sure to read the review of Gray Horses in Salon, but take the time to read Salamander Dream thoroughly. It is a journey worth taking.

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