What I'm Reading: A Constellation of Vital Phenomena, by Anthony Marra

I'll be straight with you here, I haven't just been reading this book this week, I've been plodding my way through it since  e a r l y  M a r c h...  Yep.  

So I've buckled down and will be turning the last page sometime still tonight.....or tomorrow morning.

I spotted A Constellation of Vital Phenomena by Anthony Marra on one of the used book shelves at my favorite book store: Boswell Book Company on Downer Avenue.   When I saw another exact copy there on Monday when I stopped by, I suspected other people have had the same trouble reading it.

Some of the descriptions in this book are so chilling, like a blind man described as missing " two spoonfuls" from his face.  But also these unpredictable but completely real moments of life:

"In London, this would be an escalator," Sonja said as they descended a staircase.  

"What's an escalator?"  

"It's a moving staircase."  

"Like a children's ride"  

"No, it's not like a ride.  It's just a staircase that moves.  That's all."  

"Then this is a broken escalator."  

She descended on the right side; even in a choice as arbitrary as which side to walk on she strove for order.

--A Constellation of Vital Phenomena, page 190

What could be causing the plodding?  I'm reading about these harsh realities the Chechnyan people went through following the dissolution of the USSR on through the second Chechnyan war which only recently  came to a halt, and it's not a history I'm aware of because I was a child during pretty much all of this conflict.

When I was in second or third grade (what is that, 1994, or something?) my family went in a weekend excursion to Chicago, my first time there.  For some reason we went to O'Hare, and I got a huge thrill out of the moving sidewalk with the traveling neon lights above me. In the quote above, one of the main characters, Akhmed, doesn't know what an escalator is, and it's 2004.  

Another character, Natasha, lives on the street not because she is homeless, but out of fear of being crushed in the rubble of her building if it is bombed. 

Reading about these characters "navigating two brutal wars," as one reviewer states, is an eye opening experience for me about life outside my own realm of experience and awareness. That being said, I need a brief history lesson to grasp the  conflict. 

To you, reader, I declare, if you would like to read this one, please E-mail me your address, for I will gladly loan it to you indefinitely.


This post is part of a weekly series on "What I'm Reading."  I'll be talking about whatever book I happen to be reading, and you can look for this series every Friday.