I'm halfway through Matthew Sharpe's Jamestown and I'm delighted. I don't know that I've been delighted by a book in...well...a very long time:
- In order to eeeeeeke out both the fleshiest and more subtle pulp from this book, I brushed up on the real Jamestown history before I took up Sharpe's version. Just so I had my characters straight. Just so I could catch every nuance of the jabbing, of the poking fun, of the mockery I hoped I'd find between the pages.
- Before I even got to Sharpe's version, I was taken aback by how corporate the English settling was. I had not remembered that aspect during my early history-learning years. Talk about corporate greed. Virginia was named after a company. Talk about brand. I felt sure a Malcolm Gladwellesque character could be found there among those first English who believed they could make it happen. I just can't figure out which one.
- It makes sense though -- right? -- that we were founded upon corporate greed and that said greed resulted in brutal violence, followed closely by the desire to save souls from hell. If you think about our country's history in that context, our silliness is quite plain, isn't it?
- Also, our inability to learn any proper lessons from past mistakes, glaring.
- Our current warring & fundamental religious tendencies seem particularly
démodé in this context. And yet we carry on.
- So it was with great interest that I cracked open Sharpe's version of Jamestown. Several chapters are told by Johnny Rolfe and several by Pocahontas among others. They each have "wireless devices" they use to tell their stories.
- I hesitate to give more away as I think it's one of those books that must be read on one's own to get the full depth of it. Little snippets and quotes can't bear justice. But I feel I must at least say that I love, love, love his character's voices. Their sentences. Their speech patterns, their thoughts. While it may be strange to say that a re-telling of such a violent chapter in our history could be so funny -- I feel compelled to say just that: It is laugh out loud funny. I keep giggling out loud. Snickering.
- His characters say exactly what I hope they will say (allowing me to feel a direct line of communication with Sharpe, always a lovely thing for a reader), but then they also surprise me by saying things that are so not what I expected that I'm stunned into more laughter. Almost giddy.
- I have also learned: I need to re-visit some other parts of our history, for what nuggets lie in wait for me that I could not possibly have noticed when I learned all this history as a young lady?
- And this: I want to be a funny writer. As funny as Sharpe. A tall task.
- And: I can't wait to see him and Maggie Nelson (my, what a pair!) on the 29th.
- More to the point: I'd like to go finish the book right now...