The One and the Many

Family by Ian Frazier

I just finished reading Family by Ian Frazier. It is quite a beautiful book. Here are a few quotes of parts I liked:

I wanted my parents' lives to have meant something. I hunted all over for meanings of any kind--not, I think, simply out of grief or anger at their deaths, but also because the stuff they saved implied that there must have been a reason for saving it. The smell of an old hymnal, the weave of a black mesh hat veil, the tone of a thank-you note, each struck me with the silent force of a clue. Something was going on here. I believed bigger meanings hid behind little ones, that maybe I could follow them to a source back tens or hundreds of years ago. I didn't care if the meanings were far-flung or vague or even trivial. I wanted to pursue them. I hoped maybe I could find a meaning that would defeat death.

Without the war, many people would have continued marrying and bearing children and making a living unsure that anything that happened to them was remarkable enough to record. When they went to war, every event became important. The war filled the journals and letters of all sorts of people with good handwriting who until then had not had much to write about. Men who could not tell you ten occurrences from the first ten years of their lives could give you a detail from every day of the hundreds they served. War slowed down time and reduced space to small units. Ancestors who fought in the war could say where they were on almost every day from 1861 to 1865; for certain days, they could tell the spot where they were standing almost minute by minute.

He believed in sweeping the enemy from the earth, and that he was an instrument of God in a holy war. No general on either side had his God-haunted fervor. He knew his own spiritual nature perhaps as well as a person can, and he saw spirit moving in the world, in the real American places where he fought. He was one of those few people whose eyes create what they see.

And we would move from the nearer regions of the dead who are remembered into the farther regions of the forgotten, and on past those, into a space as white and big as the sky replicated forever. And all that would remain would be the love bravely expressed, and the moment when you danced and your heart danced with you.