This book takes place in Poughkeepsie, NY, near where Pollack was living at the time, and she really captures all the insecurity and backbiting that happen in places that are on the periphery of greatness (much like rural New England, where I grew up.) But overlaid on all the super grounded observations about petty local politics is a strange vision of an alternate world where some kind of spiritual revolution has happened, and now everyone worships storytellers, who tell "Pictures" that cause huge spiritual disruptions.
The book shows how revolution or revelatory experience initially changes society, but over time, the accretion of layers of ceremony and fear of betraying the new order transform the thought system based on the original inspiration into an inhibitor to any future change.
review of Rachel Pollack's Unquenchable Fire by tENTATIVELY, a cONVENIENCE - March 5-9, 2019 To read the full review go here: https://www.goodreads.com/story/show/... It doesn't surprise me that this is the earlier of the 2 bks b/c it goes to substantial lengths to establish the social environment in wch the story takes place. As I wrote in my review of Temporary Agency: "The world of Pollack's novel is a New Agey one in wch magik is the norm. Here's a taste of that: ""As a government agency, the SDA displays portraits of the president in all their offices. You know the kind an official government photo of our nation's leader smiling blankly in his official bird costume and sacred headdress, with painted-in guardian spirits hovering in the background, like Secret Service agents." - p 70 ""And I remember the incredible excitement when the president ordered the Spiritual Development Agency to drive out the Ferocious Ones." - p 5 "The SDA being a rough parallel to the FBI." The same goes in Unquenchable Fire except that all the problems of ordinary conformist society that we're stuck w/ now are still the same in this new spiritual society. It seems to me that the author probably has an appreciation for things spiritual &/or occult but can still have the detachment to realize that people will be narrow-minded, cowardly, unimaginative, & oppressive in ANY society, including one in wch wonders never seem to cease. In fact, the wondrous, in this case in the form of the protagonist Jennifer Mazden, will be just as suspect as it wd be in any other society in wch people cower behind their conformity to expectations of things staying stupid. Alice had shown great promise in her early years, 'flying on wings of story' as the saying goes, so that all who heard her on the day she came back from college found themselves drifting into the air, like so many bright-coloured balloons, to look down upon their bodies sitting on the hillsides with the stooped shoulders and pained expressions of their daily lives. Though an official inquiry cleared Alice completely, and Martin Magundo's family lost their lawsuit against Alice and the New York College Of Tellers, poor Alice never did fulfil the early promise of her career." - pp 1-2 The main story takes place in Poughkeepsie, NY, a mere 17.7 mile drive from where the author lives in Rhinebeck, NY. Pollack provides some Poughkeepsie mythology: "As the teller passed each banner a voice sounded from a speaker set on the ground beneath it. Explaining the Pictures, the voices told how Poughkeepsie's original inhabitants twelve foot giants whose skin changed colour according to the season had carved the city out of huge cedar trees uprooted in a storm from Mexico and dropped beside the Hudson River. The city prospered until a thrity year drought, during which the people shrank to two foot seven" - p 6 I'd trust that except that she uses the British spelling, "colour", giving herself away. "Three days later Allan Lightstorm stepped onto the rooftop of the World Trade Center. A few hundred feet away the tower's twin sister hosted a network of radar, television antennae, weather monitors, and government tracking devices." - p 13 & who wd've predicted that a mere 13 yrs later these towers wd've been successfully attacked by one of the most audacious acts of guerrilla warfare of all history? Sold all over the country in spiritual aid stores they were a regular feature of the Day of Truth, said to bring blessings for the coming year. Most of the people in Jennie Mazden's hive had bought theirs at the special display counter Sears had set up in the South Hills mall. "The car said, 'I'm pleased to report high levels of harmony between Earth and Sky. Fine indications for long trips or expeditions.'" - pp 32-33 Myth runs thru this bk at a breakneck speed. The cat set the female organ like a gate. The gate close behind them." - pp 52-53 I'll bet you wish your bank were like that but mine is &, I'll tell you, making a simple withdrawal is a nightmare even if you try the 2nd teller. As a penance?' "'The hive loves you.' Jennie pushed her aside and stepped out the door. "'When did you dream this wonderful dream?' "'Recital Day,' Jennie said, and wished she'd lied. Look,' she said, and Jennie stepped back slightly. 'Oh,' she said when she saw Jennie, 'Hi.' "'Are you expecting someone?' "'No, not at all. Come in.' Wheh Jennie had stepped into the little alcove that led to the living room Karen laughed and said, 'Well, to tell you the truth, I wasn't expecting anyone, but I sure was hoping it might be this guy that I know.' "'Oh, I'm sorry,' Jennie said. "Jennie got to her feet and the camera swung back to her. The woman said, 'I seem to have passed the barrier.' "Jennie stepped after her. The character "Valerie Mazdan" hasn't been introduced yet but the following gives us a hint of Things to Come: "THE THREE SISTERS: A training Picture, told, with some unauthorized revisions, by Valerie Mazdan shortly before her expulsion from the New York College of Tellers:" - p 124 "Lily didn't answer, but instead stepped upon the sea, heading for the island where she and her sisters had grown up together. In a show of ostentatious humility the generals were crawling on their bellies; Lily had to step over them to get to the door." - p 132 The story jumps around in time, as stories often do, it doesn't just go from A to B & then collapse. Alternatively, Jennie could have identified 'structural similarities and functional differences' between the creation of New Chicago after the northern war, and the Revolution's official starting point, the Parade of the Animals in Anaheim, California, when children in animal masks (mostly ducks and mice) ran through the streets burning the offices of the secular government." - p 153 After describing the pulsing veins in Mike's erection for 74 pages we reach this: "At the clinic Mike surprised, and in a way, disappointed Jennie by taking full and solemn part in the ceremony of fitting her diaphragm. "It worried Jennie that she didn't get more excited as they travelled" - p 175 I've already pointed out Pollack's spelling of colour w/ the British "u". Many other verbs ending in -el went through a similar transition around this time.Others, such ascancel, did not change until several decades later." - https://grammarist.com/spelling/travel/ Now Rachel Pollack is an American SF writer born August 17, 1945. NOW, according to "Proofed": "The doubling up rule states that, when adding a vowel suffix (e.g., -ing or -ed) to a single syllable word that ends with one vowel followed by one consonant, we should double the final consonant." - https://getproofed.com/writing-tips/s... The Dutchess County sheriff's office, however, described it as a sign of heavenly sanction brought on by Sheriff Lauren's programme of compulsory prayer and once-a-week fasting for all deputies." - pp 215-216 Whenever I read associations of character w/ colors I imagine the associations tp be derived from Rudolph Steiner but, of course, that's not necessarily the case. She went from room to room opening windows, ending in the kitchen where she fished out a filthy green duster (green for new life) and then marched with it back to the living room." - p 225 In Changing Minds' online "The Meaning of Colors" we get: red = warmth, love, anger, danger, boldness, excitement, speed, strength, energy, determination, desire, passion, courage, socialism yellow = attention-grabbing, comfort, liveliness, cowardice, hunger, optimism, overwhelm, Summer, comfort, liveliness, intellect, happiness, energy, conflict & green = durability, reliability, environmental, luxurious, optimism, well-being, nature, calm, relaxation, Spring, safety, honesty, optimism, harmony, freshness ( http://changingminds.org/disciplines/... People believe in arbitrary things & act as if they're facts set in stone.
The setting is an alternate America which had a very different revolution, wholeheartedly embracing magic and mysticism. Jennie herself is a convincingly prickly and complex character, who its easy to sympathise with while also understanding why others find her difficult. The slow pace knocked off the fifth star, but the world-building is exemplary and conveys its strangeness with absolute conviction.
What an usual, imaginative, at times challenging, and often entertaining book this was. We are thrown into a not too distant future after a spiritual world wide revolution has taken over and replaced the the secular governments.
This book starts off just like that kind of incomprehensible nonsense. If this book has done anything for me, it has granted me a new sympathy for people held in the grip of superstitionhow frightening the world must be to someone who constantly feels the need to placate malevolent spirits, or is compelled to constantly seek the protection of guardian entities via prayer, ritual or ceremony. Except for The Meaning of a Story:A moment in the life of Valerie Mazdanthat bit was fucking fantastic, and might actually be the entire point of the book.
The book takes place in a different kind on America where after the Old World (which I take to be is ours or much like it) new powers have come out, some get abilities, fantastical creatures roam the earth and everything is crazy and full of magic... And then there is Jennifer, who lives a nice life in a suburb except her husband leaves her and she gets pregnant from a dream. It is made clear that Jennifer used to wish for the old times, when magic was madness and great things happened to unsuspecting people and everything was even more crazy. And that is how she and her husband are portrayed as opposites with the husband thinking like most people who wish for safe lives where you know what tomorrow will bring and her wishing for greatness and the unknown. And starts suspecting everything, because if there is some power which can make you pregnant and raise trees at your feet and make people forget you it can do anything and maybe, just maybe it did.