Two Biblical perspectives on Graphic the Valley in the past day. Interesting. This weekend, the novel was reviewed in The Wall Street Journal Saturday/Sunday edition as part of an article that connected Graphic to J.M. Coetzee’s new book, The Childhood of Jesus.
Also, freelance writer Andrew Weber blogged about Graphic the Valley, an interesting take as well (…The core of the story’s conflict lies in the tension between two versions of the human ideal…).
Because many people aren’t online subscribers to The Wall Street Journal, here’s the full text of the WSJ book review.
‘There are prophets and there are judges. . . . Both are holy, but they have different jobs.” So says a character in Peter Brown Hoffmeister’s “Graphic the Valley” (Tyrus, 271 pages, $24.95), a vigorously original retelling of the Samson and Delilah story set in Yosemite. The speaker means that judges must be men of action; he is talking to Tenaya, a Yosemiti Indian who has been charged with the duty of protecting the valley from commercial developers and is our stand-in for the Bible’s ultimate wild man, Samson.
Tenaya was born and raised in an illegal settlement in the park, where he was taught by his zealous father never to forget his people’s ancient claims on the land. Mr. Hoffmeister, an experienced outdoorsman and magazine writer, marvelously harnesses the valley’s natural wonders to convey Tenaya’s strange magnetism toward primal violence: “Ravens fought in front of me,” he observes upon climbing a solitary mountain pass, “a physical argument, not loud with squawking, not like the crows on the Valley floor. I saw one raven drop and slam the body of another from behind, the second one rolling.”
Inevitably, Tenaya is seduced by his Delilah, in this case a woman named McKenzie who works in public relations for the development firm bringing fast-food franchises and other sacrilegious tourist traps into the park. At moments, when the story forces its one-to-one connections with Scripture, a bit of allegory exhaustion settles over the book (the infamous haircut scene, for example, is shoehorned in almost as an afterthought). But the avenging destruction wrought by both Tenaya and the natural world is captured with beauty and aplomb. Mr. Hoffmeister brings a newfound sense of urgency to one of the Bible’s oldest and strangest tales.