review – other electricities

othFor those wishing to visit the Keweenaw Peninsula, I would suggest reading Ander Monson’s short but dense Other Electricities.  It is a complex yet fascinating collection of stories or vignettes composing the gestalt of  Michigan’s UP.  Sometimes direct, sometimes poetic, though always ethereal, Other Electricities deals with the hardness of living in a place as cold, bleak, and beautiful as upper Michigan.  Monson expertly expresses the weirdness and hardship through a formidable cast of characters which, while representing the whole of a small community, actually resembles that of a family.

It is a place where the only guarantee is that every winter at least one snowmobile rider will succumb to the ice, where a father, perched in his attic will become obsessed with speaking code into his radio throughout the night. A place where an abandoned schoolbus forms a hideout for a disaffected teenager, taking his confusion out on stray cats.  Where a weary snowplow worker reminisces over uncles dying in saunas and cousins holding up banks in the heart of winter, looking forward to nothing more than her stretch of the road. Where a schoolteacher is helpless to watch both the demolition of her school and her students.

Other Electricities is about a community of people and what they do to survive in an unacommodating environment.  It’s about the often unfortunate interconnectedness of their lives told from a stream-of-consciouness point of view.  Beautifully written and imagined, it’s an incredibly deep work, ominous like the lake surroundng the region it so coldly affects.

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