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Paul Harding’s Enon, and the beginning of THASCOKNY

October 18, 2013 by Reader's Connection

EnonWhen their 13-year-old daughter Kate is hit by a car and killed, Charlie and Susan break up. Susan goes to stay with her parents, and Charlie begins a strange year of mourning, taking whatever drugs he can find and wandering through the town of Enon by night.

Enon is Paul Harding’s new novel, and I had a problem with it.. It seemed to me that some of Charlie’s fantasies about Kate, after her death, were coming not from a well-read house-painter and lawn-cutter who is strung out on drugs and in emotional agony, but from a Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist fashioning a second novel.

I found myself peeking ahead to see when quotation marks would appear on the page, because that would mean that Charlie was encountering another real human being.

But I think I should reread the book, because I have faith in Harding, and I figure that at times I was digging my heels in, not wanting to go where Charlie was going. And because I have to admit that those fantasies, those night-wanderings of Charlie’s, turned his occasional encounters with people into gold–into what encounters with people really are, if we’re wide awake. A guy working in a convenience store, and an elderly pair from whom Charlie steals drugs, come back to me, now, as avatars.

And those two goth girls, smoking cigarettes and looking at a book about Tarot cards in the graveyard at night.

The girl with the book held it close to her face and fingered through the pages until she said, “Here it is.”

“What, what; What is it?” the other girl said.

“Give me a second, will you?” The girl examined the book, then dropped it into her lap and stared at her friend. She said, “Dude, this deck is whacked, it’s always so right. This card is that you lust for someone you know is evil.”

The other girl blew smoke out of her nose and clapped herself on the head, her forearmful of bracelets and trinkets clinking and twinkling in the moonlight, and groaned, “Oh man–that’s freaking Carl!”

Both girls had long, very dark, unkempt hair, which I assumed was dyed black but could not tell for sure. They both had pale skin and heavy black eyeliner on, and very dark lipstick, which might have been black or a very dark shade of purple or red, and they both wore all black clothes. I guessed they were a couple years older than Kate. I liked them immediately, and imagined Kate being their friend and going through a safe and uproarious adolescence with them.

I, too, am fond of these girls, and should wander with Charlie again, sometime soon, in the hope of meeting them once more.

***

If someone on your holiday list loved Harding’s Tinkers, and hasn’t already read Enon, you might make a gift of it. This is my first 2013 THASCOKNY (Thanksgiving, Hanukkah, Solstice, Christmas, Kwanzaa, New Years) pick, though I’m retroactively tagging Dara Horn’s A Guide for the Perplexed, for that someone on your list who’s interested in software or memories or adultery or terrorism.

Did you know that the first day of Hanukkah falls on Thanksgiving this year? This is very rare, and different websites disagree about when it will happen again. On his blog, quantum physicist Jonathan Mizrahi says it will happen in 79811.

Happy Thanksgivukkah! Enjoy it while you can.

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