Welcome to Outside Lit

1 Mar

This blog is for anyone who likes stories about people with the gumption, or desperation, to get up off the couch, walk out the door. We prefer walking to driving, trains to planes, but we understand that the world being what it is, one must use the means available. Bicycles hold a special place in our hearts, and we can’t think of a single story about bikes at present. That’s a shame.

So if you’re tired of domestic literature, upper-middle-class dramas of manners, gimmicky word play masking the absence of story, or even worse, that exhausted “post modern” excuse for bad writing that claims the very badness of the writing is somehow a commentary on the badness of our times (please, go sell your snake oil elsewhere). We love women writers and women readers, but we must reject any writing that describes itself using the word “chick.” There are many other forms and styles of writing we don’t like , but we’ll try to focus on what we do like. Examples are always better than abstractions, so here’s the first work under discussion: Peter Matthiessen’s masterpiece, At Play in the Fields of the Lord. It’s a novel, highly recommended, about various Americans (and one Spaniard) who have traveled deep into the Amazon jungle, some to convert the fearsome Niaruna tribe to one form or another of Christianity, others to “bomb them to Kingdom come.” If you know the book, please comment. If you don’t check out what others have to say, or offer your take on the current state of things in Bookland, USA. We welcome famous author bashing (and by “we” we mean “me.”)

42 Responses to “Welcome to Outside Lit”

  1. nicklevato March 19, 2012 at 1:30 pm #

    I think I disagree with Dr. Daniels’ comment. Lewis Moon is just a confused individual; in that, i don’t think his ambitions go further into an actual accomplishment. I think he understands certain short term experiences he wants to undergo, but other than that i don’t think he has a substantial life time achievement. So, because of that, we see him doing irrational things- in the spur of the moment decisions. He follows anything ideological motivation and acts on it until he grows tired of it. And since not much thought goes into his actions, he finds most things he participates in, empty and void. I think the only problem Lewis Moon needs to deal with it that he needs to have an aspiration that drives him to a certain type of person, or to a certain life that he wishes to live. Without it, we see him merely going through the motions of life and never being a human being of substance.

    • 0213rose March 19, 2012 at 1:44 pm #

      I think that summarizes my feeling of Moon exactly as well. Im surprised that more people dont feel the same.

    • benjaminjung March 19, 2012 at 1:51 pm #

      This is an accurate interpretation of moon. He really is just a floater, he sees something he thinks may potentially be a good experience at the time, but doesn’t stop to think of any long term effect. He does what he wants and when he wants to do it and he still wonders what his issue is.

  2. shannonzwicky March 19, 2012 at 1:33 pm #

    I feel as if the first time you read the novel you cant help but be sympathetic for Moon because he’s seen as this mysterious character who is searching for a place in which he belongs but is never quite able to fit in which goes all the way back to his childhood. This is mostly why I am sympathetic towards Moon, also it could be because you want to see him reject his runaway lifestyle and reach his potential.

  3. staceydahm10 March 19, 2012 at 1:33 pm #

    Maybe it’s because I am reading this book for the first time, but I like Lewis Moon. I think he is just a lost man who is trying to find a home.

  4. erinjones10 March 19, 2012 at 1:33 pm #

    I agree that the characters are rounding out the further I read into the book. I was surprised by Martin’s transformation in Chapter 17 when he dealt with the death of his son. At first Martin exhibits a sort of stupid honesty that is at first ridiculous, then becomes frustrating, and despite myself, Martin is now admirable. He defends the Niaruna and his son despite the constant pressure from Hazel and Huben.

    • staceydahm10 March 19, 2012 at 1:39 pm #

      Although I think he means to defend his son, I can’t get over how he brought his son to such a dangerous place at all, therefore I don’t think I can ever admire Martin.

      • angelaledford10 March 19, 2012 at 1:42 pm #

        I agree with Stacey. That although Martin is doing his work and trying to spread faith to the Indians but it was stupid of him to bring his son into the dangerous situation. Although, Billy was the only one that the indians truly accepted it was too risky and therefore I also can’t admire Martin.

      • erinwilliams10 March 19, 2012 at 1:42 pm #

        Yes, the jungle is a dangerous place for a child. But I say that Billy lived far more in the 9 years he was alive [some of that being spent in the jungle] than he would have living out his whole life in North Dakota. He seemed to really enjoy himself there, and everyone he met was instantly charmed by him. I think if there was anywhere for Billy to be, it would have had to be the jungle.

      • petekoczmara March 19, 2012 at 1:46 pm #

        I agree but I also feel that Martin didn’t seem that upset about his son dying at first. He just accepted the fact that BIlly will die no matter what. It was kind of frustrating to read the part where Martin didn’t want to take Billy to the boat and get him help.

        • staceydahm10 March 19, 2012 at 1:55 pm #

          I honestly cannot see how Hazel stayed with him at the missionary after that.

          • 0213rose March 19, 2012 at 1:59 pm #

            yeah I was thinking the same thing. What made her stay? And was her comment sarcastic when she said the “until death do us part” thing? I couldnt quite understand her angle right then. Maybe she has ulterior motives?

            • petekoczmara March 19, 2012 at 2:03 pm #

              Yeah I’m kind of confused about that. Maybe she hopes Martin will die? or maybe she just wants to stay where Billy is? Or maybe she believes that since he died, there is no reason to leave that place anymore?

  5. benjaminjung March 19, 2012 at 1:33 pm #

    I always feel that when I read through a book a second time, it is a lot easier to feel sympathy for certain characters that were previously unliked or not very easy to connect with, because once you have read the whole book it puts many characters into perspective. I am looking forward to finishing this book so that when i read it again, ill have entirely new opinions for certain characters because of who they will become or what i know they will do later.

  6. angelaledford10 March 19, 2012 at 1:36 pm #

    Although I feel that Lewis Moon is a bad guy throughout the beginning of the book, I do still feel admiration for him. He gets into risky situations and does some expected things that makes his character more likable. Like parachuting into the Indian Village and pretending to be a God takes some guts.

  7. bayernjung1023 March 19, 2012 at 1:36 pm #

    I’m actually really liking this book. It’s certainly picked up since the beginning and now I’m excited to see how it’s going to end. I do agree with Moon fooling himself and that yes, he is a complete poser, but I don’t know if he’s the only one. I personally think that Leslie Huben is a much, MUCH bigger poser than Moon ever is. He may think he’s spreading God’s word, but personally I think he’s just trying to get everyone to be exactly like he thinks they ought to be (aka just like him). He thinks he’s helping these people when in actuality his mission is the same as Guzman’s: the extinction of the Niaruna people and what their civilization has become over hundreds of thousands of years.

    • 0213rose March 19, 2012 at 1:56 pm #

      I think thats a really important thing to point out about Les. After these last few chapters he really turned into a character that nobody likes really. Especially for me when he came back to the jungle not even for Billy, but just to tell Martin that he wasnt’ doing a good job. I mean what kind of person do you have to be to ignore the fact that an innocent child is dying and focus on his fathers “failings”. And then he has the audacity to say its a good thing because if will help the Nirauna see the light? He’s a little bit of a nut I think because that will definitely not happen.

  8. cadams177 March 19, 2012 at 1:37 pm #

    I agree, Moon is a cool guy, and even though his character is portrayed as kind of an antagonist so far in the book, I find it hard not to root for him.

  9. 0213rose March 19, 2012 at 1:38 pm #

    It is interesting that you originally sympathized with Moon because I never felt that sympathy. He just seemed like a depressed guy who was so down on himself with no motivation to change or do anything about his situation. His life was pretty bleak. Yet as the story went on, he got kind of a purpose when it came to finding the natives and establishing himself as a god like figure. Which sort of impressed me because not just anyone could do that. While he did show a different side, I still see him as very self consumed. Even in his quest to help out the Niaruna, there is still a selfish ulterior motive. Im interested to see where the story will go from here.

    • angelaledford10 March 19, 2012 at 1:50 pm #

      I agree that everything Moon does is for his own benefit. Moon will always have a personal motive for his actions and doesn’t seem to care who he steps on or leaves behind to get what he wants.

      • staceydahm10 March 19, 2012 at 1:57 pm #

        I think there can be many similarities drawn between Moon, Martin, and Huben in that they all continually fight for what they want and never stray from their course.

  10. meghanbradley10 March 19, 2012 at 1:39 pm #

    Right now Lewis Moon confuses me because of the way he seems to be trying to blend into the Niaruna tribe. It’s odd because he’s this wandering “cowboy” of a character and is seemingly always searching for the place in where he fits and now that he is in the tribe, he seems to feel at home. This being weird because this place he calls home is the place he thought he had to destroy to return to his actual home, the states. I’m not completely sure how I feel about him as of now.

    • staceydahm10 March 19, 2012 at 1:41 pm #

      I feel that he doesn’t really feel at home with the Niaruna tribe, but rather is searching for the similarities between this tribe and his true home in America.

  11. petekoczmara March 19, 2012 at 1:39 pm #

    I am surprised about how much i actually like this book. At first I didn’t think anything of it but after reading multiple chapters i began to like it more and more. Lewis Moon has surprised me with his actions especially when he decided to go live with Niaruna. I feel somewhat bad for Moon because it seems to me that he doesn’t belong anywhere. He is trying to find a place where he could maybe fit in among others.

  12. brittondallas10 March 19, 2012 at 1:41 pm #

    For todays class we needed to have 16, 17, and 18 read of “At Play in the Fields of the Lord” In these chapters we see a change in the Indians attitudes, they seem to be more violent then ever to the missionaries, mainly because of Billy’s sickness with what they believe to be Malaria. In the Indian’s culture, Billy became ill because of an enemy, so they try to discover who the enemy is and decide that it is Leslie Huben. When Billy dies, the Indians seem to believe that it is necessary to try to kill Leslie, in the attempt Leslie decides that it is best to leave. Why did the Indians believe that Leslie Huben was the enemy of Billy, when malaria is a disease traveled by mosquitos?

    • Kel Daniels March 23, 2012 at 10:46 am #

      Close, but there are some basic inaccuracies here. The Indians have no concept of “malaria.” Or maybe you meant the missionaries by “they”? In any event, Billy died of “blackwater fever” I believe. Also, the Niaruna thought Kori was Billy’s enemy, not Les. I mention this not to pick on you, but simply to make sure we’re all on the same page in terms of the basic plot.

  13. cadams177 March 19, 2012 at 1:48 pm #

    @Nicklevato I think that Moon is one of the most motivated people in the book. He aspires to bring together all the tribes of the jungle into one nation, led by him!

    • nicklevato March 19, 2012 at 1:57 pm #

      but even after his plan is set into motion, we find Moon wanting more; never being satisfied. He perpetually feeds the ego, nothing more and nothing less.

  14. keldaniels March 19, 2012 at 1:56 pm #

    Right now I’m about three-quarters into this latest read-through. I’m always surprised when I read a great book several times by how different the experience is each time. I recall being much more sympathetic to Lewis Moon in previous reads. He strikes me more and more as a classic poser, self-proclaimed bad-ass who fools himself as much as everyone else. He’s an arrogant troublemaker, though I still can’t help admiring him. He’s got guts.

    • jasen Hengst March 19, 2012 at 1:27 pm #

      I am very sympathetic to Lewis Moon. I think the novel is the most enjoyable to read when it is in his perspective.

    • hresan42 March 19, 2012 at 1:31 pm #

      Perhaps I need to read it several times like you have, but I’m awfully fond of Lewis Moon, as much of a troublemaker as he is. It’s like Padre Xantes says- funny how Moon has captured our attention, isn’t it? Flawed though he is (or perhaps because he is so flawed) I’m very sympathetic to his plight.

      ~Ashleigh Hresan

      • 0213rose March 19, 2012 at 1:42 pm #

        Im wondering what makes you so “sympathetic to his plight?” What is it about the trouble maker side that is so interesting?

      • nicklevato March 19, 2012 at 1:42 pm #

        I agree with Ashleigh and Jasen. I think Lewis is the best character, and I find that the sections dealing from his perspective are far more enlightening and contributive to the overall story than any other character. Moon is the shit. I’d like to see more of him. I find him so interesting because he is so conflicted, and the way he deals with things is beyond the norm, making me want to read more.

        • jasen Hengst March 19, 2012 at 1:58 pm #

          Maybe it is also because Moon is the only character that really is striving for something. Always searching, and the fact that we are unsure of what he is looking for makes us connect with him or like him more. He is the most dynamic character.

      • bayernjung1023 March 19, 2012 at 1:44 pm #

        I’m not so sure if he really has a ‘plight’ per se…..if he does, it’s one he brought upon himself. As you said, the man’s a troublemaker. But, he was not always like that. Before, he had everything, and then lost it in a showing of contempt for a people he had come to despise. I have no sympathy for Moon for just that reason: everything that has happened to him is a result of his own doing.

      • staceydahm10 March 19, 2012 at 1:45 pm #

        I agree, it seems that throughout the story the other characters are drawn to Lewis Moon. Such as Wolfie continues to stay in South America and Padre Xantes and Hazel give a requiem for Moon.

    • benjaminjung March 19, 2012 at 1:47 pm #

      I don’t get why everyone likes moon so much I feel like he is just all over the place. He is causing trouble for a lot of people just because he feels a little aimless, guts or no he is a bit nuts.

      • stuartgaulke March 19, 2012 at 1:53 pm #

        I like Moon for the fact that he is all over the place. It’s kinda fun to try and figure out just what is going through his head. The chapter when Moon really shows us what he is made of (when he is under the influence) was the most interesting IMO

      • staceydahm10 March 19, 2012 at 1:53 pm #

        I agree that there are many negative attributes to Moon’s character, but I feel like many people sympathize with Moon because he is the most interesting character and he has a very interesting story.

      • bayernjung1023 March 19, 2012 at 1:56 pm #

        I agree that Moon is a bit random. It seems like he is geared that way though. It’s become his lifestyle and personally I think it suits the kind of vagabond, destitute character he is.

  15. erinjones10 March 19, 2012 at 1:57 pm #

    I don’t sympathize with Moon because he is willing to meddle in the lives of anyone, mostly the Niaruna people, just for the sake of chasing after his “fantasies.”

  16. benamrein12 March 15, 2013 at 1:52 pm #

    It’s unfortunate for moon and the circumstances he has been put into, but it was his decisions that have led him to the causes and the effects of his life

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