Okay, I don’t get out much. When I have to go to a medical appointment across town it is kind of a big deal. I have to adjust my drugs and diet for a couple of days. My oxygen bottles need to be ready to go. I need to minimize my time out of the house (brain fog becomes a big problem after about 3 hours) so I use my smart phone for everything that I can: check in, payment, and navigation to the medical center. My car, named Stumpy, handles my email along the way, tells me the route, and also gives me weather reports. I love technology!!
The last time I went to my rheumatologist’s office I didn’t get into the elevator in time before it closed its door and left. Hey, there are a lot of elevators there and they don’t all go to the floor that I needed. Behind me, I heard the voice of a man who complained loudly about how impossible modern technology is, and he advised me to push the button again and to hope for the best. I pushed the button, and this time when my elevator car arrived, I had sorted things out and managed to get in the right one on time. He joined me and continued to rant about technology, and then suddenly began to vent about “needing our country back” and assured me that it would take a long time, but that we were going to “get the country back.”
Stunned, I looked at him from across the elevator car. He was an older white man in work clothes, someone who looked like he lived in a rural area. I may have backed up a little more. All I could manage to get out was that I had a different opinion from him, and immediately his manner changed, and he became polite. Yeah, right. I saw that rage you’ve got going on under your farm hat…I got out at my stop, got my little ol’ liberal butt out of there, and didn’t look back. How did that segue from frustration with technology to MAGA extremism in a heartbeat?
Demon Copperhead (by Barbara Kingsolver) seems to be a modern rendition of David Copperfield set in rural southern Appalachia (Lee County, Virginia) that has packed into it all the horrors of vulnerable populations in one neat package. It was the kind of book that is just horrifying while completely engaging you in the story. Demon is the child of a mother who dies young and is forced to enter the foster system. In placement after placement, he is mistreated and sometimes starved as he is used for labor or a source of income by his foster parents. As I read the book, I became aware of how bad things can be in an at-risk population where the job opportunities are few and far between, resources are limited, and education substandard. These communities, insular and tightly knit, cling to each other to help out and somehow survive as they are preyed upon and abused by corporations and pharmaceutical companies.
In spite of all of this, and even though Demon is betrayed again and again by the people in whose care he is placed, he survives, comes to terms with his history and the people in his life, and shines on as the author of a comic series about his people, the Appalachians. All the events and understandings of his life, the good and bad, come to life in his comic series called RedNeck, that shines a light on the people of his community.
This book is just amazing, and it really made me learn new things and start thinking about the world around me in new ways as I knitted along listening. Towards the end of the book, Demon mulls about the differences between people who live on the land, relying on each other, and the people in cities who scramble for money since money is needed for everything. From the perspective of advanced technology and more money, city people look down on land people as unsophisticated and ignorant, when in truth people should be more important than things. Conversely, it is also easy to feel intimidated and overwhelmed in unfamiliar situations; a modern high tech city (or medical center) certainly can be that to people who don’t have weekly trash pickup, sidewalks, or, yes, elevators. Suddenly I was back in the elevator in the Kaiser building, looking at a frumpy man who was furious about technology and the loss of his country.
I’ve always been a fairly reflective person, but lately I’ve had more time than usual to think about things. I know people who are consumed by money and who hunger for expensive possessions. Some of these people want expensive things as status symbols, and there really isn’t enough money to make them happy. I recently ghosted someone who thought that I envied and resented their inheritance. I no longer correspond with a family member who told me that they would have more things if they hadn’t had children. My tax preparer last year exclaimed, in a shocked tone of voice, that I hadn’t made any money at all last year!
Well, yeah. After you have been referred to palliative care you just don’t worry about money anymore; I have everything that I need, and why would I want more? My prognosis has improved since then, but the lesson remained. Demon’s thoughts about the divisions between the people of the land and people who live in cities based on economies remain with me. In a way, the division between the healthy and the chronically ill is similar. The divisions between different ethnic and religious groups. The divisions between gun owners and those of us who want gun regulation. How many of these divisions are rooted in the underlying social/economic structures glimpsed in Demon Copperhead? I guess you could say that this book was life changing. I’m knitting to a new book these days, but the reflections rooted in Demon Copperhead go on.
Yesterday Demon Copperhead won the Pulitzer Prize!!
18 thoughts on “Thoughts while knitting to Demon Copperhead”
I say, Marilyn !! – that must’ve made you feel like some kind of .. well, seer ! 😀 (I felt a wee bit like that after reading “Wolf Hall” that promptly won the Booker Prize.) Kingsolver says “as a writer I definitely choose the fast car, the impossible rock face, the free fall”: she obviously likes a challenge as much as you do, m’dear.
I loved, loved, loved Wolf Hall. That was also an amazing book that really caused my perspective to shift.
I’m not sure that I like challenges, but by golly I’m going to try to raise to them.
Not like challenges ???
Good grief, woman !! – your whole life is one challenge after another. Yesyes, I do realise that you would prefer not to have them raining down upon you; but you greet every one with such courage and thoughtfulness that I suspect you’re just waiting for the next one to show it what you’re capable of !
Okay, this is a huge laugh: a few moments after I read your comment the tornado sirens went off near my house and the cats and I had to go hang out downstairs. We got hit with ping pong ball sized hail, but no tornado. Poor roses outside had the challenge this time…
My, my, aren’t you the discerning reader! I’d have felt pretty smug about choosing a Pulitzer Prize-winning book before the award was announced.
Well, it would have been better if I had blogged about the book before the Pulitzer Prize winners were named. 🙂 I had taken the picture and I’ve been thinking about what to write for a few weeks now. Someone else online mentioned the book to me, so they should get the credit.
Truth is, Colorado, that she only feels smug about having predicted correctly what the medicos will tell her .. [grin]
Well, just a little smug…
Thank you for the thoughtful post and reflection – they offer some good food for thoughts.
The book sounds very interesting – if only I could manage to read one (it has been a while since I have been able to finish one).
I’m really sorry for your health struggles and complications. I applaude that you live your life at fullest that is possible, without worrying about incomes as long as not needed.
I wish you that the palliative care won’t be needed for a good while still ❤
I struggle to read when my brain fog gets bad so I’ve switched to audible; I listen in the car and while I’m falling asleep which helps me get through the book too.
That’s a good approach 🙂
I had heard the name of this book before, but I hadn’t seen a review yet. Thanks for your thoughts on it!
I always read a bunch of the reviews on Amazon from other readers before I buy. I picked up on the book from someone else, and after reading others thoughts I bought the book. I’m glad that I did, but it is not a light read.
I stumbled across your site while searching for new blogs to read. This was a beautiful read. Unfortunately I haven’t been able to finish Demon Copperhead. I made it 1/2 way through the book. As a victim of childhood abuse, it was very triggering. However, after reading your review, I’m going to push through. Sounds like it will be redeeming at the end.
Oh, I think that this book would be triggering in so many ways; I completely understand! The drug abuse part was really hard for me as I know people who became addicted to oxycontin. It does pull together by the end of the book and Demon confronts and puts together an understanding of the abuse in his life and the comic strip -> graphic novel is provides a vehicle for validation and redemption. (Somewhat like writing a blog as you cope with the continuing adventures of a chronic disease in the time of Covid…)
I’m glad you found me. 🙂 I hope that you like cats and knits too with the occasional blog about the garden and wildlife.
Ugh that guy sounds horrendous, well done for staying polite I’d have probably got in a row with him. I don’t think this will be a book for me but thanks for sharing your views and how life changing it is. I’ve been realising recently I’m in a good place mentally regarding “stuff” and don’t need or want things. My parents were talking about all their stuff and what we will do with it after they are gone. There’s 3 small items I’d like but I don’t need anything else and if I brought it here it would end up being clutter I’d paid ££££ to move. Inheritances are tricky, I know others who’ve lost touch over disputes, jealous or guilt.
Believe it or not, I encountered another MAGA idiot while waiting for my son to arrive with the car after my cath lab procedure. He was loudly going on and on about racist thugs and then said “Fucking Liberals” in a real loud voice. I whipped around to give him a piece of my mind but realized that my son would be so upset if I got into an altercation in front of the hospital (in my wheelchair), especially since there was some trouble with bleeding from the wound, so I settled for my best “behave yourself” teacher glare and he did quiet down. It is just shocking how disrespectfully people can act in public.
I have been getting stuff out of my house for a couple of years now and it feels great. No one in my family will want some of these things that I’ve acquired, so it is time to move them on to a better life with someone else. So many knitting books have been donated, and seriously, who needs 20 years of saved knitting magazines? They were getting a little musty anyways; into the trash! I’m happy with the less cluttered life and there will be much less for my kids to deal with. Seriously, with everything in my house, there is only about 5 things that the kids will want. I’m slowly working myself up to getting rid of the loom and spinning wheel, and the open space will be nice.
I’m sending some stuff off to recipients now so that there won’t be any problems later. 🙂
That sounds like a very though-provoking book! Thanks for your review and discussion 🙂