Our secular North American postmodern culture of 2008 treasures the novel. We are hungry for new voices, new experiences, new ways of experiencing a world in which we grow daily less capable of making out the traces of those who have gone before us. The icon, the poem, the song grow increasingly opaque, read only by the sense faculties and not by the heart. Hence the novel's available narrative voice invites us to follow along and get a bit of vicarious experience for the expense of a few hours of our leisure time.
A new novel by Janey Bennett, The Pale Surface of Things (Hopeace Press, Victoria BC 2007), is set on the island Crete. The author is a master storyteller, weaving together interesting and provocative characters in an intriguing setting and drawing the reader effortlessly into a story with several surprising twists and a compelling resolution.
But there is something more to be said about the experience of reading this book. There is meaning, often profound spiritual meaning, lurking under the surface of this tale. The reader is constantly challenged by the opacity of surfaces and characters who seem, at first appearance, monolithic and solid. The author invites us to scrutinize this surface, to reflect upon the choices her characters face, and try to make out a very ancient, very meaningful patterning to her story. The effort is truly worth it.
Assistant Professor of Classics, Western Washington University