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The Silent

Dann, Jack

ISBN 10: 0553380389 / ISBN 13: 9780553380385
Published by Bantam, 1998
Used Condition: As New Soft cover
From Whitehorse Book Shop (Nashville, IN, U.S.A.)

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About this Item

1998 Trade PB. No marks, text clean, binding tight. Civil War fiction. Having watched as his parents are murdered, he wanders the country. The novel's narrator, MundyMcDowell, is a 14-year-old witness to the fighting in the second year of what his neighbors would call "the War of the Rebellion." After sneaking away to watch the boys in gray fall in battle, Mundy returns in time to see his house burned and his mother raped and murdered by blood thirsty Yankees. From this point on, he refrains from speaking to the strange visitors--including soldiers and the spirits of dead slaves--who start inhabiting the environs around his home. Although written in the coarse first-person style associated with Huckleberry Finn The Silent has a structure and imagery that can accommodate the psychological realism of Gunte Grass and Jerzy Kosinski. Bookseller Inventory # 000667

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Bibliographic Details

Title: The Silent

Publisher: Bantam

Publication Date: 1998

Binding: Trade PB

Book Condition:As New

About this title

Synopsis:

From the critically acclaimed author of The Memory Cathedral comes perhaps the most powerful, haunting, and unforgettable novel of the Civil War--or any war--ever written. Provocative, poetic, and disturbing, it introduces us to a young narrator, Mundy McDowell, whose voice rivals any in literature, bringing poignantly to life the surreal horrors of battle and its spiritual cost to human survival.
I was scarce twelve the day the damn Yankees invaded the valley. I seen a lot that day I ain't never gonna forget.

Men blown apart, screamin' and dyin' all around me. I was wandering in the woods like I wasn't supposed to and wound up right in the middle of the battle. And that's what I suppose saved me.

When I got back home the main house was burning to the ground. I saw two men wearin' bits and pieces of 'Federate and Yank uniforms. They killed Poppa right off, and Mother they dragged into the front yard before they killed her too. I reckon that was the day I first got the knack of being invisible.

The spirit dog seen me right off, though. He was big and black and smelled like burning. His eyes were like red coals and everywhere he went, it seemed death followed. Him and me, we mostly traveled together after that.

I passed through midnight fields of dead and dying soldiers, reeking makeshift field hospitals worse than hell itself; climbed into the mountains where the runaway slaves hid; and walked through towns shattered by the passage of the war.

I met a lot of people, some of them living and some of them just memories. There was Jimmadasin, the slave who died on my account, and Mammy Jack, who taught me to see visions; the gallant Colonel Ashby, who let me ride by his side, and, of course, the mulatto whore Lucy, who saved my life twice.

Last but not least, there was mad but brilliant General Jackson, who was probably responsible for putting more men in their graves than any other during the Shenandoah campaign. Whether he was a hero or a demon I never did determine, but I wish I had never met him at all.

And through it all I remained silent. The power of speech left me the day my parents were killed and I first saw the spirit dog. You see, the whole time I was wandering through that valley of death I was deciding on whether to go back to being human or to become a spirit myself, and that's what this book is all about.
From the Hardcover edition.

Review:

Civil War fiction of the 1990s, following the lead of filmmaker Ken Burns and historian Shelby Foote, tends to explore hagiographic themes, espousing platitudes about political self-determination, national reconciliation, and the liberation of those in bondage. Jack Dann's The Silent is a wildly eccentric exception to this rule that reads like a prequel to R.E.M.'s Fables of the Reconstruction. The novel's narrator, Mundy McDowell, is a 14-year-old witness to the fighting in the second year of what his neighbors would call "the War of the Rebellion." After sneaking away to watch the boys in gray fall in battle, Mundy returns in time to see his house burned and his mother raped and murdered by bloodthirsty Yankees. From this point on, he refrains from speaking to the strange visitors--including soldiers and the spirits of dead slaves--who start inhabiting the environs around his home.

Although written in the coarse first-person style associated with Huckleberry Finn, The Silent has a structure and imagery that can accommodate the psychological realism of Gunter Grass and Jerzy Kosinski. (In fact, Dann cites Kosinski's The Painted Bird as one of his inspirations.) If you enjoy Civil War novels but are tired of sermonizing, The Silent may be the treat you are looking for. --John M. Anderson

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