Yeah, I can get a bit enthusiastic about the things that I love. I know it, but I can?t help it. Some books, movies, music just make me want to scream out loud in praise.
Up until now, there were three books that moved me deeper than any of the others that I?ve read over the decades. McCammon?s Boy?s Life, Robert Cormier?s Other Bells For Us To Ring and David Martin?s Crazy Love. Now I can add another to that very short list. Don Robertson?s Praise the Human season.
Praise the Human Season is the kind of novel that some readers will say ?Nothing is happening!? After reading one hundred, two hundred, three hundred, four hundred pages and even further, there are not a lot of big surprises or torrid events to treat the reader. Robinson is interested in detail in this novel. His protagonist is a most unremarkable man. He?s a bookish, rather stuffy and predictable high school teacher. He and his wife are both congenial and hardy the notorious type. Yet, this long story shows that every life is extraordinary when examined with enough depth.
The novel begins with Howard Amberson realizing that neither he nor his wife has much time left. They are old and have survived their siblings and even children. He is pondering the ?apparatus? of life and he craves to understand more about it. Why did they live so long and have such powerful love for each other, if only to die and lose all they have made of themselves? Why did a life so full of love and warmth and happiness (and yes, tragedy) have to end in pain and sorrow?
He decides to take his dying wife on a automobile trip. To examine the apparatus further. She hesitantly agrees and along with their beloved cat, Sinclair, they are off. Off their rockers, as some would say. The third person story of their trip in interspersed with a long, rambling journal that Amberson is keeping. At great length he describes some of the most important parts of their lives. Throughout both are acute observations about humanity and the times that people live in. Few subjects are left unexplored in Mr. Amberson?s quest to derive some sort of sense to it all. It?s a long novel and thousands of details add up to build the most complex characters I?ve ever read about. We know these people after reading about them for six hundred pages. Know them and their love for one another, as well as their passion for life itself, is incredibly moving. Some readers have said that Praise the Human Season changed their lives. I think I?d add myself to that list.
As it progresses and Anne Amberson?s health deteriorates, the subject of death ominously hangs over the story. Neither of the two wants to leave this life. They love the sun too much, the rain, cats, babies, their hometown of Paradise Falls and all of its people. It becomes painful at times and I even had a strange dream in which I died in my sleep while reading it.
As the novel comes to its conclusion, astute readers will have a pretty good guess as to what will happen. I had most of it figured out and if you read it, I think you will too. That does not hurt the power of Praise the Human Season a single bit. When I read the last paragraph, I felt as if I had been hit by a train. It?s incredibly sad, yet without resorting to sugar-sweet bullshit, Don Robertson manages to bring a sort of joy to the reader. Acceptance and celebration. As much as one can celebrate the thing most of us fear and dread the most.
Looking on the Internet, there seems to be a shocking lack of information on Don Robertson. I?ve found a few essays and bibliographies, but this guy was such an important and respected writer. It seems that he is nearly forgotten. Devotees of Stephen King should be aware of Robinson though. He published Don Robertson?s remarkable The Ideal, Genuine Man with his own Philtrum Press and King cites Robinson as one of the most influential and important writers to his own career.
Don Robinson had a long and rich career and at this point I?ve only read The Ideal, Genuine Man and Praise the Human Season. I won?t wait long before reading every single book of his that I can find. Don Robertson, my new favorite writer.