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  • By Nina West
    Nov 17, 2011
    If, in your life, you have ever had an experience that felt like a cosmic wake up call, as if something big and deep and mysterious and powerful suddenly wanted you to know it had seen you, yes you, and had not only tapped you on the shoulder but possibly even tackled you to make sure you noticed, then you will read Thunderbird and the Ball of Twine (A Folk Tale) with appreciative understanding. And if you haven't, yet, had such an experience, as you read you may find yourself thinking about events in your own life in a new way, perhaps realizing you had failed to see what was happening right before your eyes. Seeing, in a broad sense, is the thread, the theme, that runs through Juli Kearns' book, Thunderbird and the Ball of Twine (A Folk Tale). Who is seen, who is seeing, what is seen, how one sees, how one is seen. This is the story of what I think of as the All Seeing Eye, an Eye that has been seeing from the beginning of time and that will continue to see, to watch, to take in All... More > That Happens, and the ways that this All Seeing Eye is recognized by individual people but expressed in different ways in each culture. What makes this story, Thunderbird, particular to our time is the way it addresses the idea, and I do find this a fascinating thought to explore, that in our own time, that All Seeing Eye as cultural icon, is expressed in TV, movies, film, the photograph, as technology particular to our time. Thunderbird is also a story--expressed through some highly interesting and entertaining characters and set in our own time--of a collision of cultures. That collision is expressed via a two literal cars, one, a Thunderbird, driven by Johnnie, one of the main characters, and the other a Kia, driven by Odile. I see Johnnie and Odile as archetypes of the artist and that that archetype is also an All Seeing Eye, even a prophet, but not always understanding how he/she prophesies, nor what, exactly, it is he/she is moved to express. Thunderbird and the Ball of Twine is, I think, about those events that happen in life, events that appear to be ordinary events and how the extraordinary is knit into the fabric of the All. I love to look at the cover of Thunderbird and the Ball of Twine (A Folk Tale). I find it both compelling and commanding--an eye, a TV test pattern, evocative of Pacific Northwest native American Indian art. I feel it looking at me, penetrating, unwavering, somehow managing to be ancient and modern at the same time. I might not normally go on about the cover of a book but this quality of something ancient and modern is also contained within the whole story. Beyond these things, Thunderbird is witty, thoughtful, poetic, mysterious, and quirky, a fun read, an interesting read, a curious read: I don't know that I've ever read a book that began with Chapter 0, a fact I find both entertaining and with symbolic meaning. "If you fell in love with me then one day I could gain citizenship in the nation of the insured..." is a line full of humor and truth, spoken by Johnnie, who will eventually ditch the dreadful Hellene and briefly flirts with the woman in the hospital who reminds him of Hellene. And who can blame him for wanting to end things with Hellene who shrieks and lurches and insults her way through the story, with "brutal honesty" aimed at Johnnie, who takes it until he finally realizes ..."he didn't want to be with the beautiful, capricious Hellene. As far as he knew, despite Irma's opinion that he'd shown himself a sucker for abuse, he wasn't a masochist, so it puzzled him how reluctant he'd been to let Hellene go, how eager he was to convince Hellene of her affection for him, to win back a trophy heart which he'd never possessed and hadn't really wanted overbearing his emotional fireplace mantle. If he reflected on his relationships he might divine a pattern that had taken shape a long time ago, but he was innocent of its birth, and Hellene was unique and extreme. When not around her he always felt on the far end of his leash, nose to nose with his electronic dog fence, but it seemed every time he was ready to make his exit she would materialize (not necessarily physically) on the threshold and claim possession though protesting their relationship with nearly every breath, and he would readily lapse into a luxurious torpor of Hellene-agitated despair and resignation which he felt impossible to escape without her, as if she was his soul companion Days of Wine and Roses drinking partner and drying out was impossible without her. He needed her opinion of him to change, to release his future, for her to say she was wrong, to put down the bottle of dark, look up at the light and share in a revolutionary epiphany of hope with him. Together, they could step up out of the gloomy sluice tunnel of light toward their future selves happily shopping Ikea for the marginally real furniture that would both reward and confirm their rehabilitation from chaos to a constructive unit of domestic order affluent with contentment, harmony and grateful spiritual humility." The world of buildings and streets become characters within the story, too: "The coffee shop was a hole exhibiting all signs of denunciation of hopeful treading of water and abandonment of business model aspiring to a means to pay rent. The eccentric hole factor should have played in its favor. The coffee shop should only have appeared unpopular rather than being unpopular..." "I'm going places, look at me," said the street to the coffee shop, passing by. Car horns tooted wildly in favor, each one a vote for forward progress, though the street rumbling their wheels was in need of repaving... "Straight from the university to the financial district, wouldn't you like to come along for the ride," continued the street, taunting, believing the coffee shop must be suffering the sting of its rejection by the cult of higher education, not to mention everyone else." And there is Odile, whose journey and transformation begins with an "exceptional occurrence" that distracts her long enough to result in the collision with the Thunderbird that launches the story; Odile, who finds herself performing as a clown for the first time at her own surprise birthday party and dressed in an excentric costume she made herself from her own green Ikea curtains laced together with rolled duct tape threaded through holes punched at the edges and shoes that "...took considerable thought and some experimentation before she fell on the idea of cutting tops and bottoms for xxx-long toes out of linoleum..." There is also Kyoko, a stable, serene, presence threaded through the story, keeping an eye on everyone. But most of all, there is the exceptional, the unique, the beautiful in an imaginatively constructed world, under the watchful, loving, guidance of the All Seeing Eye, and occasionally heard by those whose hearts and minds are opened.< Less
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Product Details

First Edition
Idyllopus Press
August 26, 2011
Perfect-bound Paperback
Interior Ink
Black & white
2.01 lbs.
Dimensions (inches)
6 wide x 9 tall
Product ID
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