Two Novels About Creation
ROBERT SIEGEL, host:
Well, we haven't found a good, new novel about income taxes, but Gioconda Belli's new novel, "Infinity in the Palm of Her Hand," is a creative retelling of life with Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. And "The Frozen Thames" by Helen Humphreys offers a unique history of that mighty river.
And Alan Cheuse has reviews of both.
ALAN CHEUSE: Creation first, yes? Nicaragua-born fiction writer Gioconda Belli, in her new novel, "Infinity in the Palm of Her Hand," treats the subject of our first parents, is how like to think about them - that is, Adam and Eve.
Her book is sort of biblical science fiction. The pages go from one great first-time event in human life to another: first awareness of us having minds, first time we cry, first orgasm, the first fishing net - which the first couple cleverly surmises from the shape of a mushroom - the first clothing and the first work of art - Eve makes a cave painting to celebrate Adam's first hunting expedition. And then comes the first human experience of winter and childbirth.
Belli performs all this with a deftness and clarity. After this novel, you won't read the book of Genesis in the same way again.
Canadian writer Helen Humphreys deals, in her lovely prose experiment, "The Frozen Thames," with a kind of creation, the way that water turns to ice in winter, in 40 winters to be exact, 40 winters over the course of seven centuries.
Over and over again, the Thames freezes, birds freeze and fall from the air, and Londoners face the cold and danger and pleasure of river ice. Boatmen lament the loss of free-flowing water. The poor sometimes freeze in mid-crossing. Royalty celebrates this mystery of chemistry.
As a lady in waiting to the 32-year-old Queen Elizabeth I muses, the ice is new to us. The old ways of behaving don't seem to apply here. It's as though in the very fact that the river froze, anything else might suddenly become possible.
Reading this inventive, little volume with a shiver, you know what it must have been like for Adam and Eve to see ice for the first time.
SIEGEL: The novels are "Infinity in the Palm of Her Hand" and "The Frozen Thames." Our reviewer is Alan Cheuse.
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