Posts Tagged ‘Hernan Diaz’

‘In the Distance’ by Hernan Diaz – The Western Legend of a Man Called Hawk

 

‘In the Distance’ by Hernan Diaz    (2017) – 356 pages

 

After reading and much admiring ‘Trust’, I absolutely had to go back and read the first novel of Hernan Diaz, ‘In the Distance’.

Like ‘Trust’ which deals with the history of Wall Street, ‘In the Distance’ deals with an aspect of United States history in a personal way. ‘In the Distance’ is the personal history of one Swedish man, Hakan Soderstrom (called Hawk), during the great westward expansion of the United States during the 1850s, fueled by the gold rush in California.

But Hawk is going the opposite way; he’s going east. While he and his brother Linus were migrating from Sweden, the young man Hawk accidentally got on the wrong ship, one headed around Cape Horn and then going all the way up to California, while Linus presumably got on the right ship headed for New York City. Hawk sets out from the gold rush site near San Francisco, California to go to New York City to hook up with his brother in New York City. Sometimes he walks, sometimes he’s fortunate enough to have a horse or burro. Everyone else on the trail is headed in the opposite direction toward the west.

On his long, long lonely trek, Hawk meets up with various individuals and groups of people. Ultimately Hawk becomes a legend and is pursued by law enforcement throughout the West.

Hawk’s encounters with others along the way are sporadic. Thus ‘In the Distance’ necessarily is not as tightly plotted as ‘Trust’. For me at least, the long stretches when Hawk is alone in the desert or prairies make for less lively reading than the times when he encounters people along the way. These alone stretches were somewhat slow going for me. The prose is stately and perceptive, but I get impatient for conversation or more things to happen.

But Hawk’s encounters with others tend to be quite engaging. His encounter with the naturalist Lorimer on the Utah salt flats I found to be particularly interesting. Lorimer dissects the various small animals he finds as he travels with his crew by covered wagon. He does not catalog the differences between the various species, but instead the similarities.

Everything we do, from breathing to walking, from thinking to defecating, is governed by the cord traversing our upper body.”

All animal life is controlled and determined by that nexus of the spinal cord and the brain. Thus,

All animal life was, in essence, the same.”

Is Lorimer brilliant or a crackpot? Hawk and I were both won over to Lorimer’s way of thinking.

Knowing nature, Lorimer would often say, means learning how to be. And to achieve this, we must listen to the constant sermon of things. Our highest task is to make out the words to better partake of the ecstasy of existence.”

For me, ‘In the Distance’ is not as tightly plotted and brilliant as ‘Trust’ but is still an insightful and thought-provoking read.

 

Grade:   B+

 

 

‘Trust’ by Hernan Diaz – “I am a financier in a city ruled by financiers.”

 

‘Trust’ by Hernan Diaz    (2022)  –  402 pages

 

At the center of ‘Trust’ are the husband and wife Andrew and Mildred Bevel. Andrew Bevel is a New York City financier, one of those few who manipulate our markets, our businesses, and our economy for good or for evil. ‘Trust’ is the story of his marriage to Mildred, told from four differing perspectives.

First we have the novella ‘Bonds’, written by Mildred’s associate Harold Vanner. Then we have an outline for a memoir written by Andrew Bevel himself. Then we have the perspective of the woman, Ida Partenza, who has been hired by Andrew to flesh out his memoir. Finally we have notes from the diary of Mildred Bevel.

A quote from Andrew Bevel himself:

Every financier ought to be a polymath, because finance is the thread that runs through every aspect of life. It is indeed the knot where all the disparate strands of human existence come together. Business is the common denominator of all activities and enterprises. This, in turn, means there is no affair that does not pertain to the businessman. To him everything is relevant.”

Andrew Bevel has a mighty fine view of himself. After all, he has made a fortune on Wall Street. As a financier, he is one of the movers and shakers of the entire world economy. The time is a few years after the stock market crash of 1929 from which Andrew escaped unscathed with his fortune intact. After that, Andrew has even a more rosy view of himself.

Most of us prefer to believe we are the active subjects of our victories but only the passive objects of our defeats. We triumph, but it is not really we who fail – we are ruined by forces beyond our control.”

Wall Street

‘Trust’ is 402 pages which might seem quite long, but don’t be intimidated at all, because ‘Trust’ is a page turner for literary people. I sped through it quickly, never stopping. Also there are tons of white space. Plus author Hernan Diaz uses innovative ways to move his many stories of financiers through US history along quickly.

‘Trust’ is the story of how a rich person can use their wealth and money to alter their present reality as well as their personal history, their past. A rich person can buy the past he or she wants even if it is counter to the facts, if we let them.

One of the features which make ‘Trust’ an outstanding novel is the smooth and effective way that Hernan Diaz handles these four different sources so that we readers wind up with a full picture of the situation. One perspective is perhaps never enough to capture the full essence of a person.

 

Grade:    A+

 

 

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