Monday, February 27, 2012

Jung and the novel - Powder Dreams

I just finished Powder Dreams by David Ward-Nanney and I found it to be a riveting tale, which I hope to see more of as contemporary individuals search for a life of meaning. It's a deceptively complex book and pushes so many buttons, - so many things to address. The reader can't help but connect with Bo, despite his flaws, despite his mistakes. We want to be him when he's on the slopes, not just with him (until a certain incident); but when he entered analysis - that's when I saw his real strength. There were times I had to put the book down for a short while because I felt squirmy, as if I were sitting in that chair across from Dr. Attfield - I was terrified on a visceral level. 
This book is packed with so much, it starts off kind of laid back, like Bo's lifestyle. But when it picks up, there's so much going on your head is spinning, all these undercurrents: from dangerous deep powder skiing to dealing with for floor of The Chicago stock market' from drug dealers to corporate business and the Martha Stewarts of that world; from fragmenting to finding to pull back together again.

There's commentary galore, but what it's really about is people, how people screw up, how people struggle, how people enter those liminal zones, those transitory grey areas where they don't know what's right for them anymore. 

We come to like and really care about so many of the characters, Dr, Kalb, Pearson, and Claire, Abbie, even Marty, who tries to get what he wants via the wrong methods.  

Bo embarks on lifestyles, a number of diverse lifestyles, widely different from each one previous, lifestyles most people envy, yet he tosses them away, a feeling that "something's not quite right, a yearning for something more, a way to feel authentic and yet still function in the adult world which he avoided longer than most. All set against a rollicking contemporary journey across the United States and beyond, into the internal world, the world of Jung, archetypes and powerful forces: tricksters and puer aeternus, the anima and the hero.When the fissures appear, and everything comes crumbling down  - Bo emerges as someone who can and can't take it - he has bouts of disillusionment with those who he trusted (friends, father, bosses) or those he should respect, he feels regret when looking back on things he would change.

I come to this novel from a variety of viewpoints, early on as the mom of a son who goes for the risk taking  sports, although my son chose car racing and skateboarding - he had the same yearnings, the need for freedom, for speed, for risk and the power of the human body tor endure and outwit them.   

I also approach Nanney's tale simply as a reader who wants to be swept away to another kind of life (which he did) and since I'm also an author and from my experience as an editor at Shadow Archer Press and Fissure Magazine, I read with a more critical eye looking how he connects with an audience, writes technically well, handles plot.  As an editor, I'm always searching for a great story, but most of all,  how he treats and develops his protagonist and characters, giving them obstacles and rewards to ensure their growth as human beings.  

And then I come to his novel as another seeker on the path of Jung.  I've read his books, as well as books about him for 29 years or more.  I've gone through therapy (not with Jungians) three or four times in my life, during crisis periods and loved it, I've studied my dreams and learned to live my life using the Jungian Types, archetypes and techniques most of my adult life.
As I write,  I discover my novels act as stages where my personal archetypes speak from somewhere in my subconscious, even before I realize it. Are we not all enduring the same human struggles going on over the centuries, power, will, the desire for fame, the desire for freedom, love, temptation and regret, forgiveness, hope and trust?
  All of these are human realities, lived and explored from ancient times, exploding or culled form the deepest reaches of our innermost selves.  A self often hidden, rejected and feared.  Yet Bo, rises to the challenge, ever an adventurer, one who learns to manage fear one step at a time, he takes the more difficult path in the office of Dr. Attfield, the most challenging task he will ever attempt, one which could bury him, like Nietzsche, like Goethe, like Morrison and Cobain.  he takes up the task of getting to the other side, a place he sought along,  and is wise enough to seek out a guide, A Jungian analyst.  My only disappointment with the book is how Bo left Dr. Attfield's sessions so abruptly, unfinished, I felt - perhaps there was a complicated transference with the father figure - which he didn't want to address, thereby leaving the therapist before he fully dealt with the father figure. I didn't want the sessions to stop - as I read them, I learned about myself, recognized some of my own repressed complexes, my own resistances. 

The complex and hard to pin Jungian type of therapy is hard to explore in a contemporary novel, without getting the reader lost in terminology or abstract dreams. There are aspects which date back to the archaic, not compatible with  what we would consider everyday life even when it enters such urban  pressure cookers as the stock market and drug world, yet Nanney pulls it off.  He has already led us down the fool's path on the journey and we're helpless to step off, until we too, as readers, endure the trials and powerful transformations of a system compared to the Eleusinian mysteries. I read this over the course of a few very busy days, savoring it, yet wanting to get back to it, even as my mind spiraled reassessing my own path in life.  Don't miss this thought provoking contemporary novel - it could have a  powerful and profound on the way you think and experience life.

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