Saturday, August 29, 2020

Chance and Time

This is Chance by Jon Mooallem is an interesting and engaging read. 

It is about the 1964 earthquake in Anchorage and centrally about Genie Chance a radio broadcaster who, by chance, was thrust into the role of communicating to all of the world about what was happening in Alaska. 

Mooallem takes a very challenging approach to presenting the narrative. He frames it within the context of the Thornton Wilder play Our Town which just so happened was scheduled to be performed in Anchorage a few days after the earthquake. 

He suggests that he, the author, is the stagehand like the stagehand in Our Town. And that this earthquake is best understood by viewing the various characters in Anchorage during the quake and after the quake, in the same way as the stagehand presents the characters and story in Our Town

I read a positive review of the book which is what caused me to request it from my library network. Someone, maybe that reviewer maybe another, commented that there was too much about the background of the various characters in the narrative particularly Genie Chance. That the space dedicated to background and what happened before and after the event was relatively inconsequential to the central events of what happened in Anchorage that Good Friday in 1964.

 I disagree, I think the background and the character descriptions does just what the author wanted to do, frame the event as an extraordinary incident within which ordinary people acted.  We learn mostly about Genie Chance, why she came to Alaska from Texas, her children and their father, and what happened to her after she gained a sort of celebrity status. There are several other characters who had a part in the drama surrounding the earthquake.  The author tells us how they arrived in Anchorage and, while relaying the present, how they died in the future.

Like the author I am a fan of Our Town.  Like Our Town, a point in This is Chance is that we don’t acknowledge while we are going through time the priceless phenomenon of time.   It was in large part chance, that Genie Chance, was put in a position to become an important resource and celebrity. Yet, how she got to where she was, so that when the earth quaked, she could be such a resource was not by chance. Even the most introspective among us have a difficult time looking at the present as a point in a series of episodes that will affect the future, and collectively, like an artist's rendition depict and capture our lives.   

No comments:

Post a Comment