Sirk TV Book Review: TREEBORNE [Picador]
The essence of a dream lost or creativity gained is always a specific journey depending on its consequence and where it begins. With “Treeborne” [Caleb Johnson/Picador/320pgs], the painting of a small town in rural Alabama speared between the 1920s and 1950s is a very specific portrait of both race relation but also ambition or the lack of it. Told in retrospect through the eyes of Janie Treeborne in 1959, the recollections are interesting because they are both connected and disconnected, fluid and yet jagged. The focal beginnings rest on her grandfather Hugh who was an artist but also hid a secret that debilitated his need for fame in creating abstract art before there was a term for such a thing. The aspect within the novel is a slow burn, setting the settings. The life and death in terminology of Marybelle is quite telling but also steeped in metaphor. The most linear part of the story involves a kidnapping which is motivated by none other than money but takes into account the trajectory of different lives and how some merely exist and some are motivated to do more. Janie’s journey is one that is split in terms of its wants and needs. She takes after her grandfather (including a dirt boy named Crusoe that may or may not be alive). Certain scenarios of the way these parts of the story are told, of muddy river, and lightning crackling tended to bring to mind some of the lyrical and pace of “The Sound & The Fury”. Ultimately, it turns into an idea of both jealousy and complacency and what is the bigger error of judgment. In the end, lives simply turn to dust but the experiences and decisions made create a vivid if not simplistic tapestry of life in the South and choices made.
By Tim Wassberg