Like many of you here, I dragged my feet reading The Glass Rainbow, not wanting to rush to its conclusion. Last night I reached that end. I believed, and still do, that the epilogue to The Tin Roof Blowdown is the finest writing ever by anyone, anywhere, any time, on any subject. But The Glass Rainbow is an awesome book, too, in every respect, and I found myself once again frequently stopping to savor every memorable passage. It is a spiritual exercise.
And the passage that most touched my heart was the opening of Chapter 9, p. 138:
I sometimes subscribe to the belief that all historical events occur simultaneously, like a dream inside the mind of God. Perhaps it's ony man who views time sequentially and tries to impose a solar calendar upon it. What if other people, both dead and unborn, are living out their lives in the same space we occupy,without our knowledge or consent?
Who other than James Lee Burke writes like this? No one.
I read the posts on this forum almost daily and could not stop myself from going through this thread. It did not 'spoil' my reading of the book. For me, whodunit takes a back seat, for it's all about the journey, the characters' and ours. We care about the people who inhabit JLB's fictional world, their flaws and frailties and motivations, their strength of character and loyalties and truths and loves. We are encouraged to reflect on our similarities and differences with them and among ourselves, to ponder our human connections, the threads that link us and what keeps us separated.
There is so much in The Glass Rainbow: Dave's agonies over Alafair, Dave's and Clete's unbreakable bonds of love and friendship, Dave and Helen's subtle understanding of each other, Molly's quiet strength and understanding of the demons that haunt Dave, the lyrical and awful (i.e., full of awe) descriptions of New Iberia, Bayou Teche, the homes, the towns and the slums, the weather and vegetation, the complexity of human nature, the perniciousness of evil, the vulnerability of the innocent...
The paddle boat motif is brilliant. Dave's own foreboding of his own death? Perhaps. It is also a connection to Dave's constant ruminations, here and in earlier work, of the Confederacy and the culture of the South, particularly to In the Electric Mist With the Confederate Dead. What is old Southern culture's impact on the present? How are relations between races unchanged and how different? Did Dave have a near death experience in In the Electric Mist? Is it the same in The Glass Rainbow, or did the steamship captain succeed in calling Dave (and Clete?) to the other side? Is Clete on the boat to join Dave or to bring him back? After all, he earlier did tell Dave he wouldn't let him go, would "kick [Dave's] ass" if he died. So much is in here about Tripod and Snuggs. They, old as they are, are still alive. Are they a symbol of hope,the Bobbsey Twins of the animal world, a mirror image of Dave and Cletus?
Yes the ending is ambiguous, the wounds not necessarily fatal, but should it be true that Dave and Clete are gone, it is a fitting conclusion. We know all life ends, and, unfairly, sometimes too soon. The young victims are robbed of the wonders and joys of the life that should lie before them. We would miss Dave and Clete, but they have lived full lives. But that is for their creator to decide, n'est ce pas?
If this is in fact the end of the road for the Bobbsey Twins of Homicide, we do have eighteen books that we can devour at will. I do hope, though, that Dave and Clete's adventures are not yet over. I, for one, am not ready to let them go.
Those who post on this forum care deeply about the world that you've created, Jim, and they write with great wit and passion and intelligence. But they are but a speck in the cosmos of the hundreds of thousands, perhaps millions, of your readers. I sometimes wonder what you feel, what you think, when what you do, what pours from your mind onto the page, affects so many so deeply. Are you awed? Overwhelmed? What a gift you have.
We are very fortunate that you give so generously of your time and your thoughts to this forum.
You are, indeed, the best.
The best writer.
And a humble and honorable man.