A Perpetual Journey, 2
Lately I’ve been rereading works by authors of the American West. One particularly intriguing author is David Kranes. I met Kranes some years ago when he invited me as a guest artist at the Sundance Institute; he’s written a good deal since then. This past week, I’ve been re-reading his collection of short stories set in Idaho, The Legend’s Daughter, published by Torrey House Press.
Kranes is a writer and playwright whose work has won the Pushcart as well as other prizes and whose plays have been performed throughout the United States and abroad. For 14 years, he was artistic director at Robert Redford’s Sundance Institute, where he served as dramaturg and mentored to such fine playwrights as Tony Kushner and Robert Schenkkan. His novel, The National Tree, was adapted for television.
The list of Kranes’s accomplishments is long and varied and intriguing. (He’s an expert at casino design, an award-winning teacher, and from personal experience I know he is an astute and gracious critic, who knows how to improve with no wounds.
The important thing is to read his work. His writing will intrigue, and at times, scare you, and if you are interested in language/fiction, it will send you scrambling to figure out how he does what he does with words and characters. You’ll think, “This can’t be,” and then you’ll see that it can.
On the initial reading of The Legend’s Daughter, I was so taken by the tight dialogue, by the unexpected juxtaposition of characters, and by the surprises at the turns of the narrative, that I could have missed Kranes’s generous humanity. His world seems at first to be unlike the world of most of us; a world of sudden shifts of circumstances, of the almost magical appearance of strangers; it’s a world where characters are compulsive. Not like us. But reading, following the characters, you remember yourself and think Wait! This is like my world. These fears and failings, this grace and cruelty, these impetuous acts are all mine as well. Kranes’s situations, sometimes gentle, sometimes threatening, dangerous or not, plunge ahead, into unknown territory, physical or emotional, and ultimately into some understanding—or not. Just like us.
For me one of the most compelling stories in the book is “Idaho”. A man who is looking for peace after the last in a string of failed long-distance relationships decides to drive to Idaho, where it is “wet and gemlike and powerful” and “far enough away for love to happen”. By surreal circumstances he is enticed—in one of the most gripping passages in the book—into an ice cave. What happens there will make you think hard, about love, about yourself, and about how powerful the urge to tell stories.