Having just read Warren Haustrumerda’s debut book, Tall Tales of Felony and Failure, my mind keeps telling me to sum it up with a single phrase. A complete reversal of the “life is pretty bad sometimes, but you can sometimes find peace” stylings of Kurt Vonnegut in Slaughterhouse Five, one can corrupt an oft repeated phrase from it and capture the essence of Tall Tales perfectly: Nothing is Beautiful and Everything Hurts. Upon finding that particular phrase with which to launch the rest of my thoughts about the book from, everything fell into place quickly.
An excavator tearing up dirt and rock ton by ton and dumping it into a machine that blasts it with water and shakes it down a sluice box, separating the heavier material across a series of riffles, and the gold flakes eventually being sifted down into a thin layer of synthetic ‘moss’ to be collected later. A scoop of dirt and rock being carefully panned by hand, swirling the water gently to gradually reveal whatever small bits of precious metal are hidden beneath. I could have used any number of metaphors to display the disparity between brute forcing one’s way through as much material as possible, or taking time to handle an individual project with a bit more focus- a shotgun blast versus a precision rifle, fast food versus fine dining, a hammer and sickle, whatever. I’ve been watching Gold Rush: Alaska lately.