Rhonda, the heroine of Mary Pauline Lowry’s magical novel, The Earthquake Machine, is a young woman lost in the borderlands of late adolescence, family dysfunction, sexual identity and the mysteries of love, desire and friendship. On a river trip with friends and chaperones along a real borderland, the Rio Grande, Rhonda lights out for the territories – in this case, into Mexico.
|By: Glenn W. Smith Sunday July 24, 2011 9:40 am|
The American myth of the rugged, self-sufficient individual is ever-present in our culture. Think of Clint Eastwood’s Man With No Name, a character based on the nameless “Continental Op” of Dashiell Hammett’s noir thriller, Red Harvest. The characters abandon the very concept of community. They no longer even want a name that could be known by others.
The myth, of course, is just a fictionalized reflection of a belief held by many Americans: the self-contained individual is all. The furtherance of individual liberty, with little regard for the fate of the community at large, is the only legitimate role of government. The belief comes with magical thinking (or cynical slight-of-hand) that unrestrained selfishness will produce more for all than selflessness, altruism, or compassion.