A brilliant and provocative exploration of the interconnection of private life and the large-scale horrors of war and devastation.
A Pulitzer Prize and National Book Critics Circle Award finalist, and a winner of the Bay Area Book Reviewers Association Award, Susan Griffin’s A Chorus of Stones is an extraordinary reevaluation of history that explores the links between individual lives and catastrophic, world-altering violence. One of the most acclaimed and poetic voices of contemporary American feminism, Griffin delves into the perspective of those whose personal relationships and family histories were profoundly influenced by war and its often secret mechanisms: the bomb-maker and the bombing victim, the soldier and the pacifist, the grand architects who were shaped by personal experience and in turn reshaped the world.
Declaring that “each solitary story belongs to a larger story”—and beginning with the brutal and heartbreaking circumstances of her own childhood—Griffin examines how the subtle dynamics of parenthood, childhood, and marriage interweave with the monumental violence of global conflict. She proffers a bold and powerful new understanding of the psychology of war through illuminating glimpses into the personal lives of Ernest Hemingway, Mahatma Gandhi, Heinrich Himmler, British officer Sir Hugh Trenchard, and other historic figures—as well as the munitions workers at Oak Ridge, a survivor of the Hiroshima bombing, and other humbler yet indispensible witnesses to history.
War, Griffin contends, is an evil rooted in lies, and arises from personal lies and family secrets as well as polarized gender roles that warp the private self. That message dominates this lengthy lyric meditation, a fragmentary collage in which the feminist Griffin ( Woman and Nature ) jumps disjointedly from the fire-bombing of Dresden to her discovery that her grandfather was an alcoholic. Mixing history, myth and memoir, this kaleidoscopic work contains passages of striking power along with dazzling character sketches: Kaiser Wilhelm II riding a white horse through the streets of Tangier; Gandhi heeding his inner voices; Nazi Heinrich Himmler, as a boy, repeating classmates' confidences to his schoolmaster father; Werner von Braun designing rockets in Alabama; General MacArthur trying to impress his mother with his heroism. Ultimately, though, one feels that Griffin's comment about Hemingway's experience of war--``the fragments never came together''--applies to this book as well. Author tour.