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persona of Lex Luthor, it is the answer to a theological problem. In "Midrash" and "Inscription for an Asylum," Dietrich gives us Luthor, incarcerated at the Arkham Asylum for the Criminally Insane, warning an adoring public of the dangers inherent in relying on supernatural forces, however benevolent they may seem. Dietrich doesn't confine his concern about the super-ness of Superman to Luthor's monologues. Earlier, as Dietrich's Jor-El ponders sending the planet Krypton's last son to an unsuspecting Earth, Dietrich has Superman's father mouthing similar sentiments in "The Curse of the Pharaohs ": "And, unimprisoned by you, freed on account of the madness/in your hearts, for the purpose of breaking the laws you need him to/maintain, he will, like some gutsy god-king, have power over ycu,/ and he will bruise your heel. And there will be enmity/between what he stands for and what he accomplishes." Though Dietrich attempts early on, with titles such as "The Fourth Man in the Fire" and "The Destruction of the Temple," to align the Superman mythos with biblical renderings of the divine, it is in the voices of the diametrically opposed Jor-El and Luthor that the poet finally accomplishes his purpose. The book's last poem, "Through a Glass, Darkly," is a tour de force ofpoetry/scriptural exegesis . While it does not propose any answers to the difficulties Dietrich raises concerning the possible nature of God or Superman, its final lines neatly underscore Dietrich's mission in embarking, through poetry, on such an ambitious work of cultural criticism usingsuch unlikelymaterials. "Superman , the constancy of his concupiscent star,/is less than this," says Dietrich, "Abig red S. A text/we read too lightly." (MF) By Way of Water by Charlotte Gullick BlueHen Books, 2002, 262 pp., $23.95 This first novel, set in rural northern California in the late '70s, wiU attract readers who are interested in the issues oflogging and rnining in the Pacific Northwest. Yet though locale and subject matter have their appeal here, environmental issues mostly become tangential to the novel's central plot. By Way ofWater narrows its focus to one struggling logging family , the Colbys, who are more concerned with the necessities of daily living and with surviving as a family than with more abstract causes. In the past seven years, Jake and Dale Colby have developed nearly irreconcilable differences. Times are hard, creating additional stress. Jake, an Indian embittered by the federal government's treatment of Native Americans, believes in going it alone; he angrily resists anything resembling a handout at the same time that he is incensed at his lack ofsteady work and his inability to feed his family. Complicating this mix is an inability to control himselfwhen he gets drunk— and Jake drinks whenever he has the wherewithal. His wife, Dale, a Jehovah 's Witness, converted to that religion seven years ago after Jake, in a drunken rage, attacked her when she was pregnant with her youngest child, Justy. Jake's act destroyed Dale's trust in her husband and drove a wedge between Jake and his father, Kyle. 198 · The Missouri Review Needing something solid to ground her life in, Dale has found in the Jehovah 's Witnesses a doctrine that gives her faith and hope as weU as a strict code to live by. Jake feels ignored, sold out by his wife's adoption of an inflexible religion that excludes his own needs. Though he compromises with Dale by doing home Bible study under the direction of an elder Witness , Jake angrily quits when the discussion of Job's suffering proves to him thatJehovah is a merciless tyrant. The novel is a continual interplay between Dale's beliefs and needs and Jake's. What sets it apart is the risk it takes with narrative method: ostensibly multiple points of view are, in fact, one point of view: that of Justy, a highly intuitive seven-yearold struck "speechless" one day by her parents' bitter divisions. Justy, we are told, "gave over her voice, swam to the bottom of the Eel River, slipped her tongue in among the rocks and fell into the currents of their minds." Mute...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1548-9930
Print ISSN
0191-1961
Pages
pp. 198-199
Launched on MUSE
2011-10-05
Open Access
No
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