Beauty: A Novel by Mindi Meltz (Hidden Door Press trade paper, 2009, 215 pages, $14)
Mindi Meltz, a Hendersonville author, has published her first novel, Beauty
, and it is a remarkable example of writing that arises from empathy with animals. Here's the brief review that formed a part of a summer reading feature in the Citizen-Times June 21, 2009 (click attachment below to see full article).
When I picked up local author Mindi Meltz’s new novel, “Beauty,” I expected I’d be looking at it quickly. The blurb made me think that the plot was simple and trendy. After reading a number of pages, I discovered that the book was very good, and the author had talent. The plot is simple. A young woman—a writer—goes to work in a wilderness research center and finds herself attracted to a guy who knows the woods better than he knows women. What’s remarkable is Meltz’s prose. Her narrator, the girl, empathizes with animals, and thinks like an animal, without compromising her sane interactions with people. She vows, “I will become the poem I’m writing.” Her poetry is both sensual and knowledgeable, and it does not falter.
Hear the author
talking about her approach.
Meltz writes four types of passages: writing from the narrator's point of view, showing an empathy for animals; writing from the animal's point of view; writing from the narrator's view as if she had animal-like sensitivity; and straight narration of dialogue and events. Here's an example from
Beauty of the first type of writing:
The eagle was the only one I was not strong enough or brave enough to hold. But I knew that eagle, I fed him every day. I knew the cage he stalked, littered with the delicate rainbow of fish scales. I watched him in my spare time, wondering if there was anything in a human being he could recognize. One of his wings had been amputated in his youth, after he fell from a tree in a storm, his car-sized nest shredded in the wind behind him as he landed on the mundane earth where he should have died.
I don't know what he did all day: he could not fly at all. He moved little, for by nature well-fed raptors rarely needed to. I wondered, if there is nothing to hunt and nothing to fear, what does one do in the stillness?
Often when left alone--or even while we stood there, as if he were distracted from us by some real thought in his mind--he spent long moments staring down at his perched feet. No one could explain this. Even now he was doing it, as the boy stood there talking about him to the crowd of children.
Maybe, I thought, in my own long moments of distraction, he was staring past his feet, beyond to nothing. Maybe this bird who was born to spend his life looking down from clifftops, who had lost his whole life before he ever experienced it, was looking--without knowing it--for the sky.