Tuesday, March 17, 2020
WHERE THE CRAWDADS SING by Delia Owens
Kya is the protagonist in Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens. Given that Kya has had to fend for herself all her life, she knows loneliness. And though she yearns to be a person who doesn't need anyone, she knows that she does: "Kya knew it wasn't so much that the herd would be incomplete without her, but that each deer would be incomplete without the herd" (page 272).
Jerry Saltz was recently interviewed by David Chang and stated that as humans, we each have an undeniable desire to not only dance naked alone ... but to also dance naked in front of people. Based on our personalities and circumstances, some of us are content with a small audience for that dance, and some of us desire a much larger one.
The fact that Kya eventually gains a huge audience through her published books isn't because she pursued the audience. In fact, Kya notices male birds who are not smart and unable to hold good territories "parade their smaller forms around in pumped-up postures or shout frequently—even in shrill voices. By relying on pretense and false signals, they manage to grab a copulation here and there (page 182-183). But ultimately, "males who send out dishonest signals ... almost always end up alone" (page 183). I'd say same goes for females.
Another character chimes in to observe about peacocks that "over eons of time, the males' feathers got larger and larger to attract females, till the point the males can barely lift off the ground. Can't hardly fly anymore" (245).
Owens expertly extrapolates these insights about birds and applies them to humans, with the character Chase symbolizing the bird with all the fancy feathers and false signals in pursuit of the largest audience ... ending up with no audience at all. Poetic justice.
It is ironic but mostly true that it's when I don't CHASE the thing but just hunker down and DO the thing that I become an expert on that thing. And then it becomes my choice regarding who (if any) I allow to watch me dance naked and with abandon.