Author: William Luvaas

Publisher: Spuyten Duyvil (NY), 2012

ISBN: 978-1-881471-17-2

The danger was you could go to sleep here, hopes and memories mixed with mist…”

Worn out hippies, Vietnam Vets, goat farmers, herbalists, ghost hunters, women who don’t shave their legs, believers, unbelievers...and their children…are embraced by this author’s excavations in the detritus of recent memory. Luvaas resuscitates half-buried voices of dissent that were in full form during the 1960s, then were taken to the hills as the nation struggled forward, where they became safely eccentric.

Superficially, this masterful story cycle is related to British TV series such as Ballykissangel and Doc Martin; and also St. Denis, belonging to “Bruno, Chief of Police.” Sluggards Creek is the American version of a small, co-dependent community, almost a brotherhood, of a few dozen neighbors bound up in the net of time and place. It also recalls Dogpatch, the setting for a mid-20th century comic strip, where American people lived their lives without much regard for national trends, and where interpersonal relations trumped law enforcement.

In present-day Sluggards Creek, however, Nature trumps everything. The allusions to fire in the cycle accommodate our anxieties about global warming, destruction of resources; and energy shortages. A heat wave points to youthful passions. A fire escape is an exit for bad memories. Luvaas invokes forest fires, cremation, burning love, searing pain, electric shocks, but most powerfully he describes being “down” in the redwoods when it rains:

“…incessant rain, foghorns moaning not just at night but constantly, tubercular fogs haunting aisles between the big trees, frogs popping out of drains, Fred’s goats getting hoof rot, Bearclaw lying under a sleeping bag in her cold, damp, unhealthy shack , too depressed to get out of bed, no dry firewood to burn...The days of sunshine angling down through lacy redwood boughs behind her cabin, tiny trillium and daylilies gaily mixed with maidenhair ferns across the forest floor, morning air freshly scrubbed seemed gone forever.”

The lead narrator, “Lawrence Connery,” who supplies firewood, lovingly introduces Louise, who wears a hawk or seagull feathers in her hair; Tia, a single mother who picks crabmeat out of claws at the cannery and sleeps with Fred, the Goat Man. There are Carly and Margie, good-hearted lesbian owners of Chez Amie; Tommy, earnestly building a supercomputer that will have the brainpower of a nine-year-old; his Luddite father; Hector, one of the “Jesus people;” Lorna the panty-free milkmaid; and unforgettable others, including much-loved goats and dogs.

Luvaas leans toward the apocalyptic, but he also comes across as a guardian of folk tales, fairytales, and ghost stories. Time is running out for the characters, yet their stories are not depressing; they are enchanting, touching, amusing, even comical. Underneath runs a current of warning over a sigh of resignation.

Understandably garlanded with awards, Luvaas teaches creative writing at the University of San Diego. He was born in Eugene, Oregon, and graduated from UC-Berkeley, where he was an activist. He has published two novels in addition to many short stories and essays, which have appeared in top-ranked literary magazines.

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