graphic: giving a vivid picture with explicit details,
or rocks having a surface texture resembling cuneiform writing
It was a book I came across in a discount store for a dollar. it was worth more than a dollar. Graphic the Valley by Peter Hoffmeister is a rarity that somehow flew under the radar. In short, it’s the story of Samson loosely retold as the story of a modern American Indian young man living in Yosemite Valley.
Rather than try to merely plant one story in a different setting, with great tenacity and linguistic grit Hoffmeister makes the tale his own, crafting language to carve a unique novel. Elements are mixed together as if over eons to shape a story that seems to exist so naturally you believe it is real. The story exists on its own as a tragedy, yet also exists as a nod do Biblical storytelling, to Native American culture, to ecological messages, to nature itself.
“There was the valley, and the valley was in me, and the valley was with me.” Our protagonist, Tenaya, soon moves in our minds from mere rough forager to mythic figure, an illegal resident of a national park that was originally home to his ancestors, the son of a fanatic, educated on tales and the wild, forced to confront modernity, free to roam and beholden only to the girls he gets wrapped up in, who by fate intertwine him with the forces that mean to spell doom for his inherited legacy and way of living.
Tenaya is told “there are prophets and there are judges[…]both are holy, but they have different jobs.” Throughout the story he must battle with his unique identity and his relationship to the fate of the land, whether his role requires the actions thrust upon him by various characters. Tenaya is a character who sometimes feels less himself and more the environment around him, unable to divorce his identity from his decisions, both of which are in some way one with the land. But if a tree never makes a choice, is he?
And so we discover the fate of a character bound to a place, and the fate of a place caught in the struggle of being bound to claimed inhabitants, the language of the story itself as beautiful yet rugged as the monumental park in which it is set.