I can’t remember the last time a book felt like this. It’s the sort of book that makes you want to quit your job and set up camp in bed for the day solely in order to get to the next scene, the next page, to discover what happens next.
Well, The Sisters Brothers is certainly a book of that type for me. It’s a novel about two outlaws that travel to San Francisco from Oregon in order to kill a man and along the way they murder, steal, and plunder the landscape for all it’s worth. But there’s something dazzling and warm about it all despite the grief and violence of the plot.
(I would recommend this book in a heart beat.)
But when the two outlaw brothers find themselves in California though, they immediately talk about the atmosphere of the place and it reminds me so much of how I felt when I first moved here:
Charlie called over to say he was impressed with California, that there was something in the air, a fortuitous energy, was the phrase he used. I did not feel this but understood what he meant. It was the thought that something as scenic as this running water might offer you not only aesthetic solace but also golden riches; the thought that the earth itself was taking care of you, was in favor of you. This perhaps was what lay at the very root of the hysteria surrounding what came to be known as the Gold Rush: Man desiring a feeling of fortune; the unlucky masses hoping to skin or borrow the luck of others, or the luck of a destination. A seductive notion, and one I thought to be wary of. To me, luck was something you either earned or invented through strength of character. You have to come by it honestly; you could not trick or bluff your way into it.
It’s been almost three years now since I moved to San Francisco and so my memory of those first few weeks in the city are hazy. One of the earliest memories I have left is this: I’m standing in Jules’s kitchen after cooking us dinner. I’ve finished cleaning up yet I’m rooted to the spot as I stand by the sink and look out the window. Jules is in the other room laughing hysterically and I want to join her but I’m starstruck by the light outside. It’s a summer’s evening and that rare feeling has bubbled to the surface again.
It’s a long sunset, so long that it feels like I’m always going to be standing in my girlfriend’s kitchen, listening to her explosive laughter in the other room, and I’ll always be watching how this golden light is sweeping through the trees outside, and how it’s sliding across this kitchen countertop to shake my hand. I can’t stop feeling as if this light is happy to see me, as if it barreled it’s way here, across half a solar system of infinite nothingness, just to make me smile.
And so I understand what the murdering scumbag Charlie Sisters felt on his fictional trek to California; this place is in favor of me.