It’s said in Cormac McCarthy’s All the Pretty Horses that a pretty horse, like the bay Blevins rides, is ‘always more trouble than it’s worth.’ Well I think that statement is what really turns the gears of that story. There are many different opinions about that statement. The effects of beauty in a fallen, misguided world where there is still grace. The things crystallized with an arthritic dog and a lamenting brother at the end of The Crossing: grief, regret, sympathy, and grace.
I’ve been around some very bright, talented people during my time in the academy, and I noticed that these people are like very strong swimmers: the direction of their effort- the pure purpose- really is more important than their ability. I think a simple person doing a doggy paddle toward shore is better than an Olympic swimmer with great technique and strength going in the wrong direction- but then again that person might find Atlantis and return.
I watched A Man Called Ove and I really enjoyed it- but I think what’s stuck with me the most is the neighbourhood. There is a parking facility that looks like a bunch of storage units, and everyone walks from there to their homes (and Ove relentlessly and emphatically regulates this part- yelling at anyone who drives down the walking paths).
It’s not the generous welfare state or the homogeneous society that makes Scandinavia by many measurements a better place to live than North America- it’s these neighbourhoods! Well on the aesthetic level (often connected to more important levels) the houses look so much better. I think many homes in North America look like storage units because the garage is the focal point of the building front and center. The areas out front of the houses are safer for children and pets to play because cars aren’t whizzing around. People have to walk from the communal garages and a walk is probably the best thing for your health, and then they’re walking in their community seeing their neighbours. I think the communal mailboxes in Canada have less of the same effect, though.