Jamestown

Jamestown

by Matthew Sharpe

This ragged band is heading down whats left of I-95 in a half-school bus, half-Millennium Falcon.

Based on actual accounts of the Jamestown settlement from 1607 to 1617, Jamestown features historical characters including John Smith, Pocahontas, and others enacting an imaginative re-version of life in the pioneer colony.

In this retelling, Pocahontass father Powhatan is half-Falstaff, half-Henry V, while his consigliere is a psychiatrist named Sidney Feingold.

John Martin gradually loses body parts in a series of violent encounters, and John Smith is aruth and pragmaticredhead continually undermining the aristocratic leadership.

  • Language: English
  • Category: Fiction
  • Rating: 3.07
  • Pages: 320
  • Publish Date: February 16th 2007 by Soft Skull Press
  • Isbn10: 1933368608
  • Isbn13: 9781933368603

What People Think about "Jamestown"

The types of descriptions rightly laughed off as terminally one-sided and gothy and self-pitying by those not caught in the grip of Seriously Bad Thoughts at the moment, but the types of descriptions that nonetheless bluntly and accurately describe the monolithic crushing feelings that can be and are undeniably felt by creatures boxed in by and are themselves summations of flesh 'n' bonefeelings which have no room or basic constitution for things like nuance and complexity and perspectival shifts allowing one to See Tomorrow As a New Day or silver linings as non-delusional or non-trivial. To feel psychic pain so tremendous and claustrophobic and inexorable that words fail to bring it to a truly living and radiant description perhaps precisely because it's, by definition, the kind of thing words fail to alleviate. Imagine feeling really sick to your stomach. Almost everyone has felt really sick to his or her stomach, so everyone knows what it's like: it's less than fun. Imagine your whole body being sick like that: your feet, the big muscles in your legs, your collar bone, your head, your hair, everything, all just as sick as a fluey stomach. Now imagine that every single atom in every single cell in your body is sick like that, sick, intolerably sick. One such e.g. is his description of the basic human experience of living as a "heroic struggle against the exigencies of having a body made out of a trillion cells each with a hungry mouth." Another would be his description of the titular Jamestown as "this wet and sucking thing that vied with my foot for my boot at every step and bespoke the yearning bullshit of men's souls." Or how to look up at the sky during a clear day is to be "blinded by the nothing that hung between the sun and their eyes." And on and on these little gems trail through the bombed out cavities and the condensed ash plains of paper and ink. When I reach foul and desperate enough moods in which altering them with things that traditionally bring about cheer and sunshine (or at least neutral distraction) simply compounds the scope and intensity of the foulness because the fear and frustration brought about by witnessing these traditional means fail in spectacularly unnerving wayswhen this happens Ive noticed that encountering egregiously dark materials1 with enough gusto can eventually begin to untangle the cognitive/connotive knot in one's mind, if not transform and malleate the whole mess into an altogether new light. Sharpe does this at various points within his bleak and phantasmagorial comedy, and while the Reading Me didnt really appreciate the benefits fully (to say the least), the Reviewing Me now thanks him for it, despite the fact that the only thing that really counts in life is the Heat Death of the Universe.

And now onto this pile you can add the insanely great Jamestown by Matthew Sharpe, which very easily is the best of them all, because it is in fact a whole bunch of different things at once: not just a political comment on the Bush administration and 9/11 that many of the others are, but also a new examination of a historical event from the point of view of what we traditionally have considered the "enemy," not to mention a slick and mentally dazzling tone poem at times that combines sophisticated rhyme and meter with the throwaway language of our modern instant-messengering times. Well, probably with the most well-known thing about it, the gimmick that got it all its original press when it first came out -- that the novel is a literal re-telling of the Jamestown myth, the 1600s story of the very first permanent English settlement in North America, which has been embellished so much over the centuries that no one's quite sure what to believe anymore; but in this case under the setting of a post-apocalyptic America, one where a Road Warrior type group of stragglers have managed to take over a large chunk of Manhattan and form their own twisted combination of gang and corporation, who are just now starting to send exploratory groups into the radioactive wilds of Virginia, to start collecting such needed supplies as oil, trees, and uncontaminated food (if any can be found).

Their mission is to cross the wasteland between New York and Virginia, make contact with the local Indian population and exploit their natural resources. The first section of the novel alternates between the perspectives of Johnny and Pocahontas so that by the time they meet, the reader is completely won over by Pocahontas' effusive charm. The scenes in Sharpe's novel so closely parallel the original events that the more one knows about the origins of Jamestown the greater one's enjoyment of the novel is likely to be. Thankfully, Sharpe's vividly realized farce plays much better as a novel than as the lead story on the nightly news.

Matthew Sharpe tries, and does not succeed, to use "modern ghetto speech" as a form of communication between "Poc" and "Johnny Rolfe" but it falls terribly to the inane.

This Pocahontas is maybe my favorite character in fiction so far this year.

I know it's received praise from all over the place, and it was the LBC's "Read This!" book from the summer, but I got half way through and still wasn't enjoying it.

I actually WOULD like to read a retelling of the Jamestown story still, becuase aside from sharing some names, this one didnt really do its job.

Matthew Sharpe (born 1962) is a U.S. novelist and short story writer.