Revolving Around A Dark Center
A Feature Review of
Hold the Dark: A Novel
Hardback: Liveright, 2014
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Reviewed by Martyn Jones.
I come to a strange, recurring realization about my surroundings, be they rural, suburban, or urban in character: Every square inch within view has been shaped according to a human plan. Walking in Chicago or Madison, I wonder at the streetlights and sewer grates: each designed to fit in the scheme of the whole, each produced by a mind working to impose further order upon its world.
This remains true in the fields and woods where I grew up in semi-rural Ohio. Trees rise to the sky out of carefully allotted parcels of earth; woods darken the horizon only where someone hasn’t seen fit to develop the ground for some other purpose. Nature across the Midwest is mapped into a grid that is subject to the will of the invisible hand. For all the parks, creeks, and forests, finding a place that is remote—truly distant and out of reach—is difficult.
This foregrounds the quality that immediately caught me about Hold the Dark, William Giraldi’s literary thriller set in the Alaskan tundra: a feeling of extreme remoteness. This feeling takes hold in the first paragraph and does not abate. The language is almost biblical in its simplicity: “The wolves came down from the hills and took the children of Keelut.” It practically begs to have a scriptural refrain appended: “In those days, the wolves came down…”