Bulletin Daily Paper 10-12-14

Page 41

SUNDAY, OCTOBER 12, 2014 • THE BULLETIN

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'Spark': damaged andmnfused, Ro inson explores elie and taking livesalong theway with grace an openness "Spark" by John 'AvelveHawks (Doubleday, 301 pgs., $25.95) By Janet MaslIn New York Times News Service

what reaction he is eliciting in

er-class British accent so he

"LIla: A Novel"

others. He has the perfect job

can pose as a workman to get

by Martlynne Robinson; Farrar, Straus and Giroux (262

qualifications for a hit man, onto an estate outside London and that's the occupation he by claiming to be a delivery has fallen into. man for something called JolSo when we first meet him,

Los Angeles Times

iar with Robinson, a novelist who can make the most quo-

work on a project that is more than a little Faulknerian: a

dystopian talents of John

nessman named Peter Stetsko

TwelveHawks than"The Trav-

park his car. "Look right. Look

dogs turn out to be the hit

gy that, thrillingly as it began, eventually bogged down in subplots and digressions. Clearly exhilarated by the fresh start that "Spark" affords him, this author cre-

ates a much simpler premise that forges a breathless action plot out of many of the ideological tenets of the "Traveler" books. Its main character thinks of him-

self as a Spark inside a Shell since undergoing a drastic Transformation. Translation:

He had a bad motorcycle accident and believes that even

though his body can still walk and talk, he is in fact dead. His idea of a good time is to nail a stake to the floor, attach him-

self to that stake by a string and walk in perfect circles. No, that's not the exciting

part of "Spark." And neither are any of the traits that

put our hero (who goes unnamed as he narrates most of the book) in the realm of high-functioning autism. He hates being touched. He experiences no emotional re-

sponses other than curiosity, boredom and disgust. He has programmed his phone with photographs of 80 faces, each one signifying a d i fferent human response, like joy or pain or fear, so that he can tell

man's first soft spot. He rates them highest on the pyramid up the phone, and compared of life-forms, and his archenStetsko's photograph to the re- emy is a fellow hit man whom ality in front of me," he tells us. he once caught savagely tor"Then I raised my weapon and turing a canine victim. This, shot reality in the head." likeevery breadcrumb Twelve As i n ea r l ier H awks drops during t h e books by Twelve course of this story, will come H awks, t hi s p r o - to matter greatly. tagonist lives in an Midway through the book, ominous, technolo- it becomes apparent that the gy-dominated world main character — who isbewhere machines aid ginning to think of himself as or spy on all aspects Jake, his preaccident name of life. Sometimes, — is regaining his humanity. they can do both, That Spark is beginning to and thefew freesouls catch fire. left in society fear that Twelve Hawks sets up the a takeover by artificial intelli- battles in"Spark" as more than gence isn't far away. simple combat. His appeal lies There are "bash mobs" and in his pairing of one system of Luddite gangs that arise to reb- belief against another and letel against the forces of technol- ting them duke it out. There is ogy, spying and totalitarian- someone here who tries to jusism, freedom fighters who like tify actions with this: "Everynothing more than stomping thing that goes on in the union the equivalent of Google verse is a physical process that Glass. involves boson particles that At first, we follow the hit have an integer spin such as man around the globe as one or two, and fermion partihe goes from assignment to cles that have odd, half-integer assignment, describing the spins." By everything, this perphysical experience of being son means everything. Whoan automaton in the spooky ever is on the other side of the new world. It i s a d y stopia argument must hear it out and in which money buys every- can't dismiss it out of hand. thing, especially youth; the And how many dystopian main markers for the poor are thrillers give Rene Descartes now signs of aging even more a significant role'? Descartes' than signs of starvation. The "Cogito, ergo sum" comes up hit man observes all this unrepeatedly as a matter of cruquestioningly and takes his or- cial important in a world where ders from a woman he knows artificial intelligence grows mostly long distance. Since he more powerful every day. Does is exceptionally crafty at ex- the fact that a computer thinks ecuting these jobs, part of the means that it exists'? Think you fun is in watching him impro- can answer that easily? Not so vise. One very worthwhile de- fast: John Twelve Hawks would tour involves his taking voice like to spend a lot of "Spark" coaching to acquire a low- mulling that over with you.

Over the last decade, Marilynne Robinson has been at

tidian moments epic because of her ability to peel back the surfacesofordinary lives. series of novels, taking place The bookbegins by looking in 1950s Iowa and revolving backward: to Lila's rescue (or around a narrow set of char- theft) from a family that neacters, that seeks to use nar- glects her and her subsequent rative as a tool for meditation, Dust Bowl era meandering for an apprehension with a loose tribe of of the world. drifters, who together Her 2004 n ovform the outline of a el "Gilead," which family. won th e P u litzer More than anyone Prize fo r f i c t ion, else, she relies on takes the form of a Doll, who took Lila communique from as a child and raised a Protestant pastor her as her own. "They never spoke named John Ames to his young son; about it," Robinson "Home" (2008) turns notes, "not one word to Ames' lifelong friend the of it in all those years.... But Rev. Robert Boughton and his she felt the thrill of the secret relationship with a different

sort of (prodigal) son. To call one the sequel of the other is to miss the point of what Rob-

inson is doing, which is not so much to evoke experience

sequentially as concurrently, and in so doing, to trace the incomprehensible largeness of even the most constrained

lives. Such a p erspective also

marks her new novel "Lila," which returns to Pastor Ames and his wife, Lila, a much

younger woman who is also something of a prodigal. "And she turned and walked away,"

Robinson writes of her early in the novel, "instantly embarrassedto realize how strange

she must look, hurrying off for no real reason into the dark of the evening. The lonely dark, where she could only expect to go crazier, in that shack where she still lived because

it was hard for her to be with people. It would be truer to say hid than lived, since about the

only comfort she had in it was

Grid ContInued from F1 Nuclear plants

c a nnot

m oney b ecause

they earn a tax credit for each kilowatt-hour they generate. The problem is especially acutefornuclear reactorsbecausetheircosts for fuelare roughly the same whether they are running or not. They arerefueledon a fixed sched-

belief and its related questions T hroughout

hard line on salvation and the soul. Ames, on the other hand,

is gentler, unwilling to see spirit outside the filter of daily

life. "It's all a prayer," he says, late in the novel. "Family is a prayer. Wife isa prayer.M arriage is a prayer." But when Lila suggests that baptism, too, is a prayer, Ames takes is-

sue; "No," he insists. "Baptism is what I'd call a fact." The distinction is import-

ant, signaling the tension between faith as sensibility and faith as doctrine, which

is emblematic of Robinson's intentions for the book "If any scoundrel could be pulled into heaven," she writes, "just to make his mother happy, it couldn't be fair to punish

houb, manager of business development for ABB's Power

producer to the consumer, all

Consulting business. But with utilities trying t o m a i ntain

or she is disconnected from

profitability and green advocates trying to encourage solar and other distributed gen-

eration, the argument will be complicated. "Not everybody is going to be happy," he said.

' NQRTHWEsT

all the grid's other functions,

CROSSING

such as capacity, transmission and distribution.

is used up. Their labor costs, mortgage costs and mainteAll the various generators nance costs are roughly the connected to the grid — now same, too. But if the hourly including rooftop solar and "microgrid" owners who genprice for energy is suppressed by wind and sun, suddenerate on their own but use the ly the nuclear plants can't grid for backup — are going make enough money to keep to have to share some of the running. Thor Swift/The New York Times costs, predicted Martin ShalThus, some have already LuIs Zavala, left, and Jose Gazo of Solar CIty install photovoltaic panels on the roof of a house In San closed and more are threat-

boo k ,

sun does not shine, and moving the electricity from the

the system, when in fact the connection has become stronger, making the household a supplier asw ellasaconsumer of energy, and a consumer of

ule, not when the uranium

the

Ames argues with his old friend Boughton, who takes a

scoundrels who happened to and Doll gave her hand a lit- be orphans, or whose mothtle squeeze, whenever she lay ers didn't even like them, and down exhausted in the curve who would probably have of Doll's body, with Doll's arm better excuses for the harm to pillow her head and the they did than the ones who shawl to spread over her." had somebody caring about The basic action of the nov- them. It couldn't be fair to punel is simple: Lila, newly mar- ish people for trying to get by, ried and pregnant with Ames' peoplewho were goodbytheir baby, has to decide whether own lights, when it took all the she will stay or go. It's a harder courage they had to be good." decision than we might think, For Robinson, the point for she has neverbeen a stayer; is reconciliation, which has she is wary as a skittish colt. long been one of her essential "I just don't go around themes. Who are we and how trusting people. Don't see the did we get here'? What does need," she says to Ames, right any of this mean? "I believe before she tells him, "You in the grace of God," Ames ought to marry me" — a mo- says. "For me, that is where all ment that deftly captures the these questions end." What he conflict at the center of both and this profound and deeply character andnovel,thedesire rendered novelhave to offer, to belong and the competing then, is not reconciliation in a certainty that in a world so sentimental sense but rather unpredictable, belonging is on the most vigorous terms imaginable, in a universe that beyond our control. At heart, of course, this is remains opaque to us, where a spiritual conundrum — not we must decidefor ourselves to mention a central aspect of with only questions to lead the her husband's faith. That Lila way.

paid and that now the utility pays the panel owner. The homeowner with panels on the roof may think he

so theyare,in effect,fined for production. But wind farms

of the novel's many victories, allowing Robinson to explore

whenever she took Doll's hand

wrapped into the retail rate that consumers traditionally

quickly modulate their output still m ak e

with openness and grace.

as no surpriseto anyone famil-

mogul would say no to that? The woman who coaches him has a beloved dog. And

rate Orwellian trilo-

about "Lila." This should come

By DavId L UIIn

he is at a stakeout in Brooklyn, watching a Russian busileft. No one was in the street. I walked over to the car, held

does not quite share it is one

ly Good Fellows. What corrupt

"Spark" is an even better introduction to the abundant

eler" was, maybe because it's less gimmicky and does not includea heroicbreed offighters calledHarlequins.And maybe because Twelve Hawks (probably not his real name) has become a much better writer since "The Traveler" kicked off an elabo-

pages, $26)

beingbyherself." That's gorgeous writing, an absolutely beautiful book, which is the first thing to note

Aauard-aeinning neighborhood on Bend's teestside. www.northwe's'tcrossing.com

Leandro, California, last year. Most solar panels face south, the dIrectIon that will catch the maxImum

ened, even though carbon di- energy, but an orientation that leaves the panel with reduced output in the peakevenIng hours. oxide limits are unlikely to be met without them. Even rela-

tively clean natural gas plants electricity markets have auc- down or turned off by remote the debate over payments to are hurt; they are generally on tions not only for energy but control at peak hours. These the owners of solar panels at the margin, the first to shut also fo r c a pacity; u t i lities providers are paid by the com- the retail level. In most states, when new solar comes on line. serving homes and business- panies that have to buy capac- they get "net metering" — that es make what amounts to ity. Conventional generators, is, if a utility charges them 15 A depressedmarket payments to assure that elec- eager to maintain their reve- cents a kilowatt-hour for enThe 4 0 -year-old R o bert tricity will be available when nue, persuaded one big elec- ergy, it pays them at the same Ginna Nuclear Power Plant on needed. tricity market to limit the use rate when they produce. The "No planner, no regulator of demand response. the shores of Lake Ontario in payment relieves the panel upstate New York is becoming and no utility is going to leave The argument over h ow owner of all the other costs an example ofan emerging themselves capacity-short," to value capacity and how to of electricity — maintaining trend. Its income from selling said Ron Binz, an energy value energy has an echo in capacity for hours when the energy is down because cheap consultant, renewable energy natural gas and g rowing advocate and former head of sources of renewable energy the Colorado Public Utilities have depressed the market. Commission. What the renewBut the reactor provides ables are really doing, he said, a second service beyond en- is "changing the valuation of ergy: dispatchable power, baseload plants," such as numeaning the ability to support clear and coal plants. A nucleOCTOBER EDUCATION MEETING: electric load on demand. And ar plant can barely change its Tuesday,Oct.21,2014 -7pm to 9pm its owner, Exelon, argues that output, and a coal plant can do St. Charles Health System-Bend Conf. Rm. "B" it is not paid enough for it. so only within certain limits. "When we devote so many A system that must compenQPR - Suicide Prevention of our e conomic resources sate for rising and falling wind and our policies to the type and solar generation makes Presenter:Cheryl Emerson of energy that produces pow- the flexible plants, such as PleasecomelearnhowIo recognizewarningsigns &howto: Question, Persuade er but not power on demand, those using natural gas, more andRefer,andlearnabout other resourcesin ourcommunity. Cheryl hasaMasters we end up in a place where valuable, he said. of Scienceincounseling, isaLicensed ProfessionalCounselor, andaCertified Gatewe start losing the megawatt ' D emand response' keeperInstructorfor QPRandaMasterTrainer inASIST. Cheryl wil alsoinform we can control," said Joseph Us aboutASIST(a more indepthintervention program),efforts OftheDeschutes Dominguez, Exelon's senior Binz and others noted the CountySuicidePrevention Advisory TaskForce,andaspecial schoolprogramshe vice president for governmen- emergence of a substitute for can assisschool t sinimplementing. tal and regulatory affairs. generatingcapacity:"demand "We've moved to a system fo- response" providers, which cused on resources that pro- sign up customers willingPlease joinus;atending helpsyouconnect with otherspromoting better mental health. vide energy when they want in exchange for a paymentwww.namicentraloregon.org I namicentraloregonOgmail.com to." Not everyone agrees. Most

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