The Old People is a 2014 novel by A.J. Perry. The Old People gets a new life thanks to Carrying Woman Originals, an imprint of Cow Eye Press, which also published Perry’s novel Cow Country a few years ago. As you can see in the photo above, Perry’s name is not on the cover. There’s no blurb on the back. Perry’s name shows up on the editions page and then on a second title page that faces the edition page (but not on the first title page).
I was under metaphorical water in September when The Old People arrived, having decided to recommit to doing a good job at my job, by which I mean trying to provide much more feedback and coaching and general mental attendance to my students than I think I was giving in the last (covid-drenched) semesters, all the while worrying about the utter idiocy of Florida Fall 2021’s Death Campaign. Anyway, I stacked it in a growing stack of other TBR copies and retreated into Barthelme’s stories I’d already read a few times when I made the time to read for pleasure.
I moved the stack around today, dropping The Old People to the floor. I picked it up, decided to read the opening pages, and then kept reading. It’s really good! I mean, it’s a really strange thing. It’s a book about tying a knot, which I guess is a metaphor, but it’s really focused on that metaphor’s concrete component. Pages and pages of digging holes and tying knots. I’m not sure exactly what The Old People reminds me of, but it taps into the intersection of myth and anthropology, all without being precious or pretentious (so far, anyway). I hunted down a blurb on Cow Eye’s site:
Since the beginnings of darkest silence the people of a mythical island have spent their days tying the ancient knot that binds them to their past. To tie this knot they must dig a hole; to dig a hole they first must have fire; and to make a fire that is hot enough for hole digging, the knot that they have been tying must finally be tied. From silence to mud to rope to knot to wood to words to fire, the Old People will work to tie their knot under the cool shade of the island’s original knotmaking.