The town gets renamed Struggle?
It’s honest. Too honest. It gets the hairs up on the back of my neck. I suddenly realize I’m not comfortable with all that honesty, perhaps because it’s such a rare occurrence.
This novel brings to mind how many times I’ve cringed at names while searching for a place to live. Having moved 13 times in my life, I’ve had visceral reactions to places like Newark (too often pronounced Nork), landing instead on the nearby Lincoln Street in Cranford. Perhaps choosing a house on that street name was my throwback to growing up with Harding, Kennedy, and Madison Avenues in the small town of Angola, NY. (There, presidential power was a delusion of grandeur.) On the other hand, what 28th Street lacked in character was compensated for by the neighborhood of Murray Hill in a city with a choice of names, Manhattan, New York (never mistaken for Nork), The Big Apple, THE city.
According to our narrating nomenclature consultant:
What he had given to all those things had been the right name, but never the true name. For things had true natures, and they hid behind false names, beneath the skin we gave them. (182)
I wonder what, in all honesty, I would name the places I’ve been. Angola. Social Cesspool, Backward Bend. I say this with mildly playful and wildly arrogant confidence because, well, the demographic there is hardly diverse. Point Breeze on Lake Erie was often referred to as Point Sleaze on Lake Dreary. The town is listed on epodunk.com. New York City, on the other hand, is too big. Too many things must be encompassed by just one name. I could never come close. (In fact, I just thought of another I hadn’t listed above, The City that Never Sleeps.)
Oddly, Struggle could be the name of any village, town, city, or country. It’s the one word that represents every person’s internal workings and every relationship between people within its boundaries. It is the past, present and future. In essence, the name couldn’t be more perfect.
The problem is that people don’t want perfection or honesty. As our narrator reminds us:
Everything is bright and mysterious until you know what it is called and then the light goes out of it. Once we knew the name of it, how could we ever come to love it? (182)
Honesty doesn’t provide hope for moving beyond struggle. It isn’t pretty or imaginative and yet it is the quagmire we all must face. The anti-apex.