Art has the ability to transform us. Anyone who has ever watched a thought-provoking film, heard a moving piece of music, or read a particularly good book can tell you that. Art also has a strange way of bringing people together. Think about what happens when you meet someone who likes the same movie or band as you: likely, you feel an instant spark of connection with that person, even if you know nothing else about them. Liza Wieland, winner of the Robert Penn Warren award and a guest writer at this year’s SouthWord on November 3 and 4, explores these aspects of art and many more in her latest novel Land of Enchantment, an emotional and complex work perfect for anyone interested in art and the messy, imperfect nature of human relationships.
Land of Enchantment bounces between three different narrators and timelines: Brigid Long Night is a half-Navajo artist in 1985 who studies under an aging Georgia O’Keefe while struggling with her decision to give up her daughter for adoption; Nancy Diamond is a playwright in 1996 who draws inspiration from Brigid’s work, although she is haunted by her mixed racial heritage; and Sasha Hernandez is a film student at Columbia in 2001, who discovers that she is Brigid’s daughter just in time for the September 11 terrorist attacks throw her entire world into utter chaos. It is a darkly beautiful novel. Although Wieland’s prose is often lush and poetic, she is emphatically unsentimental in her depiction of the tangled web of human relationships. In the world of Land of Enchantment, romantic love seldom lasts forever and easy solutions are nowhere to be found. However, a single glimmer of hope remains in art’s ability to express the inexpressible and to form connections between individuals who otherwise have nothing else in common. Ultimately, Wieland seems to suggest that interpersonal connection, however complicated and fleeting, is humanity’s one hope for something resembling grace—and art is the facilitator of that connection.
Liza Wieland is the author of seven books: three novels, three short story collections, and one collection of poems. She lives near Oriental, North Carolina and will be appearing as a guest writer at this year’s SouthWord on November 3 and 4. More information can be found at www.southerlitalliance.org.