Thursday, September 7, 2017

Gerald Elias

A graduate of Yale, Gerald Elias has been a Boston Symphony violinist, Associate Concertmaster of the Utah Symphony since 1988, Adjunct Professor of Music at the University of Utah, first violinist of the Abramyan String Quartet, and Music Director of the Vivaldi Candlelight concert series.

His novels include Devil's Trill, Danse Macabre, Death and the Maiden, Playing With Fire, and the newly released Spring Break.

Recently I asked Elias about what he was reading. His reply:
I just finished reading Ishi: In Two Worlds. A Biography of the Last Wild Indian in North America, by Theodora Kroeber. Though the term "wild Indian" is no longer part of our cultural jargon, the book is a sensitive, compassionate, and deeply insightful account of Ishi, who was indeed the very last Native American untouched by western civilization, whose Yana tribe had survived by its traditional, thousands-of-years-old ways. That is, until he emerged from the deep forest of the California mountains, his tribe driven into extinction, desperate and starving as all his resources had been cut off by whites, into the bustling world of early 20th century commerce and technology. With Ishi’s death in 1914, a civilization that had lasted for thousands of years across all of North America ended.

That Ishi was able to adapt at all to a world with a totally different language, culture, and value system is remarkable in itself. But that he did it with good-natured grace, resourcefulness, and gentle humor is a testament to the strengths of his extinct tribe and to his overwhelming sense of humanity. He was fortunate that he found compassionate white friends, a team of ethnologists including the husband of the author, to assist his transition. Nevertheless, one wonders at the lessons white society could have learned from Ishi's people had we not become so conditioned to violence, greed, hatred, and fear.
Visit Gerald Elias's website.

My Book, The Movie: Spring Break.

--Marshal Zeringue