03 March 2012


Locus Focus: Take Sixty-Three

Believe me when I say that I am as shocked as you are that Locus Focus is back.

Thanks to the alignment of the stars the right book and the right time, I found myself with a great setting for the season. It also has the potential to be a proper theme, but I'm not sure at this point if I'll be able to find three other books, over three weeks, with a new twist on the same setting.

Camp Green Lake
by Louis Sachar

There is no lake at Camp Green Lake. There was once a very large lake here, the largest lake in Texas. That was over a hundred years ago. Now it is just a dry, flat wasteland.

There used to be a town of Green Lake as well. The town shriveled and dried up along with the lake, and the people who lived there.

During the summer the daytime temperature hovers around ninety-five degrees in the shade--if you can find any shade. There's not much shade in a big dry lake.

. . . The reader is probably asking: Why would anyone go to Camp Green Lake?

Most campers weren't given a choice. Camp Green Lake is a camp for bad boys.

If you take a bad boy and make him dig a hole every day in the hot sun, it will turn him into a good boy.

That was what some people thought.

Embedded in the question of why anyone would go to Camp Green Lake is the question of why anyone would want to go to any desert. That's a good question for the Lenten season, which is when we're reminded that there can be riches in deprivation. There are several answers; Sachar gives us two.

As the desert monks of the early Church understood implicitly, the stark, barren settings of the world always contain great potential for spiritual work--and that is what Camp Green Lake is ostensibly for. The boys who are sent here by a judge are not just supposed to do time, but also to build character. How they are going to do that by digging holes that go nowhere and serve no purpose is a question I can imagine asking a real-life government-sponsored rehabilitation facility.

But of course there's a purpose to those holes--one that can't be told, but has to be discovered. Like all archetypal deserts (all of which used to be green and fertile), this one is full of buried secrets. And it is only when some of the characters go deeper into the desert that the real work begins, not just for them, but for everyone who left unfinished business in the same desert . . . or unfinished stories in the past.

Image Source: Holes by Louis Sachar


Jenny said...

Yeah, I STILL don't want to go to the desert. I sorta live in one and while I don't mind the lack of humidity I hate the bareness.

Enbrethiliel said...


You know, that's an interesting twist . . . I'm familiar with the plot device of going to the desert, but I have to think really hard to come up with characters who already live in the desert. (Okay, an Egypt-set novel just came to mind . . . But the heroes are the visitors, not the residents.) For while I can understand why someone would want to go there temporarily, I really don't get why someone would want to live there! LOL! Can you recommend a good book for that, by any chance?