Summary and book reviews of The Rural Life by Verlyn Klinkenborg

The Rural Life

by Verlyn Klinkenborg

The Rural Life
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  • First Published:
    Dec 2002, 224 pages
    Paperback:
    Jan 2004, 224 pages

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Book Summary

Klinkenborg brings a fresh view to the ordinary beauty of our daily lives in this year-long meditation on the deep joys of country life.

The dogs hear it in the distance before I do, and so do the horses, a dry dislocated thump, thunder from far away. One moment there's no wind, the air still and damp. The next moment the wind is turning corners where there aren't any, lifting and coiling the barnyard dust. Wind flails the leaves on the sugar maples, revealing their silver undersides. It scatters spent hickory flowers in drifts. The sky blackens, and I can almost hear rain begin. But then the wind drops and the front unravels over the western ridge, where the weather comes from. Blue sky intervenes. A clear night threatens once again, Venus hanging peaceful in the dusk.

From The Rural Life

A year-long meditation on the deep joys of country life.

In the pages of The New Yorker, Harper's, the New York Times, and his acclaimed books Making Hay and The Last Fine Time, Verlyn Klinkenborg has mastered a voice of singular lyricism and precision. His subject is the American landscape: not the landscape admired from a scenic overlook, but one taken in from a rusty chair propped against the worn siding of a screened-in porch, or from the window of a pickup driving down an empty highway into the teeth of an approaching storm. He has a keen appreciation of the peculiarly American tableau—a Memorial Day parade, or a boy riding a bike down the middle of a dusty street. Whether reporting from a small farm in upstate New York, a high pasture deep within the Rocky Mountains, or the bricked edge of a city shuddering in the wake of a "sudden Tuesday," Klinkenborg follows the momentum of the seasons in a language as simple, unsentimental, and exacting as life itself.

In the tradition of E. B. White and Henry David Thoreau, Verlyn Klinkenborg gives us in The Rural Life a fresh view of our greatest subject, the ordinary beauty of our daily lives.

JANUARY

Every year about now, I feel the need to keep a journal. I recognize in this urge all my worst instincts as a writer. I walk past the blank books — gifts of nothingness — that pile up in bookstores at this season, and I can almost hear their clean white pages begging to be defaced. They evoke in me the amateur, the high school student, the miserable writerly aspirant I once was — a young man who could almost see the ink flowing onto the woven fibers of the blank page like the watering of some eternal garden. It took a long time, a lot of pens, and many blank books before I realized that I write in the simultaneous expectation that every word I write will live forever and be blotted out instantly.

It's hard to keep a journal under those conditions. It's harder still when it becomes clear that the purpose of a journal — at least of those journals begun in earnest on the first day of January — is not to record, day by day, just a fragment of thought...

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Reviews

Media Reviews

Seattle Times/Post Intelligencer

..contains inquiry and ideas of substance...

New York Times Book Review

...brief, luminous essays...calls to mind Gilbert White and Thoreau...a work of almost uninterrupted felicity..

Bookpage - Lynn Hamilton

It's tempting to compare rural writer Verlyn Klinkenborg to pillars of American literature such as Robert Frost and Henry Thoreau. But Klinkenborg uses language with such mastery and has such a unique style that these comparisons may not do him full justice.

Publishers Weekly

A heady meditation on our relationship to nature, echoing the works of the transcendentalists Thoreau and Emerson, the writing is much closer to poetry than essay.

Library Journal - Lee Arnold

Klinkenborg explains If spring seems to be well advanced on one page and balky and weeks behind on the next...I'm probably describing two very different springs. Because he writes so well, one can endure the bumpy ride. Recommended for public and academic libraries.

Booklist - Meredith Parets

No death or rebirth is too small to be marveled over and recorded, but paradoxically, Klinkenborg's careful observation and reflective, uncomplicated language generate their own suspense.....Klinkenborg's many fans will cherish this chance to spend a year in his company. For readers new to his work this is an excellent introduction to a fine and inspiring writer.

Kirkus Reviews

Nonfiction storytelling at its highest unflaggingly lovely, with scope, profundity, and power achieved through a mastering of the delicate.

Author Blurb Michael Korda
At once lyrical and down to earth...brilliantly takes the reader to the very heart of living in the country...

Author Blurb Alec Wilkinson
Klinkenborg has a singular affinity for the natural world and because he is such an accomplished writer...

Author Blurb Jack Valenti
...no journalist...surpasses his liquid prose, which he offers with such ease and fluency...

Author Blurb Gregory Long
Klinkenborg has a poetic vision...takes his place among the best American writers about the natural world...

Author Blurb Tom Brokaw
...not only a rich and evocative pastoral pilgrimage, it is a national treasure...Klinkenborg is our modern Thoreau...

Reader Reviews

Davina - BookBrowse.com

Each chapter in this delightful book covers a different month and contains a number of short stand-alone essays relating to that particular season. As such, this is a book to dip into - to wallow in bit by bit, not to read cover to cover.

For many ...   Read More

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