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 tableaua 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.
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...
If you liked The Rural Life, try these:
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Blood at the Root
"A gripping, timely, and important examination of American racism."
- PW Starred Review
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