Sunday, June 17, 2007

Country Livin'

If you're wondering why Rhian hasn't posted much lately, it's because she's spending most of her time in her new role as chicken wrangler. We're gonna be raising some hens for laying, and thirty chicks came in the mail the other day. God know where all this will lead--pigs? sheep? government subsidies?--but meanwhile I can recommend some good rural fiction.

Everybody's read Jane Smiley's A Thousand Acres, but my favorite story of hers about roughing it is the novella Good Will, which contains an awesome bit about a teenager who sets a satellite dish on fire. I'm also a big fan of James Galvin, whose novels The Meadow and Fencing The Sky are small masterpieces of the genre. I've never been able to really embrace Kent Haruf--his stuff is a little too warm and fuzzy for my taste--but Plainsong isn't bad, in spite of its afterschool-special moments. And I really like the novels of the semi-obscure mid-century Montana writer Mildred Walker, particularly Winter Wheat. Walker was the mother of another Montana writer, the wonderful Ripley Schemm, whose house Rhian and I used to go to now and then in the years after we met. Why? "Hugofest," an annual Missoula celebration of Ripley's late husband, the great Washington-state (and, yes, Montana) poet Richard Hugo, who wrote so eloquently about both rural life and the working-class milieu he grew up in. And while we're in Montana, I can't help but mention James Welch, and our former teacher William Kittredge, both eloquent chroniclers of the agrarian landscape.

As for me, I'm not yet ready for prime time. I got lost in the woods last night trying to find a northwest passge to my backyard, and arrived home at dusk with soaking socks. Tonight I'll stay in and read.

4 comments:

Mr. Inertia said...

City boy!!!

zoe said...

I actually read Fencing The Sky around the same time as I read On The Night Plain and enjoyed them both very much.
Strangely, I have absolutely no interest whatsoever in manual labour of any sort, but will happily read page after page about cattle, the preparation of vegetable gardens and the strangling or decapitation of chickens.
Weird, eh?

Matthew Tiffany said...

We have chickens out here - as farm as we get, but the eggs are heavenly -

McQ said...

You do know that my favorite aunt is dating one of Jane Smiley's ex-husbands, right? Not as interesting as all those cute little chicks you two have got stashed away, but...