as i was saying

Friday night I settled into my bed at The Whetstone Inn with the latest issue of Hunger Mountain. I wanted to read Robin MacArthur’s essay, “Abandoned Landscapes.” Robin lives in Marlboro only minutes from where I was at the moment. What fun to read that essay when I was in the grips of her landscape, I thought.

I could hear Robin’s voice as I read. Last summer, she delivered this essay as her graduating lecture at Vermont College of Fine Arts. She wrote:

I was born amidst three hundred acres of land in Southern Vermont that my family has owned for three generations, on a road that carries my name. I grew up throwing hay bales, tapping sugar maples, building forts in the woods… This landscape is how I know the world and myself in it, and, undeniably, part of who I am.

Robin’s essay discusses the fiction of Willa Cather, Flannery O’Connor, William Faulkner, and Ernest Hemingway. It’s one of the best essays on landscape I’ve ever read. Order a copy of Hunger Mountain today and let me know what you think. In my next post, yet another reason to order a copy of this issue of Hunger Mountain.

I’ll close with Robin’s words:

Our obsessions are the keys to our art; if we pay enough attention to them, we will find ourselves on the road to originality, resonance, truth.

9 thoughts on “as i was saying

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  2. That last quote left me a little breathless. “Our obsessions are the keys to our art; if we pay enough attention to them, we will find ourselves on the road to originality, resonance, truth.” YES! Just last week we heard Patton Oswald talk about his career in writing, comedy, acting, and he said essentially the same thing: listen to your obsessions. So it’s got me asking myself–what are mine? Vermont is one of them, hmmm…


  3. I’ve always envied people with a deep attachment to their land. There is something rather plastic about feeling that way about my hometown, Manhattan.

    My husband’s parents met when one gentleman farmer in Devon, England sold his land to the other. His grandparents lived there for a long time and he spent a few years there himself as a boy, coming back for summers after that. The farm had to be sold off later, but his family still owns some fields there, and it’s a place we revisit. I’ve set part of my WIP there.

    It must have been wonderful reading a mentor’s words so close to her home. Her prose is lyrical and lovely. I hope you’ll share what you’ve learned at school.


  4. Great quote Cynthia. Interesting this idea of following one’s obessions- reaching out to that singular spark that makes us all unique and creates an original voice. Bonne année to you and all the best to you and your nearest and dearest for 2011.


  5. Great post, Cynthia. Sarah Laurence’s comment reminded me of something Pat Conroy learned from a great English teacher who took him under his wing. Conroy adores the writing of Thomas Wolfe and lamented to his teacher that he wished his parents were as interesting as Wolfe’s whose father was “a stonecutter who carved angels for dead people” and whose “mother owned a boardinghouse and became rich investing in land.” Conroy went on to tell his mentor, “My father’s just a jarhead. Mom’s just a housewife.”

    Conroy’s teacher said, “Your father’s checked out to carry nuclear weapons against our nation’s enemies, boy. He breaks the sound barrier when he goes to work every day. You looked at your mom lately? Beauty, brains–Peg could be the president of General Motors, not raising critters sorry as you.”

    With that Conroy learned to “study my parents the way a lepidopterist pored over the details of a luna moth’s wing structure. They sprang to bewildering, amazing life to me under my secret inspection of every aspect of their lives.”

    I know Sarah is speaking of landscape here, but I believe the attention to details whether it be your parents, Vermont, or Manhattan is what’s important. I’ve alway envied people familiar with New York (I’ve never even visited the city). But I’m learning my life is unique simply because it is only mine. And to pay close attention to my lot in it.

    By the way, the Conroy quotes are from his latest publication, My Reading Life. Now I”m off to order Hunger Mountain. Thanks, Cynthia.


  6. Hi Cherry! I love that last quote too. You might be interested in my post from last week–invite the thing down. It’s about these lists that Ray Bradbury used to make in an attempt to discover what made him him–in an attempt to discover what his obsessions were.

    Hope you are well. I miss visiting your blog. Will be by soon : )


  7. Sarah, that land in England sounds rich in meaning. No wonder you’re using it as setting for your WIP. FOr me, there’s something about being in Vermont–that early attachment I formed at camp, I guess. I have it about other places in New England too–Provincetown, Boston, Nantucket–although I’ve never been to Maine. And yes, I hope to write about the residency soon. This week I’m working on a draft of my critical thesis…


  8. Susanna, I’ve missed visiting your blog as well. Oh dear, I’m behind, then behinder… Bonne année to you and your family and your lovely little paragraphs. I’ll be around to visit soon : )


  9. I loved reading your comment, Darrelyn. Thanks for taking the time to share that story about Pat Conroy. I have that cute little book of his waiting around here somewhere…And yes, details–the key to this “bewildering, amazing life.”


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