the next writer in the series: september 1, 2016

I have been looking into schedules. Even when we read physics, we inquire of each least particle, What then shall I do this morning? How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives. What we do with this hour, and that one, is what we are doing. A schedule defends from chaos and whim. It is a net for catching days. It is a scaffolding on which a worker can stand and labor with both hands at sections of time.

On the first of each month,
a guest writer
shares
how he or she spends the day.

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photo credit: WBUR

September 1, 2016: Robin MacArthur

I’ve been writing about Robin MacArthur on this site since July of 2010 when I heard her give her graduating lecture on landscape at VCFA. “Our obsessions are key to our art,” she said. We later published that essay at Hunger Mountain. Here’s an excerpt from “Abandoned Landscapes:” 

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.

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Barnes and Noble / Atlanta

Robin’s debut collection, Half Wild, has just been published by Ecco and was selected as an Independent Booksellers Association’s INDIES INTRODUCE book for summer/fall, 2016. It’s also been chosen by Barnes and Noble as a “Discover Great New Writers” book for summer 2016. And it’s a finalist for the 2016 New England Book Award.

Back in 2014, Robin described her collection in progress:

[The stories] take place in Southern Vermont where my father was born, where I was born, where my children were born. They are about women and ghosts and animals and the ways in which we humans are shaped by the landscapes we inhabit.

imgresHalf Wild’s eleven stories will slip you into the woods, onto porches, into clearings, behind trees, and up next to creeks. Here’s a little something to give you a feel for the collection, from the first story with the terrific title of “Creek Dippers.”

We’re waiting for the storm, which we can smell coming through the trees. We’re waiting for Robbie, her boyfriend with the bad teeth. We are, in some regards, waiting for dawn, or tomorrow, or next year. Leaves shuffle. Milky clouds stream past. The creek calls the water in the clouds home. My mom says it smells like desire and tips her head back, sniffing.

Hear the voice in this simple description of a day, from “Wings, 1989,”

But that day was all sun.

See the characters come alive in these descriptions from “Maggie in the Trees,”

Julie: long legs and feverish eyes and a habit of looking anywhere but at her old man.

That sly, Scorpio grin.

I thought then how she looked like she was of this place, like she was some kind of creature or tree that had grown here, and wondered how it was Rich had landed something as spectacular as that.

And in this description of Jimmy from “Barred Owl,” in one short paragraph, we know what he can do, what he drives, the way he smiles, something he says, and his power. And so much about the narrator.

Jimmy will be back tomorrow with however many OxyContin they want. That’s the kind of guy he is: the man. My man. Twenty-four-year-old Jimmy with a brand-new Jeep SUV and that beautiful win-you-over shit-eating grin, throwing fives down the front of my dress when we’re at parties, saying, “Shake it, Vale, come on, show me what you’ve got, shake it.” And just like a stripper I do.

Robin is also half of the band Red Heart the Ticker, along with her husband Tyler Gibbons. Woodsy, elfin lyrics and music that I’ve been listening to since I first heard it. They have a new album out that loosely accompanies Half Wild. Click to have a listen, and then,

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Come back on SEPTEMBER 1st to read how ROBIN MACARTHUR spends her days.

6 thoughts on “the next writer in the series: september 1, 2016

    • Leticia, Dillard is a master, but I know from experience that when writing an essay, we can’t mention all the greats. I do appreciate your adding Annie Dillard to the discussion here, though.

      Like

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