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.
One of my favorite things about William Faulkner‘s Light in August is the language. His use of repetition is soft and alluring and draws the reader in.
“He stepped from the dark porch, into the moonlight, and with his bloody head and his empty stomach hot, savage, and courageous with whiskey, he entered the street which was to run for fifteen years.”
“The whiskey died away in time and was renewed and died again, but the street ran on.”
The street running on recurs in the novel–in both language and image.
It should have come as no surprise to me when I recently discovered that Faulkner was also a poet. Apparently he referred to himself as a “failed poet.” Read this and see what you think:
“He thought that it was loneliness which he was trying to escape and not himself. But the street ran on: catlike, one place was the same as another to him. But in none of them could he be quiet. But the street ran on in its moods and phases, always empty…”
And if you’re one of those people (I am) who likes to hear the writer’s speaking voice, you can listen to part of Faulkner’s December 1950 Nobel Prize speech online. In the speech, he says that the only subjects worth writing about are “the problems of the human heart in conflict with itself.”
If you’ve never read Faulkner,I recommend starting with Light in August.