Barking Kitten

Fiction, musings on literature, food writing, and the occasional Friday cat blog. For lovers of serious literature, cooking, and eating.

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Close to forty. Not cool. Politically left. Atheist. Happily married. No kids.

Monday, November 27, 2006

More Kent Haruf

(Look at Ms. Kitten, trying to redeem herself with literchure after that horrible post!)

Eventide, Kent Haruf's follow-up to Plainsong, is again set in fictional Holt, Colorado. The book resumes the lives of the MacPheron brothers, Victoria Roubideaux, Maggie Jones, and Tom Guthrie. This time, though, the action moves from Guthrie and his family toward Raymond MacPheron, the young DJ Kephart, and the mentally impaired Wallaces, Luther and Betty.

Eventide met with lesser acclaim than its predecessor, which is a shame. The book displays the same exquisite writing that garnered Plainsong so much attention.

Warning...I'm about to give away part of the story, so stop now if you don't want to know a crucial plot point.

"After a while Harold opened his eyes. He shivered and peered around. Raymond?
Yes.
Are you here?
I'm right here. Right next to you.
Harold looked up into his brother's face and Raymond took hold of his thick calloused hand.
You got to take care of her by yourself now. His voice was just a thin raspy sound. That little girl too. I won't be here to see how they come out. I was looking forward to it.
You'll see them. Raymond said. You're going to come out of this.
No, I'm done here, Harold said. I'm about finished." (76-77)

Understatement like this so rare these days, welcome tonic to our garish, shrieking media. Though understatement, along with a resolute lack of technology, may be why this book didn't fare better.

There's much more--DJ Kephart, who at eleven is forced to function as a miniature adult, social worker Rose Tyler, who struggles to maintain her psyche as her work drains her, Raymond's attempts to survive life without Harold, the pathetic Wallaces, well-meaning, loving, woefully unable to live independently or care for their children.

If Eventide has a flaw, it lies in a tendency to characterize women as either saviors--Maggie, Rose, nurse Linda May--or as psychologically damaged individuals seeking male caretakers--Mary Wells, Betty and Donna Wallace. Plainsong did this, too, placing Ella Guthrie first prone in the guest bedroom, then fleeing the family to her sister in Denver. Given the breadth of each book, though, this is easily forgiven.

Given the popularity of books like The Echo Maker and Against the Day, I can't help but wonder if writers like Haruf are going to go the way of the dinosaur. Though extinction, in this case, will come not from climate change or asteriods, but from the publishing industry's refusal to take a financial risk on quiet, classically styled fiction.

Kent Haruf: Eventide. Knopf. New York, 2004.

Authors, Book Reviews, Kent Haruf

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