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.

Thursday, December 28, 2006

At loose ends

At year's end. I'm trying to get through the sort of stupid projects people load themselves with on vacation: cleaning out the fridge, attacking perilously overstuffed closets, tossing tons of paper. I am catching up on various bits of reading: the past three issues of Poets and Writers, the Didion omnibus, and Judy Blunt's Breaking Clean, a book I started months ago and then left on the shelf.

P&W offers excellent information to the would-be writer while being incredibly dull. Reading it is like eating cornflakes: the essential nutrients are there, stripped to mere palatability.

Didion is DEPRESSING. It's one thing to read her books individually, but the Everyman's is relentless. One downer essay after another, all enhanced by my increased familiarity with California (I first read her in college, a recent transplant) and the joys of getting older. It's also difficult to encounter Quintana, as one does repeatedly, tagging along with her mother on a book tour or begging to meet Georgia O'Keefe. John Gregory Dunne is everywhere, too, but I'm finding that less upsetting: he died at 71. Quintana was 39.

Blunt is just that: anybody haboring variants on escape-to-Montana fantasies would do well to read her unsparing account of life on a Montana ranch. Everyone works from sunup to sundown, the weather is brutal, the cattle require endless care. One farm accident or storm can destroy years of grueling work, as a 1964 blizzard did, leaving over half the Blunt family cattle dead. As winter eased into spring, even more died from the continuing effects of exposure, losing ears, tails, hooves. Many delivered stillborn calves.

I'll talk more about the book when I'm finished. For the moment I can only wonder how a writer--a person who hungered for books and the symphony--emerged from such beginnings.

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