Tuesday 27 March 2012

Bird Cloud

Above the snooty sink hung a mirror with high-wattage bulbs blazing straight into one's face rather like something John Gielgud might have had in his dressing room. For an aging woman it was frightening rather than useful. Annie Proulx
I like the fact that this book is a memoir rather than an autobiography. Annie Proulx focuses on a particular event in her life - the construction of her house at Bird Cloud near Medicine Bow in Wyoming. She wanted a house built to her specifications, using natural materials where possible, with plenty of space for her large collection of books. She wanted to be able to write without interruption, spread out old maps and photographs, view the cliff face in the changing light and watch the eagles from her window.

Unfortunately, things didn't go quite to plan. There were problems with builders, architects and sub-contractors, spiralling expenses and long, long waits for materials to arrive and work to be completed. Not to mention the fact that the area is isolated and exposed to high Wyoming winds. Bird Cloud is on the North Platte River near the town of Saratoga on the western slope of Medicine Bow. The wildlife is spectacular and Proulx weaves in details of a clever mountain lion, tagging elks for a conservation project and a whole chapter about pine cones. This book reminds me a little of The Blue Jay's Dance by Louise Erdrich and has reawakened my interest in Annie Proulx. A few years ago I read several of her novels back to back and then got a bit depressed with the grim realities of life for ranchers, cowboys and drifters. One can only stand so much reality!

Now I want to re-read her wonderful novel The Shipping News.
I also have Barbara Kingsolver's Homeland to read and my author of the month is that queen of American landscape writers Willa Cather. Fabulous picture of her, don't you think?

Saturday 10 March 2012

More Elizabeth Strout

Does anybody use Pinterest? I've become quite interested in its potential for book bloggers and I do like the wish list element to it. Very much enjoyed Anbolyn's recent post on American women writers and I've also been browsing interviews with Elizabeth Strout. I have her novel Abide with Me ready to start on Sunday night. I do like to start a new novel on a Sunday - kind of sets you up for the week!

I have to say that Olive Kitteridge is not exactly a laugh a minute. There is suicide, anorexia, adultery, murder and debilitating illness - but the sheer cussedness of Olive keeps you avidly turning the pages. I loved the story where Olive and Henry have a night out with friends and Olive desperately needs the bathroom on the way home. Henry turns into the local Accident & Emergency department just so she can use the loo when a nurse with not quite enough to do decides that Olive must be examined by a doctor. Then two armed raiders looking for drugs take the nurses, doctors, and Olive hostage and also Henry who has wandered into A&E looking for her. Olive and Henry then start a petty bickering which almost sends the guy who has tied them up over the edge.

The writing is great and the humour is black. One thing puzzling me about Olive Kitteridge - perhaps American readers can translate - what on earth are doughnut holes?!