Monday, December 30, 2019

Five books that deal with nature in a sensual way

Nina MacLaughlin’s latest book is Wake, Siren: Ovid Resung.

At Book Marks she shared five books that deal with nature in a sensual way with Jane Ciabattari:
The Long Dry by Cynan Jones

In Cynan Jones’s slim, luminous novel, a pregnant cow goes missing, a rat bites the leg of a tumored old dog, two children negotiate the wonder and cruelty of Welsh farm-life, and Gareth and his wife Kate are knotted in a marriage beset by deep yearning, rage, and care which ranks as one of the truest portraits of love I’ve come across. The book seethes with the brutal squelch of farming, of breeding and bleeding and death (a scene in which two young brothers kill a rabbit with a rock stays with me), and moments of shuddering human frailty and grace.

JC: And there’s also the drought, with its effects on humans, animals, the land—and the marriage. How do you feel about Gareth’s father’s diary as an element in this mix?

NM: I’m glad you asked this. I read The Long Dry almost three years ago, and the diary aspect hadn’t lodged itself in my mind the way the descriptions of farm life and animal life and weather had, and the fraught, fervent way the marriage is presented. So your question made me revisit to see what I’d missed, which, in part, is a note in the back of the book: “The ‘memories’ that run through the book are taken from Hen Arferion a Hen Gymeriadau, recorded to tape by my grandfather David Llewelyn Williams before his death in 1991.” In the book, Gareth reads over his father’s memories; his wife, not sleeping, overhears him “scrabbling for meanings” there. The memories end as the father leaves his bank job for farming and one of the final entries includes: “And what else is there to life other than following the path that brings pleasure and interest to you, without counting the cost or loss, but delighting in those things that are desirable, and that bring you happiness.” For Gareth, fully embedded in the earthy life-and-death hardship and reality of farm life, I think this must sound naïve, over-optimistic, expressed by someone who had not had to reckon with the discomforts and everyday challenges of work and life so deeply rooted to the earth. I see it now as saying how easy it is to romanticize a rural life, a farm life, and how the reality—though not without its pleasures, satisfactions, and triumphs—is a much muddier, bloodier, messier truth entirely.
Read about the other entries on the list.

--Marshal Zeringue