Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Bits and Bobs

Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings
at her home in Cross Creek, Florida
I finished reading Hugh Howard's Writers of the American South and learned that Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings, author of The Yearling, at one time wrote for the The Courier-Journal, my hometown newspaper. That would have been in the 1920s before she moved to Central Florida. I also learned that she wrote a memoir Cross Creek about life on her citrus farm in Florida where she learned to cook - on a wood-burning stove, no less - alligator, rattlesnake, and blackbird pie along with okra, mustard greens, and hush puppies. 

Howard writes:
Her voice is that of a wise storyteller seated on her porch - where she often wrote, sometimes in longhand, sometimes on her L.C. Smith portable typewriter - telling the tales of the friends and neighbors who, the reader understands, are as likely as not to saunter by as the story unfolds. 

The only quarrel I have with this book is its design. The paper is semi-gloss, the type is small, and the ink is not very black. For my Woman-of-a-Certain-Age eyes, it made for a strain to read. But I made it through with the occasional help from my trusty magnifying glass.

I also finished up The Long-Winded Lady by Maeve Brennan. I can't tell you how much I enjoyed these tales of hers about Manhattan. I decided they read like short stories. Along the way I learned that Ms. Brennan liked her martinis, had a penchant for eating in French restaurants, and read mysteries. 

One day, sitting in a restaurant she spies two nuns walking down the sidewalk. Seeing them prompts memories of her miserable time in Dublin where she was sent to a convent boarding school. The nuns, she recalls, were violent and stingy. Not a good combination. 

She writes about the two of the nuns who ran the school:

..they spent most of their time looking for sin. They were alway on patrol, sometimes together and sometimes separately. They patrolled the silent study hall, and they patrolled the corridors, and they patrolled the classrooms and the washrooms, and they even patrolled the dormitories, often walking between the beds after the lights were out. 

And then:

Those two nuns tracked [sin] down even in the refractory, where we had breakfast, dinner, tea, and supper. They never seemed to notice what was on our plates. Awful food. It was always tea and bread scraped with butter, except at midday dinner, when it was boiled potatoes.

Hers is a book that should be a required textbook for aspiring writers. Ms. Brennan's attention to detail and her choice of words constitute perfect writing lessons.

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