Saturday, January 30, 2010

An American Homeplace

I just finished reading An American Homeplace by Donald McCaig, and recommend it to anyone who loves well-written essays and stories about farms, values, and sheep dogs.

I read a lot, and do not effuse about most of it, but there are pieces in here that are as well turned and as tightly carved as a Japanese netsuke. Real art, and those who know me will know what high praise it is that I shelve this one next to John McPhee and Noel Perrin.

Bottom line: A very good read, and it ought to be on your nightstand right now. While you are at it, order a copy of Eminent Dogs, Dangerous Men -- another outstanding book by McCaig.


Miki said...

"Tight" writing is rare - and always has been. I think of E.B. White, of course. And Wallace Stevens (yes - poetry can be tight). I'll try McCaig, if for no other reason than you've compared his book to netsuke.

If you appreciate netsuke and/or ojime, check out Janel Jacobson ( (I have some of her pottery from the 70s and it, too, is "tight.")

PBurns said...

Wow! Janel Jacobson has some awesome stuff.

Craft is craft, and when you see someone who takes the time to fit stuff together with true grace, it's always a real joy.


Retrieverman said...

Cormac McCarthy is the writer who sweeps me in. It's not tight writing. It's more intimate writing. The adjectives are carefully lain, and the sentence structure flows like the careful strokes of a portrait painter's brush.

I've never been a tight writer. I like flow. Give me a little William Faulkner.

I've tried to write tightly, but it's always come out flummoxed and choppy. I'm better with the complex sentences. That's just how my brain works..

Gina Spadafori said...

How can you go wrong reading ANYTHING by Mr. McCaig? It's all good.

PBurns said...

It is true that I have read nothing bad yet.

I will give "Jacob's Ladder" a try next. It's about the Civil War, but I may have issues about that war. Basically, I HATE the fact that the great Valley of the Shenandoah has defined itself by 4 years of failed insurrection that occurred more than 140 years ago in support of a brutal system called slavery. I hate it. And yet I love Virginia and the Shenandoah above all. And yet there were part of that war that were noble (as there are in all wars). John Brown was about 150 years ago (this year, I think). Crazy as hell and yet a true heroic madman of a butcher.


Heather Houlahan said...

Jacob's Ladder will not leave you unhappy.