The rural life

Verlyn Klinkenborg

Book - 2003

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Boston, Mass. : Little, Brown 2003.
Main Author
Verlyn Klinkenborg (-)
1st ed
Physical Description
213 p. : ill
  • January
  • February
  • March
  • April
  • May
  • June
  • July
  • August
  • September
  • October
  • November
  • December
  • To the Reader
Review by Booklist Review

Most of these essays have been published previously in an eponymous column on the New York Times editorial page. Their collection in one volume achieves a kind of consecration of time, as Klinkenborg chronicles the passing year through changes he observes on his upstate New York farm and during his frequent travels out west. Klinkenborg lingers over the chapters devoted to the summer months, his prose appropriately rich and yearning. No death or rebirth is too small to be marveled over and recorded, but paradoxically, Klinkenborg's careful observation and reflective, uncomplicated language generate their own suspense. Descriptions of the changing light in September, drives through falling snow, and the satisfaction of a rooster's crow at dawn are rendered in joyous and unsentimental prose without a hint of folksiness. Klinkenborg's many fans will cherish this chance to spend a year in his company. For readers new to his work this is an excellent introduction to a fine and inspiring writer. --Meredith Parets

From Booklist, Copyright (c) American Library Association. Used with permission.
Review by Publisher's Weekly Review

Klinkenborg's third book (after Making Hay and The Last Fine Time) is a selection of columns originally appearing on the New York Times editorial page under the heading "A Rural Life." They document in vivid detail the daily challenges of life in the country, and on a farm in particular. Though the columns are drawn from seven years of writing, the book is organized into a single year-12 chapters starting in "January" and ending in "December"-and flits from topic to topic, relying on a few short passages of news or descriptions of holidays to mark the passage of time. Likewise, the author never sticks to one place for long, but ranges across the continent of the U.S. and glimpses events in dozens of country towns from Wyoming and New Hampshire to Minnesota and New Mexico. Some episodes are emblematic of contemporary American culture: a high school football game, President Clinton's dedication of Walden Pond, the disquiet in the days following September 11. Others are more intimate passages discussing the author's family and the solace he finds in keeping bees, stacking hay or simply turning earth. Though this highly personal chronicle lacks any narrative arc other than the changing of the seasons and the author's emotional reaction to them, nothing in the prose is accidental, and the deliberate, finely hewn sentences convey, above all else, the seriousness with which Klinkenborg takes the task of watching the world around him. A heady meditation on our relationship to nature, echoing the works of the transcendentalists Thoreau and Emerson, the writing is much closer to poetry than essay. (Dec.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
Review by Library Journal Review

Klinkenborg is a member of the editorial board of the New York Times and author of Making Hay. This collection of essays, most of which have previously been published in the NYT and elsewhere, describe his experiences of rural life, from his farm in upstate New York and in the American West. When a book is a compilation of essays, it can often suffer from a lack of continuity or context. While these selections are gathered according to month, they leap from geographic locations without regard to year; in fact, there is no indication of when they were written (except a couple references to 9/11). Klinkenborg explains: "If spring seems to be well advanced on one page and balky and weeks behind on the next...I'm probably describing two very different springs." Because he writes so well, one can endure the bumpy ride. Recommended for public and academic libraries. [Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 8/02.]-Lee Arnold, Historical Soc. of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

(c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Review by Kirkus Book Review

From the New York Times writer (The Last Fine Time, 1990) and editorial-board member, a gathering of pieces that have appeared over the years (mainly in the Times) quilted into a single year, a chapter a month. Result: captivating, subtle, and splendid. Times readers will have the special treat of familiar essays, like bumping unexpectedly into a friend in some far-away place: here are the pieces, for example, about the Colorado blizzard and awful school bus disaster of 1931; the summer of rain and humidity ("It's been like living under a rhubarb leaf"); even pigs ("I've been thinking about raising pigs. Ask anyone who knows me"). Klinkenborg really is a Thoreau for today, complete with classic upside-downings ("My plan in buying this small farm wasn't to tutor the pasture and the sugar maples and the hemlocks. I hoped instead to let the landscape tutor me, to lie fallow for a while myself") and metaphors that give as much pleasure (and meaning) as their subjects themselves: the Wyoming grasshoppers, for example, that find the morning sun, "where they wait until they're fully charged, ready to go off," or the simple observation ("October") that "the sun has made its way southward like the fox that crosses the pasture most evenings." The biggest pleasure, though, is Klinkenborg's gradual sculpting of this whole philosophical year, beginning always with simple observations of place, work, and weather, chipping away until nothing's left at the end but something perfect. Now and again a factoid will be left in-about father, wife, boyhood in Iowa-as if just to give us a tiny glimpse of this person whose voice we hear talking. Holidays get their brief, perfected, ruminative moments ("Memorial Day is the porch before the house of summer"), as do other enormous subjects, including the universe, WWI, and the World Trade Center. Nonfiction storytelling at its highest: unflaggingly lovely, with scope, profundity, and power achieved through a mastering of the delicate.

Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.