Just finished reading an incredible book
Recently I have been reading a few different books and in the past couple of weeks have had three books open, West With the Night by Beryl Markham, The Age of American Unreason by Susan Jacoby, and Our Lady of the Forest by David Guterson. The one I just finished reading was West With the Night. The author is a woman I had never heard about before, and for that I guess I blame the poor education system in this country that emphasizes, or at least used to only emphasize, the accomplishments of men, primarily white men.
It sure seems like I should have learned about the first woman to fly a plane, solo, from east to west across the Atlantic, since that was quite a feat.
Anyway, I got the book at a local Thrift Store on the recommendation of a man I met there. He pointed out the comments on the back cover written by Ernest Hemmingway, where he states:
. . . she has written so well, and marvelously well, that I was completely ashamed of myself as a writer. I felt that I was simply a carpenter with words, picking up whatever was furnished on the job and nailing them together and sometimes making an okay pig pen, But she can write rings around all of us tho consider ourselves writers . . .
And, he is correct. From the second page of the book, her writing caught my attention with sentences like these.
Even in 1935 it wasn't easy to get a plane in East Africa and it was almost impossible to get very far across country without one. There were roads, of course, leading in a dozen directions out of Nairobi. They started out boldly enough, but grew narrow and rough after a few miles and dwindled into the rock-studded hills, or lost themselves in a morass of red muram mud or black cotton soil, in the flat country and the valleys. On a map they look sturdy and incapable of deceit, but to have ventured from Nairobi south toward Machakos or Magadi in anything less formidable than a moderately powered John Deere tractor was optimistic to the point of sheer whimsey . . .
Another wonderful passage is the one where she describes a lake where she is using the shore to train a racehorse with sensitive legs.
The shores of its lake are rich in silence, lonely with it, but the monotonous flats of sand and mud that circle the shallow water are relieved of dullness, not by only an occasional bird or a flock of birds or by a hundred birds; as long as the day lasts Nakuru is no lake at all, but a crucible of pink and crimson fire—each of its flames, its million flames, struck from the wings of a flamingo. Ten thousand birds of such exorbitant hue, caught in the scope of an eye, is a signt that loses credence in one's own mind years afterward. But ten thousand flamingos on Lake Nakuru would be a number startling in its insignificance, and a hundred thousand would barely begin the count.
Her writing is not so intimidating that I want to stop writing all together, which is the effect some brilliant writers such as Jim Harrison have on me. In fact, her writing is inspiring. Now, if I could just take the time, and care, to emulate her style as I post the pictures of my latest caching adventure, and write little descriptions about the hike.