30 January 2005

Words That Sing

I can't remember not loving books, from the inexpensive little volumes my mom would buy at Woolworth's to the books of my own and books from the library. I love a good solid story in a smart narrative, but when I was small I didn't realize that good prose could have the voice of poetry as well. Then in a school reader we had an excerpt from Laurie Lee's memoir, Cider With Rosie (published here in the States as The Edge of Day). It was an astounding revelation. Lee's prose told a story, but wound in delightful metaphor that was poetry to read. I still cannot pick up the book without remembering that discovery of those joyful words.

Gladys Taber's Stillmeadow books are similar. Between the narratives of country living and recipes and the antics of the cocker spaniels and Irish setters that populate the landscape came turns of phrase that painted the countryside and its inhabitants in vivid language fit to be verse. (A travel book, Journey Through New England, has this turn of phrase in its descriptions as well and reminds me of Taber.)

I am reading yet another book with a similar blessing. Those of you who are fans of Mary O'Hara's Ken McLaughlin trilogy, My Friend Flicka, Thunderhead, and Green Grass of Wyoming already know of her well-crafted stories and of the description of countryside and characters that makes them special. You may not know about what I consider my favorite book of hers, Wyoming Summer. This is an adaptation of the journal O'Hara kept of one summer at the ranch that was the prototype for the Goose Bar Ranch in those books, and of some events that became inspiration for them, but as an additional joy it also contains that type of prose that sings like poetry. Her descriptions of ranch life, of music, of musings about God and life, are a delight to read not just for the story but for the language. It never fails to send me soaring. This is a worthwhile book to find and to keep forever.

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