Heat-Moon…in the month of the Heat Moon: “PrairyErth” by William Least Heat-Moon

Short and Tweet(able):

A true anti-tweet:  deep exploration of one Kansas County – in more than 600 wonderful pages.

Wayoverbooked Takes a Look:

Seems we may (?) have finally reached the Heat-Moon (July) in Portland — a month when we will hopefully take time to ponder the grass beneath our feet. That’s exactly what William Least Heat-Moon does in “PrairyErth” — he literally explores (and explores, literately) nearly every inch of a single county in Kansas. Think that’s bound to be boring? Nope – like putting pond water under a power microscope, you’ll be amazed and entranced by the intriguing characters of Chase County. Heat-Moon is a master of giving us a sense of place (something we Portlanders like to think we know a bit about!) in places unexpected. The book is subtitled “(a deep map)” (LOVE those parenthetical subtitles!), and I was reminded (even though this book was written in 1991) of Google Earth — looking at a place from space, and then getting closer, and closer, and closer…

You’ll find geology, history, botany and philosophy galore in “PrairyErth” – and you’ll want to savor them all (as you stare at those blades of grass poking up between your toes).

Sample it on Google Books

Notes and Quotes:

The word “prairyerth” is an old geologic term for the soil of America’s grasslands.

Took my breath away:

“While I may pass my life in continuity and completeness, I comprehend it only in discontinuous fragments; of the lives of people around me my understanding is utterly fractured and piecemeal: scraps, shavings, smithereens. Family or friends tell me a story in a few details, and I say, I see. Even more than autobiography, biography and history and literature and all the arts are far-flung bits reassembled into an illusion of completeness so that we comprehend only by orts.”

News and Reviews:

Looks like there could soon be a movie! Return to PrairyErth (trailer – YouTube)

Listen to radio interviews with the author here (scroll down the page for PrairyErth). Available for Real Player or in mp3.

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It’s Not All Black and White – “The Story of a Marriage”, by Andrew Sean Greer

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Not the usual triangle. 3 people/3 problems: race, homosexuality, war. Writing that stuns-just as you’re recovering from another plot twist.

Wayoverbooked Takes a Look:

This one definitely had me at hello – here’s the opening sentence:

“We think we know the ones we love.”

Ain’t that the truth – except, of course, it’s not.  Author Andrew Sean Greer has captured my heart, and he’s plumbed the depths of the human heart. This novel, set in 1950s San Francisco, follows housewife Pearlie Cook — and what happens when mysterious Buzz Drumer (he definitely creates a buzz…AND runs through Pearlie’s world like a buzzsaw) shows up at the door. Not even 200 pages, but it seems like (in a good way!) 500.

Sample it on Google Books

Notes and Quotes:

This one took my breath away:

“You cannot go around in grief and panic every day; people will not let you, they will coax you with tea and tell you to move on, bake cakes and paint walls. You can hardly blame them; after all, we learned long ago that the world would fall apart and the cities would be left to the animals and the clambering vines if grief, like a mad king, we allowed to ascend the throne. So what you do is you let them coax you. You bake the cake and paint the wall and smile; you buy a new freezer as if you now had a plan to join the future. And secretly – in the early morning – you sew a pocket into your skin. At the hollow of your throat. So that every time you smile, or nod your head at a teacher meeting, or bend over to pick up a fallen spoon, it presses and pricks and stings and you know you’ve not moved on. You never even planned to.”

Ain’t THAT the truth. Except when it’s not…

News and Reviews:

NYT Review

Greer’s Authors@Google Talk (YouTube)

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