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Posts Tagged ‘Barbara Kingsolver’

How does a poet, a once upon a time science writer, become a novelist? Barbara Kingsolver, a self-described introvert, told her audience it’s a matter of luck and timing. “I am not trying to please anybody,” she said. “I write because I love to write, I write because I have to…”

Our local Parnassus Bookstore organized today’s event at the rooftop bar of a very trendy restaurant in the Gulch. Ann Patchett and Kingsolver in a conversation about the writing life – I asked a friend to go and we Lyfted down. Over a chicken sandwich and salad we learned about her farm back in VA, close to our “not-so-big-house” on the mountain. It was the start of Kingsolver’s book tour; “Unsheltered,” takes place in Vineland, NJ, a landscape that had once been considered a utopia, in another century, and she weaves us back and forth between the 1800s and today seamlessly:

“Here comes the first major novel to tackle the Trump era straight on and place it in the larger chronicle of existential threats. Donald Trump’s name doesn’t appear in Barbara Kingsolver’s “Unsheltered,” but the president prowls all through these pages. He’s “the Bullhorn,” “the tyrant who promises to restore the old order,” the “billionaire running for president who’s never lifted a finger,” the candidate who brags that “he could stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shoot somebody, and people would still vote for him.” He’s the animal spirit of a political movement that’s draining the middle class, breaking the joists of civil society and pushing the planet toward ecological calamity.  https://www.washingtonpost.com/entertainment/books/in-barbara-kingsolvers-unsheltered-trump-is-just-the-latest-threat-to-earths-survival/2018/10/16/6aebe630-d140-11e8-b2d2-f397227b43f0_story.html?noredirect=on&utm_term=.d2ff8cf353e4

Her next book will be something new, “Something that scares me to death,” a series of poems. For Kingsolver, poetry is “…the literary novelist’s art.” She explained that writing fiction is different in one sense, once she had the plot constructed in her mind, the rest is “Language.” SO poetry makes the process similar. The heart of her work is in the words, the language she uses to change a bunch of sentences (the first draft) “…from Toyotas to Ferraris!

Kingsolver speaks like an artist, she gives us “brushstrokes” of details to bring her characters and the landscape to life. In “Unsheltered” she examines what it means to hang on to the old ways of doing things, vs moving forward, embracing change. Why do some of us resist change, while others go with the flow of progress, adapt to our shifting environment?

In this new post-2016 world, where words are being weaponized to suit an autocratic, narcissistic commander-in-chief, where truth is taking a back seat in political discourse, and journalists are sent pipe bombs and being slaughtered in embassies, Kingsolver ended the afternoon imploring us to VOTE. It’s as if our lives depend on it.   IMG_4067

 

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In this heat, you’ve got to start your day pretty darn early. It takes me about an hour to water the gardens. We also have newly planted figs and an evergreen that needs daily care. If I’m not done by 9 am, the #heatwave knocks me out. Just checked my phone, yep it’s 83 and it “feels like 90” at 10 am. The windows are perpetually covered with condensation, and my glasses fog up as soon as I open the door.

But this day started at 5 am, when I woke up and finished reading my book, Flight Behavior by Barbara Kingsolver. It left me thinking, instead of sleeping for another hour. She is one of my favorite writers, and this story is a not too subtle attack on climate deniers. However, it’s woven deftly into the everyday dynamics of a young farming family in TN, and the mother Dellarobia, is our protagonist. It touches on poverty, on women and independence and on class bias, all while trying to figure out why a million beautiful monarch butterflies have decided to roost on Dellarobia’s mountain.

So of course I had to do some research, and they did only just discover this roosting behavior almost forty years ago in 1975 which is pretty new in the world of scientific discovery. nat-geographic-cover-e1295402536266Roosting is a wintering over, a sort of dormant time for the butterflies when large clusters hang from trees and hibernate in plain site. Normally they will migrate and roost in the mountains of Mexico, but in this fictionalized version they’ve arrived in Appalachia like a miracle from God to the poor people living there. http://texasbutterflyranch.com/2012/07/10/founder-of-the-monarch-butterfly-roosting-sites-in-mexico-lives-a-quiet-life-in-austin-texas/

The monarch is our state insect and sometimes they will land on my shirt! Unfortunately while watering this morning I came inside with your normal everyday tick attached to my leg. I’ve learned not to panic when I see these critters sucking their way into our dogs, our children or my leg. We’ve probably dislodged hundreds over the years with our bare fingers – I find that much easier than trying to use a tweezer. But now I do keep the tick around for Bob to look at when he gets home, just in case. In order to transmit Lyme Disease, the tick must stay attached for 24 to 36 hours in order to transfer the LD spirochete, http://www.aldf.com/lyme.shtml so a good rule of thumb is to always do a tick check when you come inside.

Here is a picture of my butterfly tree, as seen through the sleeping porch. It is currently buzzing with honey bees!    photo

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