Winters in Neely

In case anyone is wondering, yes I still read fiction and will be reviewing plenty of it here in the days and weeks to come. This week has had a rather somber focus, what with books on death and war and whatnot. I thought it might be good to bring fiction back into the picture.

I am currently reading A Short History of a Small Place in anticipation of reading the recently released sequel Glad News of the Natural World . I have found it to be a delightful read so far and have read a number of passages out loud to my wife. I thought I would share a passage with you as well. In describing the latest work, Publishers Weekly says “the novel rambles gracefully.” This seems an apt description. And, as long as you are in the mood for it, isn’t a particularly harsh criticism to my mind.

The section quoted below describes how the narrator, Louis Benfield, comes to know it is winter. It struck me as true and poetic.

So once a year in November I wake up on a Saturday with the sort of felling that must come over birds just before they migrate, and I get straight out of bed into my playclothes and put on my carcoat and my work gloves and my green corduroy hat with the earflaps and I fetch the rake out of our cellar and set out for the bottom of the back lot, where I am condemned to thrash at the mock orange bushes for the balance of the day. And that is when it usually happens, not while I’m still trying to extract from the mock oranges everything that has blown or fallen into them in the course of the year, but after I have left off from the struggle for a spell and have sat down on the grass where I pluck at the rakehead to make the tines sing, and I listen to the sound of the sprung metal dying away sometimes mixed with the cry of a hound or the low, indecipherable noise of a voice on the air, and suddenly I am aware of the sort of chill I haven’t known in a year and I notice that the sky is very high and tufted and the color of ash in a grate, which is the color of my breath, which is the color of the afternoon, which is the color of the season; and I know it isn’t autumn anymore.

About the author

Kevin Holtsberry

I work in communications and public affairs. I try to squeeze in as much reading as I can while still spending time with my wife and two kids (and cheering on the Pittsburgh Steelers and Michigan Wolverines during football season - oh, and watching golf too).

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