I’m trying to think of what it is, exactly, that I like so much about these stories…
I recently finished reading The First Eagle by Tony Hillerman, and am now in the middle of Sacred Clowns, also by Hillerman. Both are from his series of mystery novels set on a Navajo reservation in the southwestern U.S. I’ve always like mysteries, and this series is my latest favourite. I’ve been reading the books in random order as I happen to find them, whether at the library, in used book stores, or in Little Free Library boxes. I’m trying to think of what it is, exactly, that I like so much about these stories. The setting is a big part of it—the southwestern landscape of wide sky, mesas, and cottonwood trees is such a vivid presence. It feels like Hillerman writes with a great deal of affection for that landscape—and for his characters, who are well-drawn and thoroughly real.
In between these two mysteries, I re-read Gone-Away Lake by Elizabeth Enright. I’ve done this before, coming back to books I first read as a child to see how they stand the test of time. Not all my childhood favourites wear well; the Trixie Belden books, for instance, which were exciting when I was twelve, now feel a bit thin and formulaic. But, to my great pleasure, Gone-Away Lake holds up very well. The writing is excellent (and I had the curious sensation, while reading, of recalling certain sentences word for word). The story takes place in a rural setting, and Enright identifies plants, birds and insects by name. This may not have registered with me when I first read the book, but it struck me now, and I think it’s one of the things that make the story and its world feel so solid and real.
On the poetry side, my reading has been rather haphazard lately, dipping into one thing or another from the teetering piles of books and literary journals on the coffee table, beside my armchair, and beside the bed. I’ve acquired quite a few chapbooks lately—Angeline Schellenberg’s “Dented Tubas,” Michelle Elrick’s “Photon Touch” (which comes with an album you can download), and John Terpstra’s “Brendan Luck,” among others—and these are probably my favourites out of my recent poetry reading. Along with the beauty of their poems, I’ve been enjoying the beauty of their visual design and texture. These very short books are very satisfying to read, look at, and touch, and well worth lingering over.
Joanne Epp won third prize in the 2018 Bliss Carman Banff Centre Poetry Award contest. She lives in Winnipeg.