That essay is Garry Wallace's "Meeting Cormac McCarthy." Excerpts have been quoted here and there, but the entire essay must be read to grasp its artful nuances. Garry Wallace is a stylist, and his simple sentences are freighted with implications beyond the words. The good news is that he will soon make available a book of his award-winning essays, including this one, so that they can be ordered on-line.
After deconstructing his McCarthy essay last week, I did a search to find anything else written by him. His 2007 book, BIOGRAPHY OF A BIRD DOG, is still in print, so I sent for that. I'm a seasonal reader and I like to read dog stories in the fall, in hunting season, so I figured I would put it on the back shelf until then.
But I was immediately drawn into this artfully constructed work of creative non-fiction. I found myself rooting for the man and his dogs, drawn on by his troubles and trials and his insights into them. Wallace, who teaches biology and writing at a college in Wyoming, is very widely read, and he draws on that reading time and time again for insights into the human/canine condition.
The pages seemed to fly quickly. It is a large easy-to-open trade paperback, and the print is easy to read. But what makes this 490-page book a quick read is the author's engaging style, the magic of his prose, the telling. The next thing I knew, my wife brought me dinner on a tray instead of calling me to the table. She's seen this before. I thanked her and read on.
I was sorry to see the book end, but grateful for the experience. You know the feeling. There's an epilogue, then an about-the-author page, then a list running several pages of the author's suggested reading--from which I've now ordered a couple of books.
This is, first, a character-driven work of creative non-fiction that touches on many facets of the human condition. There is naturalism here, a cycling of life, death, and rebirth. It is also, naturally, a dog story, a personal memoir full of literary references, and a western pastoral beautifully told. I say so having paid the full price for the book at Amazon unsolicited, with no agenda other than to spread the word about this gem.
The author maintains a website at this link, where he lists his ten favorite books as:
- Goodbye to a River
by John Graves
- Gathering Evidence
by Thomas Bernhard
- Crime and Punishment
- The Crossing
by Cormac McCarthy
- Memories, Dreams, Reflections
by Carl G. Jung
- Confessions of a Philosopher
by Bryan Magee
by Robert M. Pirsig
- Waiting for the Barbarians
by J.M. Coetzee
- Speak, Memory
by Vladimir Nabokov
- A Beautiful Mind
by Sylvia Nasar
I contacted Mr. Wallace and asked for an interview. He was kind enough to answer my questions--impressively, as you shall see in the next post.