In the meantime, I have this quote from Walker Evans, by way of Phyllis Root:
“Stare. It is the way to educate your eye, and more. Stare, pry, listen, eavesdrop. Die knowing something. You are not here long.”
I had an eavesdropping experience yesterday, reading The Animal Family by Randall Jarrell. I was actually fulfilling an assignment from Marsha Qualey for our work revising the Required Reading List at Hamline. We wanted to be sure this book from the 60s still deserved a place on the list.
My vote is yes! First, the epigraph, "Say what you like, but such things do happen--not often, but they do happen." What a wonderful invitation to magic!
Jarrell takes his time putting this family of hunter, mermaid, bear, lynx, and boy together. And that might be a problem for readers looking for action. But there's an atmosphere to the book that builds, through tone, through taking one's time, through detail--the mermaid's burbling language, the lynx's careful washing of the Hunter and the Mermaid, who says of the freshly-polished hunter, "If I hadn't lived with you so long, I don't know whether I'd recognize you. He's got you so you just gleam." The family is a world unto itself. Jarrell has built this world. They are all each other needs. There's no getting and spending, no longing for more. It's a kind of Eden. When I was done, that world colored mine, shaded it with wanting to slow down, look more closely, stare.
Stare. Let's, and report back. The crows are at it again. Must go.