Following up on a post the other day, The most romantic writer I know and the sexiest train ride of my life, reading a lot of fiction does mean reading a lot about love and sex, along with money and death. But reading the fiction I’ve been reading has meant reading a lot about the weather, which is fine---Hemingway liked to say it was important for a writer to get right how the weather was, and that’s something he always got right---and reading a lot of descriptions of landscapes. Jim Harrison, Peter Heller, and Thomas McGuane particularly are all very good weathermen and geographers. McGuane’s the best of the three on both counts, I think. He doesn’t just get the weather and the lay of the land right and put you in it. He puts it in his characters’ heads and then puts his characters’ heads---and hearts---out into it. The weather and landscape aren’t only settings. They’re exposition. And that’s a reason for calling him the most romantic writer I know beyond the coincidental association with my own romantic adventures. Like the Romantic poets, he’s a practitioner of the misnamed and maligned pathetic fallacy. Here’s the opening of one of the stories in his new book, Crow Fair, “A Long View to the West”:
The wind funneled down the river valley between the two mountain ranges, picking up speed where the interstate hit its first long straightaway in thirty miles. Clay’s car lot was right on the frontage road, where land was cheap and the wind made its uninterrupted rush whatever the season of the year. Before the winter had quite arrived to thicken his blood, while the cattle trucks were still throwing up whirlwinds of cottonwood leaves, the wait between customers seemed endless. He couldn’t even listen to the radio anymore. In the snowy dead of winter it was easier somehow. Now, face close to the window, and one hand leaning against the recycled acoustic tile that lined the walls, he stared down at the roofs and hoods of used vehicles in search of a human form.
Like I said, a romantic. Or a Romantic.
In case you want to read the rest of the story this morning and can’t rush right out to the bookstore, Crow Fair is available for kindle at Amazon. If you’re more patient, you can order it in hardcover.