Reviews for A Very Tall Summer

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Two reviews for A Very Tall Summer have come in. Both are very generous and encouraging, and of course much appreciated.

From Diana: “I purchased this book after reading Baird’s novel Ordinary Handsome, which I highly recommend. A Very Tall Summer is another unique tale, full of ghosts that Baird introduces at his leisure as the story bubbles up from the deep. He’s in no hurry to divulge the secrets of Charlotte’s life; they percolate to the surface as the reader sits inside her head and listens to her moment by moment thoughts. There’s no narrator giving the reader a bird’s eye view. The extremely tight point of view requires the reader to float with the story until the pieces take shape, shift, and sharpen. Baird is a master wordsmith, painting a vivid world of sound and motion, rife with feeling, and deadly in its inevitability. Enjoy.”

From Jane:  “I’m still having a hard time describing how Baird’s story affected me. Take that as a good thing. I went back and re-read it to make sure I had extracted all I could.
Baird’s use of language is both elegant and gritty. It is layered and often unexpected; and it makes something striking out of an otherwise simple story. He uses his skill to pin you to the page in a way which both pleases and disturbs, creating a kind of cognitive dissonance which will both repel and compel you. A keen observer, he will activate all your senses, sometimes in ways you wish he would not. You will find you are unable to turn away from the taste of sweat and the crunch of cartilage….
“Steven Baird has something special. I suspect he can produce literature with a capital L, and I look forward to finding out.”

A Very Tall Summer is available at: http://www.amazon.com/Steven-Baird/e/B00P4KW612

The ice field

The ice field

Warm(er) winter days ahead… above-average temperatures are forecast for next week. A lot of the snow from last weekend’s storm has already melted, but not all. Cold winds and frosty nights have formed a hard crust on the surrounding pasture. At least one cow explored the field, and then retreated, probably to get her sunglasses.

Buffalo Mountain

buffalo mtn

I finally made it up our “driveway” today. I put that word in quotations because it’s really a wide drift of snow about two feet deep. And I did cheat by walking along the adjacent cabbage field. That was boot-deep and exhausting. Took the dog, a shovel, and the camera.

The sky is one of the most brilliant shades of blue I’ve ever seen, and the snow a blazing white. I noticed Buffalo Mountain in the distance, how postcard-perfect it looked, and snapped away. I actually got a couple of decent shots in spite of being snowblind. I was going to take some shots of the “driveway” but really there’s nothing to see but a wide white swath.

I managed to shovel a path from the top of the driveway to the road, so we do have access to civilization (re: my job tomorrow, or an emergency beer run). The storm is over, but we might not see the driveway for awhile. Maybe spring will make an early appearance? In spite of the recent storm, it doesn’t hurt to hope.

Day 2

The snow has returned after a brief lull, and now the wind is kicking in to remind us that it ain’t over yet.It’s difficult to measure how much accumulation because of the drifting, but I’d estimate 12 inches.  I’ll brave a walk up the driveway later this morning to see if any plows have made it up here yet. Hopefully the car will still be there….

Day 2

Snow day – 8 a.m.

8am18am2

So far, not bad. But at least another 24 hours of snow is forecast. I see shoveling, naps, and more shoveling in my future.

On its way

White on Ford

With the so-called “Snowpocalpyse” on its way, we’re making preparations. Living in a somewhat isolated area, there’s a good chance we won’t see civilization for a few days, so we’re ready. Pizza and a movie tonight, tuck in under some blankets, and watch the world turn into a blank page for the next couple of days. As long as we don’t lose power….

This shot was taken last year, which wasn’t nearly as bad as what’s been forecast. We’ll see. The old Ford may just disappear this time around.

Stay safe, stay warm, keep those blankets and the hot chocolate nearby. 🙂

A fire

I walked slowly back into my house, and it’s dark. All the windows are still curtained and I left all the lights off. This is no place for a cowboy. A cowboy needs to be outside. He needs to feel the breezes and the fresh air. He needs to be watchful, to read the truth of the wind and interpret the sound of an approaching horse.

I don’t want to be in here any more than I need to. I grab a flyer off the kitchen table, some scrap from Home Depot advertising DeWalt power tools, and crumple it. I claw the sports section, the financial pages from whatever newspaper Cholo reads to me. It’s all scrap, it all has a more glorious purpose. The clock says its 8:42, and I feel the morning slipping away. Yellow jackets brush my arm, agitated but still mostly spring-drunk. Zippo lighter in hand, I light a dense ball of newspaper and toss it onto the bundle of twigs. Nothing happens. A small circle of flame burrows into the paper, tiny black ash framing an orange glow. I poke a stick at it, trying to loosen the ball to let the fire to breathe. There’s a small crinkle and snap and then flame magically spreads. Pieces of paper float loosely into the air, moth-like, and the creamy smell of burning paper hovers like a dancer. And then a loud whomph, like the air has just been sucker-punched.

The birds are also startled, and suddenly the fire is all I can hear. The wet moss gives the flames a sizzling sound, like bacon. Small red dots of flame and glowering newspaper twist in the air and some of them land on my jacket. The day has become warmer, even hot, and I strip it off, and my shirt. Everything has become more primitive. I feel more Pawnee than cowboy, like something has loosened in my mind. I feel like dancing, or even whooping. Wouldn’t Cholo be in for a surprise if he were to pull in the driveway? To see his oldest friend whooping like a pagan around a fire-circle.

The flames grow bigger, fatter, and I can feel the hairs on my arms curling from the heat. I’m dancing, now, singing some idiot chant that feels like a heartbeat in my throat, and then, for a moment, perfect clarity fills me. I see an hysterical old man dancing around fire, a man lost in his primitive nature, shirtless and crazy. What am I?

The fire is spreading, spreading across the grass and toward the fence line, sizzling and squirting yellow flame. Smoke climbs in a spiral, thick and waxy, the smell of wet burning wood. I stand back from the heat, uncertain, and slap at the flames with my jacket. But there is kerosene residue on my jacket and it ignites into a dull orange curtain. I stumble backward and fall over a slick wet branch, onto my back, five feet away from the flames. Crab-craw backward, my fingers scooping soft earth. A moment, a moment of clarity. A shovel. Dig around the fire, deny it fuel. But I don’t remember where I put the shovel. I don’t remember. Was there a shovel in the storage shed?

I roll onto my knees and begin clawing at the earth. It is soft and pliant, but not very deep. But I dig around the fire, my hands yanking thick clots of dirt and grass, tossing them behind me. I feel the fire on my arms, my forehead, and for a moment I feel the flames brush my scalp and smell the sizzle of hair. I pull back convulsively, still pulling up large handfuls of dirt, now tossing them onto the fire. Because the branches are still wet and the kerosene is mostly used up, the fire starts to weaken. Thick black curlicues of smoke reach up and up. I collapse, exhausted, filthy and scared, the hairs on my arms scorched, leaving red welts and black ash. The fire is not spreading. I sit back, my legs trembling, my hands matted with mud and soot, and cry. Stupid, stupid man. I don’t remember why I wanted to start a fire. It seemed important at the time. It mattered to me.

I was once more than I am. I am more than just a sick old man. I stare into the flames, hypnotized by the dance. An unimaginative old man would not see the bones beneath the fire, greasy from bubbling fat and tendon. There, the finger bones of a small child, denuded and splintered from the explosive pops of fire. And there, the femur, small and misshaped, scorched black. Arm bones, ankles and toes, caked with white-gray soot.

 

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