Sgwarnog: In the Field

By sgwarnog


The May prompt for Love Blippin’ Books (#LBB5) is “Judge a book by it’s cover - literally!” My selection is a book and writer that I knew nothing about, and so picked up based on cover alone. 

I buy most of my books in charity shops. Books are jammed tightly in the shelves and often the only thing you can see is the spine. As a sliver of the cover, even the spine therefore has to have the power to draw me in, to persuade me to pull the book out to look at it. It may be colour, type face, publisher or something pictorial. I know that the book industry use tacit cover branding and design to speak to their desired segment of the market and genre audience, and I am probably a sucker for it. 

So what persuaded me to look at Plainsong? The cover image was clearly rural and probably American West, but I was a bit confused by the recommendation from Roddy Doyle, who I’ve never read, which made me think it might be set in Ireland. I will have flipped the cover, seen “Set in Colarodo in the 1980s” and that will have been enough.

I found it a completely immersive patchwork tale of people in the small town of Holt and its surrounding farms and ranches. Parts of it are utterly bleak, parts very funny. The characters range from eight to eighty, and all have convincing inner worlds. 

I’ve learned that Kent Haruf died in 2014. Plainsong was published in 1999 to some acclaim. I’ve learned that it is the first of a loose trilogy set in Holt, and so I will look out for those.  I’ve learned that my lifelong favourite writer, Ursula Le Guin, wrote a very appreciative piece about his work. His publisher groups his work alongside writers like Annie Proulx, Jane Smiley, Richard Ford and Cormac McCarthy as creators of an almost mythic contemporary America. These are all writers that I’ve read widely and enjoyed. Quite how I’d missed Kent Haruf up to now I don’t know, but I’m glad the branding and cover worked, and helped me bring this book home.

For fun, I have geotagged today’s entry as the town of Yuma, Colorado, which is the town that inspired Haruf’s fictional town of Holt. 

Thanks to @squatbetty as always for convening the Love Blippin’ Books challenge. 

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