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Writing from the Center
ISBN 0253329418 / 9780253329417 / 0-253-32941-8
Publisher Indiana University Press
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Exile is a romantic notion for many American writers; those who don't make it to Paris or Tokyo gravitate to New York or Los Angeles, as if pulled by some sort of undertow to the country's edge. Scott Russell Sanders spent some time abroad, but he found that he answered less to the lure of foreign soil than the gentle tug of his native Midwest. Just as Sanders is nourished by living in the landscape that he most considers home, so is the reader nourished by the writing that grows out of that experience. "Any landscape is made up of particulars--sweet ferns and wheatstacks, this creek and that meadow," writes Sanders, "and writers who imagine the land with most authority honor the details." Sanders honors the details, whether pondering a canoe trip with his daughter, a kitchen renovation, or the place of the writer in the academy, and his authority is evident from the book's first page. It is with great pleasure that one reads these 12 evocative essays, which somehow manage to detail the devastation we humans wreak on nature and on one another and yet still affirms all that is good about home, the land, community, and honest hard work. For Sanders's father, that work involved carpentry and farming; Sanders's trade is writing, and he sees it as no more or less grueling than such manual labor. "Writing is work, and it can leave you gray with exhaustion, can devour your days, can break your heart," he writes. "But the same is true of all the real work that humans do, the planting of crops and nursing of babies, the building of houses and baking of bread." --Jane Steinberg [via]