a tenderly woven collection of essays
an entertaining and emotionally resonant book
But my favorite line calls out the writing itself:
the language [is] lyrical, possessing a poet’s cleverness of rhythm.
Some years ago I had a group of friends who met once a month or so to read poetry to one another—Mary Oliver or Robert Hass or Billy Collins or Jane Kenyon. For a while our anthem was Kim Addonizio’s “What Do Women Want?” We took turns reading it aloud and in our mind’s eye put ourselves (or if we were male or gay, our lovers) in that red dress, strutting. If the words in Kissed by a Fox call to mind the rhythms of poetry, it’s because I have spent years listening to the best.
If the writing is lyrical it also means that I’ve changed a lot as a writer—welcome news for someone who came from the world of academic writing, which does not—um—put a premium on beauty. Of course, during all those years of graduate study I was writing journals on the side, experimenting with language, cutting loose in private with all the feeling exiled from the scholarly page. When I finally set out to write a creative nonfiction book, it seemed a miracle to be allowed to bring together beauty with ideas, to wed heart and mind on the page. Every day I sat down to write, I felt like the luckiest person in the world.
But writing in this way was time consuming. Picture me at my computer, spitting out a paragraph, deleting half of it, staring into space, adding two sentences, moving them around, deleting more words, and staring again into space, always reaching for a smoother, shorter, more direct or inspired way of expressing each thought. And then reading the paragraph, rereading it, sometimes aloud, to check its flow on the tongue. Each chapter took at least a month of full-time work. And more of the work was taking out words than adding them, seeking the economy of poetry.
In a matter of weeks Kissed by a Fox will find its way into the world. I’m grateful that one of its first readers enjoyed the writing itself.
What you can do
- The usual social media thing—go to the review and, if you feel inspired, “Like” it on Facebook, then come back here and let us know if you have anything to add.
For a great read on a different kind of book review
- Check out this entertaining Salon.com post (thanks, Marj!) from a writer whose novel got skewered in the New York Times: “Thank you for killing my novel.”