Tuesday, June 2, 2009

This House of Sky

This is a wonderful, wonderful book; and it is Ivan Doig's first published work. In it, he describes his upbringing by his father, Charlie, and his grandmother, Bessie Ringer, out on the wilderness ranches of Montana. I am glad that I read it after having read Dancing at the Rascal Fair and The Whistling Season, because I could recognize in his early life the sources of so many of the stories in these later works of fiction.

I read the 15th anniversary edition of the book, which has a preface by the author that I found fascinating, telling as it does the story of the writing of the book and how it came to be published.

Here are a couple of quotes from the book, just to give you a bit of the flavor.

And childhood is a most queer flame-lit and shadow-chilled time. Think once more how the world wavers and intones above us then. Parents behave down toward us as if they are tribal gods, as old and unarguable and almighty as thunder. Other figures loom in from next door and the schoolyard and a thousand lanes of encounter, count coup on us with whatever lessons of life they brandish, then ghost off.

[On going to school for the first time]: ...I was unimpressed with lessons, which seemed to be school's way of finicking around with things I could do quicker on my own.

In the night, in mid-dream, people who are entire strangers to one another will sometimes congregate atop my pillow. They file into my sleeping skull in perplexing medleys. A face from grade school may be twinned with one met a week ago on a rain-forest trail in the Olympic Mountains. A pair of friends I joked with yesterday now drift in arguing with an editor I worked for more than a thousand miles from here. How thin the brainwalls must be, so easily can acquaintanceships be struck up among these random residents of the dark.

Memory, the near-neighborhood of dream, is almost as casual in its hospitality.

This House of Sky; Landscapes of a Western Mind, by Ivan Doig. Originally published in 1978; 15th anniversary edition with a preface by Ivan Doig. Harcourt, 1992.

1 comment:

JC said...

Sounds like a good read. I have a few books waiting in line for me but when I'm done with those maybe I'll pick this one up.

By the way, I'm doing a Pay It Forward on my blog ... if your interested.