Posts Tagged ‘literature’

Year of “The Yearling”

December 26, 2013

Original Book Jacket Cover for The Yearling

The Things You Discover
With the bustle of Christmas preparations behind us for another year (and the sound of tearing wrapping paper still fresh), I began my usual year-end review of the many things I meant to do in 2013, but never got around to.

I also started making an updated list of the things I probably won’t do next year, either.

I’ve been extraordinarily blessed with new acquaintances, good relatives and great friends this past year, but my bride and I also have many pressing family issues to deal with right now (life is always like that, isn’t it?).

I wasn’t doing my usual patient search for literary things to write about, so it took me by surprise to come across a notation about the year 2013 that I had overlooked.

This past year was the seventy-fifth-anniversary celebration of Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings 1938 novel The Yearling.

So, you ask, what’s the big deal?

A Best Seller
Well, for one thing, The Yearling was the best-selling novel of 1938. It held the number one spot that year for twenty-three consecutive weeks, sold millions of copies and has been translated into Spanish, Chinese, French, Japanese, German, Italian, Russian and twenty-two other languages.

It was also awarded the Pulitzer Prize in 1939.

But it’s only vaguely familiar today to young American readers, and in 2012, it only sold about six-thousand copies … in all formats.

Although that’s an annual sales figure that would thrill most indie authors … they’re dismal numbers for a book considered a classic.

Running Out of Steam
It seems The Yearling is slowly sinking into obscurity. Why? How does such a classic novel run out of steam?

It wasn’t as if The Yearling was Rawlings first book. She also wrote the little-remembered South Moon Under (which, remarkably, was also a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize … in 1933).

Original Cover for South Moon Under

One factor might be Marjorie Rawlings herself. Matronly and angry-looking, she was not a very good public speaker … and she was certainly not a sexy figure. As a woman of independent means, Rawlings could live as she chose, but her abuse of alcohol increasingly ruled her life.

She advanced no politics and didn’t have a spectacular, memorable “rock star” life or death that was covered by all the available news media … just a lonely, broken-hearted alcoholic one (1896–1953).

Majorie Kinnan Rawlings

Despite her apparent successes, some critics considered her writing to lack the depth of great literature, although they praised her skill in reproducing the color, characters, speech, local customs and way of life of backwoods Florida.

“Writing is agony for me,” she once told an interviewer. “I work at it eight hours every day, hoping to get six more pages, but I’m satisfied if I get three.”

Wrong Genre?
Another factor in its apparent demise might be the prevailing view today that The Yearling – despite a few uses of the “n-word” – is a book for young readers. I find that surprising, because Pulitzer’s are not an award for children’s books.

Perhaps, in the final analysis, sales of The Yearling are fading because the story reflects a world view here we’re also losing … a much more simplistic time, where self-sufficient farming and hunting were individual necessities, and families only survived by their daily hard work and wits.

As that world disappears it seems almost inevitable the book, and the stunning landscape it evokes, would continue to lose audience.

Readers today expect their protagonists to come face-to-face with the true meaning of hunger, loneliness and fear in other ways … like road rage, sex, vampires and zombies.

5491372-lyearling poster
MGM Movie Poster for The Yearling

As someone who read the book at a fairly young age and who also remembers the many early television broadcasts of the old, tear-jerker black & white film based upon it, it seems the world spins now at a different rate. Faster and more unrelenting.

Click picture for a scene with young actor Claude Jarman from The Yearling

Perhaps … just perhaps … the book, with all its heart-tugging sentimentality and backwoods charisma, is fading away because it can no longer keep up with the pace.

I think that’s sad.

It’s like forgetting that it’s the intention you bring to the simplest gift of time, love, laughter or friendship that is worth far more than anything you could put a bow on, because the best gift you can give your loved ones is you.

Hmmmmm. I think I just made my resolution for 2014.

Happy New Year.


Next Book

April 17, 2012

© Cover art for the next book, designed by R.L. Herron

So, before you ask, what does the title “Zebulon” mean?

Good question. I looked it up for you:

Zebulon \z(e)-bu-lon\ as a boy’s name is of Hebrew origin, and the meaning of Zebulon is “dwelling of honor.” Biblical: the name of one of Jacob’s son.

What does that mean as far as my new book is concerned?

Nothing. I just like the word.

My next book is a collection of short stories. The best definition of genre would be fantasy.

The collection contains stories that range from the ultra-short fiction of “Conversations with a Lonely Island God” to the 8,600 words of “Zebulon.” They run the gamut from sad, and maybe sentimental, ghost stories to pure and simple fantasy.

However, while there might also be a touch of science fiction, there is no sword and sorcery here, no epic fantasy or horror. Most stories here would rightfully be called low fantasy; stories that are set in a relatively normal world, containing fantasy elements.

More than anything, they are stories of life and love, and the experiences of ordinary, if not exactly normal, people.

Hmmm, sounds like I may just have written something I can use in the forward!

As a teaser, here are a few sentences from one of the stories in the book, “The Devil & Charlie Barrow.”

When he stepped into the bar that cold night in December, Charlie acted as if Flanagan’s was definitely not the first stop he had made. If anyone had asked, everyone, and I do mean everyone, from me to Mayor O’Reilly, would have said Charlie looked like he had been partying since noon.

Still, he somehow maintained the dignified presence that seemed to follow him wherever he went.

As Charlie slowly wobbled his way through the tables, I shook my head in wordless wonder. Charlie ignored many empty seats and finally plunked himself down at the bar.

He took the stool right next to old Beelzebub.

Interested yet?

Find out more about my current book, “Reichold Street,” and plans for the next books at my writing web site: Broken Glass.

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