Who does it for you?
I have been thinking about sense of place for the PhD workshop I am leading next month and considering the writers who craft places I can imagine, and then create characters that seem to grow naturally out of the landscapes they describe.
I have my favourites from the past and the present. In the former it’s the Brontes and west Yorkshire, Hardy and the west of England, and closer to home, Caradoc Evans, one of the founders of Anglo-Welsh literature and his My People, set in the deepest darkest edges of west Wales.
As for the present, there are so many who do it for me: Daniel Woodrell and his Missouri Ozarks; Annie Proulx and her unflinching writings of Wyoming; and the wonderful Claire Keegan and her rural Ireland. I can’t leave out last year’s Dylan Thomas Prize winner; another Claire (is there something about the name Claire?) – Claire Vaye Watkins and her collection of short stories, Battleborn, set in the American west – California, Utah, Nevada. And then there’s Sarah Hall, writer of Mrs. Fox, winner of last year’s BBC Short Story Award whose collection of short stories The Beautiful Indifference, has to be up there with the best. How about this for writing…
“You wouldn’t want to linger. You wouldn’t want to be caught alone, moving slow and obvious in the lowland. This was where the raiders met, coming south or north. This was burnt-farm, red-river, raping territory. A landscape of torn skirts and hacked throats, where roofs were oiled and fired, and haylofts were used to kipper children. And if you rolled down the window, you could just about hear it – the alarms and the crackling flames, women split open and screaming, as their menfolk choked on sinew pushed down their gullets.”
How’s that for writing? Gritty, not pretty. Poetry for the ears.
I’d be interested in what you think of some of these writers and particularly, who does it for you. Meanwhile, it’s back to thinking, and writing, about my own special sense of place; Gower and getting ready for the next storm to come through.