Sunday, January 06, 2008

Rural Life

I don’t usually read Verlyn Klinkenborg’s Rural Life columns in the New York Times. They kind of irritate me; why are they there? I find his wistful prose about snowstorms and barns and hay making to be oddly out of place among the political and social commentary that make up the rest of the opinion pages. Maybe New Yorkers feel like it’s all the rural life they can stand: “Let’s just read a little bit about some pigs then we can feel all in touch with our pastoral selves” or something.

Thus it was with surprise and delight that I discovered on Friday that Klinkenborg had gone and written a great article about an author I really enjoy, Angela Thirkell. Thirkell (as you can read in Klinkenborg’s article) wrote 29 books about rural life (!) in England, in the years between 1933 and 1961. She set all these books in Barsetshire, a fictional English county invented by Anthony Trollope in the 19th century. I always thought she was so clever to do that. Trollope went to all the trouble of creating and populating this place; it shouldn’t go to waste!

A while ago I went on a Thirkell kick and read about eight of her books in one year. At the time I think that was all the titles my library owned. They are a bit hard to find. Moyer Bell publishes them, but they don’t seem to have good distribution. A quick check of my library database tells me they’ve acquired more titles in recent years, so I think I’ll try another one, if I can remember which ones I’ve already read.


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