Many environmentalist-minded readers believe the nature writer of today’s turbulent, climate-changing times should function as both artist and activist. If David Gessner’s All the Wild That Remains (Norton, April 2015) is any indicator, the modern nature writer indeed should embody both roles—and could even expand his or her repertoire and master memoir, essay, biography, travelogue, and/or literary criticism. Via these and more seamlessly braided forms, Gessner’s book calls readers to action, inspiring outdoors-appreciating-yet-non-activist readers like myself, for instance, to question our own sense of place in this world.
As I’ve written before, my grandmother’s apartment holds a particular place in my head. I keep revisiting the floor plan, and the room that glows brightest in my memory is the kitchen. The kitchen, I think, is the quintessential center for grandmothers, mothers, and female authority in general. And while my grandmother was not maternal, not soft, rarely kind, she haunts the kitchen, vapors of past dinners clinging to her permed hair and her stained apron.
Clarie, first a word then a name, grounds this story and eventually breaks out from a war letter. To know a story, to discover its how and why, will mean recovering, digging back toward its beginning—and that means memory.