Friday, December 17, 2010

Maggie Gee's My Animal Life

I'm currently reading Maggie Gee's memoir, My Animal Life, with great pleasure. Here are a couple of passages from early in the book to give you a sense of Gee's voice and the terrain that she covers:

     Why call this book My Animal Life?
     Not to degrade my life, but to celebrate it. To join it, tiny though it is, to all the life in the universe. To the brown small-headed pheasant running by the lake in Coolham. To my grandparents and parents, and my great grandparents who like most people in the British Isles of their generation wore big boots, even for the rare occasions of photographs, and lived on the clayey land, and have returned their bones to it, joining the bones of cattle, horses, foxes. To the blind out-of-season bee bombing the glass of this window. To link, in a way I only learned to do in my thirties, my mental life to the body I love and enjoy, to my secret sexual life and my life as a mother.

And a bit further on:

     I am writing this book to ask questions—to which I do not know the answer. How can we be happy? What do men want? What do women want? What do children need from us?
     Can I save my belief in the soul from my love of science?
     How can we bear to lose those we love most?
     How do we recover from our mistakes—our many mistakes?
     How do we forgive ourselves? And our parents?
     Why do we need art? Why are we driven to make it?
     And class: Can we ever really change it?

I've been reading a lot of nonfiction this year, in part because I've been writing a lot of nonfiction, and I've been on a bit of a quest to figure out what, beyond interesting content, makes good nonfiction good. Suffice it to say that, so far, on that front, My Animal Life is a model and an inspiration.