1939: The Yearling, by Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings

Literary Style:

Barn on ' property in Cross Creek, Florida

A barn in Cross Creek, Florida—Rawlings lived nearby, so this is part of the setting that I imagine inspired her. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The Yearling has been, as you’ve seen, a bumpy ride.  There are certainly things to praise about Rawlings’ novel—her use of setting, most critically, and also some of her character development.  At its most winning, it’s an engrossing experience, walking me through a world I don’t particularly know (the swampy farmland outside of Volusia, Florida), and helping me understand an era of small subsistence farming that is important to remember.  The storm and its aftermath are probably the best section of the book for me, since they really bring home how hard it is to live where the Baxters do, and how inventive and enterprising they have to be just to keep food on their table.  Those moments certainly help me understand why many people loved this book when it came out—it wasn’t just a Pulitzer winner, but a major best-seller—and why some still read it and recommend it to others today.

But the other side of The Yearling gets to be too much for me.  I’ve already talked about my uneasiness with how Rawlings uses gender in the novel.  The end of the story does a little to redeem it, especially when we see Ma Baxter in a slightly new light in the events around Christmas (as well as Grandma Hutto’s canny solution to a very serious problem).  But it also perpetuates the ideas about women that persist throughout the novel.  In the end, there’s only one parent that matters to Jody Baxter—only one whose betrayal really stings, only one who he need apologize to, only one relationship that really matters in any way as far as this novel is concerned.  As I said before, I get that there’s a lot of accuracy in Rawlings’s portrayal of Jody as a boy fixated on becoming a man, and on being a man like his father.  I just wanted a novel that knew Jody’s vision was blinkered.  And instead I got a novel that did its best to portray a world that was in reality what Jody thought it was from his perspective.  I’ve read enough Pulitzer novels by now to know that I’m not asking for too much there.  But I will say that other great novels of the era do have gender issues.  I think Steinbeck’s Of Mice and Men is really excellent, but I could lay the same charges about gender at its feet that I do at The Yearling‘s.  Am I being a hypocrite, then?  Maybe.  Or maybe it’s that A) Steinbeck’s novel has more interesting and important things to say (when it’s not talking about gender) than Rawlings’s novel does, and B) Steinbeck’s novel is not aimed at fifth graders.  Anyway, I’m willing to be swayed on this point, and willing to acknowledge that I see how a reader could work around this objection.

I’ll try not to give away much about the ending, but my real hatred of how Rawlings ends the book is a major factor in my souring on it overall.  It’s no shock to anyone, I hope, that Jody’s beloved pet deer is doomed—this, as I said at the outset, is how these novels go.  Because I was expecting it, and understood it was necessary on some level, it’s not the death in particular that I object to.  It’s how manipulative and cruel the whole scenario is.  Rawlings devises one of the worst possible outcomes—in doing so, she has to sideline characters and make other characters fools for the sake of getting the most gut-wrenchingly agonizing ending she can.  The whole plot machinery squeals and grinds as she wrenches the novel into MAKE-THEM-WEEP mode.  And unlike other stories in this genre—Old Yeller, Where the Red Fern Grows, etc.—the animal’s death doesn’t even mean something.  There wasn’t something like love or hope at the heart of this sadness.  Only unalterable Fate; unavoidable Despair.

In the end, if everything Rawlings and her characters say is accurate, Jody’s beloved father is a fiend—a man who, out of the desire to be kind, has proven more cruel and psychologically damaging to his son than many a lesser father might have.  Furthermore, the moral he wants his son to walk away with—and, given the novel’s structure and Penny’s place in it, the moral that Rawlings surely is trying to inculcate—is a vicious one: in Penny Baxter’s universe, humanity is alone and frightened.  We toil in desperation and solitude; we cannot trust one another or the ground we walk on; the sooner a child learns that life is empty, the better.  I understand how a man like Penny might reach these conclusions, and how a novelist might want to explore these powerful ideas, but coming at the end of an otherwise cheerful little nostalgic tale about an innocent boy and his love for a pet, it’s really unfair to the reader, and unjustified.  Rawlings may want this ending, but she hasn’t earned it.  Penny Baxter shifts from being Atticus Finch to being one of the slavers of Astapor, forging in naive and trusting Jody his little Unsullied warrior who will serve him well.  He explicitly acknowledges that Jody can escape the unendurable (and ultimately unsurvivable) subsistence farm the family lives on, and then makes his son promise not to flee for a better life, but to stay here in his abandonment and his loneliness in order to fill his father’s shoes.  As I said, I don’t mind the dead deer.  It’s casting the boy into a living hell that I mind.  Rawlings’s cheap sentiment at the end of the novel, which seems like an attempt to bandage the open wound of having read the final chapters, is almost nauseating.  It mocks the idea of happiness, and it reminds us how badly the ending suits the novel we have been reading.

So I’m left with a novel that’s well written on the sentence level, although not always well-constructed.  On the one hand it makes characters we enjoy and want to spend time with, and on the other it uses those characters to undermine any reasonable treatment of women in the novel.  It’s sweet and nostalgic, right up to the point where it becomes almost bizarre in its efforts to shock and harm us—in doing so, it perpetrates consequences on Jody Baxter that I can’t forgive.  There’s no reason a novel can’t be dark, even dark and great—ask me about Mary Doria Russell and The Sparrow sometime—but you have to earn it, and Rawlings doesn’t.

Historical Insight:

As a part of the whole, this really does a great job of getting inside the world of the struggling farm in the Deep South—its misses (the authentic experience of women on the farm) are notable, but so are its hits.  It is less vivid than Now in November, and less sweeping (and sympathetic to women’s stories) than Lamb in His Bosom, but taken in conjunction with them, I found a lot of it to be really interesting and insightful.  There are pieces I wish Rawlings had done more with—Southern identity in the post-war period (Penny is a Confederate veteran, but we hear little about this), their connection to the wider world (other than a little about “going to sea” and some speculation about Jacksonville, they feel too isolated, even given their circumstances)—but overall this is definitely the side of the novel that should get high marks.  She cares about these bygone days, and wants us to care about them too—she largely succeeds.

Rating:

According to the unscientific rating scale in use here, this gets a “Read only if forearmed against its weaknesses…and whatever you do, don’t put this in a child’s hands.”  If you go into this book ready to interrogate its relationship to gender, and prepared to fight back against the conclusion it tries to present, there’s a worthwhile read locked inside it.  I’m not recommending you do this.  But I can see people enjoying this book, under those circumstances.  The one thing I have to emphasize, though, is that I really don’t think you should have a child read this—really, not even if you have nostalgic memories of this from your own childhood.  Our kids get enough “man=good, woman=bad” messages from our culture and media, and there are plenty of great stories that avoid that problem entirely—no shortage of other options there.  And whatever you want your child to grow up believing about humanity and purpose, I’d urge you not to blind-side them with this book’s ending.  It’s not that the deer dies, like I said above—animals die in kids’ books, and it generally doesn’t scar them.  But the author booby-traps this novel—the final message is utterly enervating without being consistent with the story we’ve read, and it blows up any possibility for hope.  A kid can read plenty of books that explore dark or serious themes while avoiding what Rawlings does here.

The Last Word:

Rawlings’s work with setting is lovely, so I’ll let her take us out that way.  This passage is from late in the book, but there’s lots of this throughout—here’s the opening of a new chapter:

“March came in with a cool and sunny splendor.  The yellow jessamine bloomed late and covered the fences and filled the clearing with its sweetness.  The peach trees blossomed, and the wild plums.  The redbirds sang all day, and when they had done with their song in the evening, the mockingbirds continued.  The ground doves nested and cooed one to another and walked about the sand of the clearing like shadows bobbing.

Penny said, ‘If I was dead, I’d set up and take notice, a day like this ‘un.’

There had been a light shower during the night and the hazy substance of the sunrise indicated there would be another before night.  But the morning itself was luminous.”

“He was torn with hate for all death, and pity for all aloneness.”

The Yearling is winning me over, in a number of respects, so this post will focus primarily on the positives (since my last two posts have emphasized my criticisms/concerns about Rawlings’ novel).  The book has managed to put together some powerful scenes—the above quotation arises out of the tense and painful experience that creates the opportunity for little Jody to get his baby deer friend.  I think Rawlings manages the tension pretty well on a child’s level—what it’s like when a parent is injured (and maybe dying, or even dead), and how the world looks to a kid.  After being relatively uneventful for its first few chapters, the story is now managing to bring a little variety to the reading experience, and I’m engaging more often with the characters’ actions and decisions.

English: A great egret in a cypress grove. Fra...

I don’t know that Jody lives in the Everglades exactly (pictured here), but this is the world I get into when I read. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Overall, Rawlings’ strength is still setting—she’s gotten really good at using her somewhat limited vocabulary (limited by choice, I expect, and with her audience in mind) to paint images of the Florida swamps and prairies, and the creatures who live there.  The details of the isolated rural life of a Floridian in this era are here—the elaborate system used to get clean drinking water, the dependence all families have on their few close neighbors, the fear of what will happen if the crops fail just once.  The anxieties and the relationship to land, water, and weather are not as clear or as deeply explored as in Now in November, but that’s a very high bar to clear, and Rawlings gets closer to it than any other author I’ve read yet.  I get pretty immersed in these details, though there’s a repetitiveness to the imagery as we return to the same places over and over, and see some of the same sights.  For the right reader, I think this would be magical—for me, it’s merely very good, and the aspect of the writing I can praise most highly.

High marks should also be given, though, for how well Rawlings is using dialect—a common recurring complaint here at Following Pulitzer, as you veterans know, since so many authors use it so badly in the first half of the 20th century.  She manages to get real conversations, and insightful comments, expressed in the humble backwoods vernacular, without bailing out (as so many authors have done) to a 3rd person narrator who can steer us past the shoals without being limited by idiom.  This is most evident in a eulogy offered by Jody’s father, Penny Baxter, for one of their neighbors—a very simple prayer, and yet very moving, that expresses a lot of emotional ground (and heals some wounds between the neighbor families) while staying very true to the “swamp talk” the characters speak.  There are some nice little moments between Penny and his wife, too, and those also generally occur in dialect.  It’s a simple thing, but it’s so rarely gotten right that it really does deserve mention.

This is not to say that I have no complaints at all—the book’s exploration of Jody’s emotional life (and the impact of the often tragic events surrounding him) remains too limited for me.  At times I am reminded of the stark simplicity (and the beauty) of some passages from Thornton Wilder’s Bridge of San Luis Rey, but these moments are occasional, rather than consistent.  I have some qualms about the book’s use of (and attitudes about) gender, which I intend to address in a later post if they persist, and I’d like to talk a bit more about what does and doesn’t work for me regarding Rawlings’ style as a writer of prose.  But overall the read is now definitely on the positive side of the “entertaining/boring” dichotomy, if only just.  I have my concerns about how Jody and his little deer will get along over the next section of the book, and based on the novel thus far and the essential dynamic of a boy and his “wild creature for a pet”, I kind of expect an unfairly emotionally manipulative denouement.  However, I can hardly complain about it until it happens—the complaints will be loud and long if it should come to pass.

One side complaint that has nothing to do with Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings, and everything to do with Scribners, the publisher of the particular volume in my hands: the illustrations are placed terribly.  Not only are they the Sunday School feltboard quality images I criticized in my initial post—they appear to have been inserted into the book where they could most easily be bound (between signatures, I think, though I can’t tell exactly how it’s bound).  For this reason, some images appear well in advance of their occurrence in the text, and some appear well afterwards.  This is bad enough on the face of it, but unfortunately Wyeth uses the illustrations to reveal critically important plot developments.  I’m reading along, as Jody hears his friend X is sick, and he’s thinking of going to visit friend X, and then I turn a page and there’s an illustration of people carrying a coffin (above a caption that reads “The Burial of X”)—this is 10-15 pages before X’s death is revealed.  I don’t mind knowing a bit about a book’s plot before I read it—if it’s good anyway, no amount of “spoilers” can make it not good.  But I do mind having plot points spoiled literally while I am reading the book, about 15 minutes before it’s revealed.  It’s one thing to know before you start reading that the wizard is going to die; it’s a very different thing not to know that, and to have the book announce it to you unexpectedly in bright colors about a chapter before he does.  Again, this isn’t a criticism of the novel at all—just me expressing frustration at my special illustrated edition that was clearly put together with no real care or interest.  Oh, publishers, when will you learn to respect your readers?

 

“Merciful Heaven, don’t you ever think o’ nothin’ but your empty belly?”

Mrs. Baxter’s more right than wrong about Jody—he does also think about how to get out of his chores, and how it’s fun (and scary) to hunt for bears, and occasionally about how much fun it would be to own a wild animal for a pet, but food is definitely tops on his list, as far as I can tell.  The most exciting moment in many chapters seems to be dinnertime, which may tell you all you need to know about how happy I am with this novel.

I know it’s been quiet here for a little while, but it’s because I’m having trouble mustering up much to say about The Yearling.  It’s a sweet enough book, of course—the little family is close but not cloying (well, not too cloying), and there are a lot of pleasant little moments with the flora and fauna of central Florida.  It seems a fairly comforting world to grow up in, with just enough danger to make you feel a little excited now and then.  I am reminded, at this point, of Wilson Rawls’s Where the Red Fern Grows, which I read many times as a kid despite its intensely sad ending.  I sort of imagine I’m in for the same story here—isn’t every story about a child and his unlikely animal friends destined to end in parting and sorrow?  Heck, even Christopher Robin walks out on the folks in the Hundred Acre Wood.  I guess what I’m saying is, if the title character (who has yet to show up in the book) makes it to the age of two (a bi-yearling?) without abandoning Jody in a puddle of tears, I’ll be surprised.

Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings, author of the novel ...

Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings, who (bless her heart) looks as excited in this photograph as I feel while reading her Pulitzer-winning novel (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Other than waiting for a deer to show up, is there anything else at work in the story?  I don’t see much yet.  Mr. Baxter’s a little canny—sharp as a hunter, and a clever trader, though the trick he plays on the Forresters is the oldest swindle in the book.  I think Methuselah would have called it “hackneyed”.  I don’t see what to do with that, though.  There’s definitely a contrast between the Forresters and the Baxters, but it’s not clear to me that it will be developed much—I get the sense that both families have a sort of condescension in their assessment of the standing of the other family, and I feel like this has to do with wealth on the one hand, and “class” on the other.  But the book is working with such broad strokes that I don’t really know what it would explore if it decided to go there.

I’ll credit Rawlings with some ability to work with setting—she is superior to the descriptions of farm life executed by Edna Ferber and Willa Cather (to say nothing of the miles by which she exceeds the dismal talents of Margaret Wilson), but I can’t put her ahead of the evocative work done by Josephine Johnson in Now in November.  Beyond that, though, I don’t really know what to latch onto with this book, since the characters are fairly two-dimensional (with the possible exception of Jody) and the plot is unexciting.  Her skill with language is neither embarassingly bad nor quotably good.  I’ve seen (much) worse hands at the use of dialect, but I’d be lying if I suggested that I didn’t think the dialect was working as a hindrance more than a help.  At this point, I’m reading the children’s book I was expecting—calm and even, pleasantly nostalgic, and awfully forgettable.  I can’t see that the introduction of the yearling to the story will do anything other than provide a plot device that allows this coming-of-age story’s main character to come of age.  There are probably other twists ahead, and enough of them (or enough added depth on Rawlings’s part) might make a legitimate novel of this thing.  But without that kind of intervention, I feel mostly like I’ll be trudging dutifully through this one, pacified by its occasional charms but essentially uninterested—like watching an episode of Lassie in which the dog never shows up (but Timmy makes it out of the well somehow without too much incident).

“As God is my witness, I’m never going to be hungry again.”

As anyone familiar with the movie knows, this is the epic conclusion to the first half of the film (I think it literally is the last line before the act break, isn’t it?)—Scarlett, her mouth full of bitter root, having just survived the fiery fall of Atlanta, making an important personal breakthrough.  I have to be honest, though.  In the novel it doesn’t play that well for me: it feels a bit forced, as though Mitchell wanted to rush the character to some kind of critical decision a bit before she’s built up the character enough to support it.  Scarlett’s a tricky one.  I did like the comment from Diablevert at Along With a Hammer (my most indispensable companions on this Pulitzer path) who points out that Scarlett really has to be the distracted, self-involved person she is at the outset because otherwise it would be nearly impossible to remain sympathetic to her later on.  I’m not positive I agree with Diablevert, but I definitely can see that angle, and I have a feeling it may lie at the heart of why the novel is written as it is.  For me, the frustration is that the line comes across as a woman who’s ready to take more charge of her life, but it comes at the heels of a whole string of instances where she’s heavily dependent on others.  I just don’t see the self-reliance in Scarlett yet—in fact, I feel like Margaret Mitchell’s invested most of the first 400 pages convincing me it’s not there—and I can’t work out how she thinks I can turn on a dime like this.

I did like the whole depiction of the siege of Atlanta—the little details feel very vivid and accurate, and I have to assume a lot of it came from folks’ memories of those weeks.  I am glad she didn’t shy away much from the violence and the agony of the wounded, and the desolation of the nearly empty city on that last day certainly hit home.  For setting, I think Mitchell’s second to nobody I’ve read so far—she’s less poetic than Josephine W. Johnson was in Now in November, but I think I see more when I read her.

Rhett’s sudden decision to enlist after getting Scarlett and Melanie out of the city was another stumble, for me—again, I feel like Mitchell had very carefully built up a clear sense of the character, and she hauled on the reins way too fast.  I understand that Mitchell wants me to see the effect of Scarlett’s words on Rhett, but it’s badly played—a man with Rhett’s integrity (a word I dwelt on, last post) doesn’t move like that without a much better set up than a couple of choice remarks from Scarlett.  She makes plenty of remarks, and so far none of them have come close to landing on him.  Hollywood romantic comedies and Lifetime movies-of-the-week rely on this kind of thing, with characters whose sudden decisions are there solely to serve the plot, but Mitchell’s much better than that, and the false move clanged for me.  I feel as though it was more her embarrassment for Rhett that motivated the move than anything else.  A note to our author: when your characters are basically coming out and saying openly “I really have no explanation for why I’m behaving this way”, it’s probably a good sign that you haven’t set up the decision.  This is especially true for characters who are otherwise incredibly perceptive about human beings, including themselves, and their motives.

So, I’m still taken by a lot of things in the book, but I’m a bit fretful that Mitchell’s losing a handle on her two best characters at this point.  We have a long way to go, and she’s going to need to settle them back down.  The question of race continues to plague me—in this section, it’s my utter bafflement that Mitchell has to depict slaves as being so freaking stupid.  I mean, almost every conversation between Scarlett and a slave in this portion of the novel involves the slave being a total idiot, and Scarlett having to (not so) patiently walk them through incredibly obvious decisions.  It’s almost on the level of “Miss Scarlett, the cow is thirsty.” “Why, give her some water, then.”  “Why, Miss Scarlett! You are the smartest woman!  Water….who’dve thunk it?”  I get that at least some of Prissy’s ineptitude has been set up for, and works into the plot, but mostly it just feels like really simplistic argument—Scarlett (in the voice of the narrator) keeps wondering why on earth the Yankees want to free such mindless livestock.

This is where I get frustrated with Mitchell.  I’m willing to go along with the idea that Mitchell wants me to see what Scarlett saw, and that part of this is her attitude about slavery.  I have been uncomfortable with this aspect of the book, but I’ve done my best to go along with it and see what it illuminates for me.  But the problem here is that the slaves (as narrated) really are stupid.  In every other matter (the war, Ashley’s feelings for Melanie, Rhett’s true character, etc.), Mitchell gives me enough information to see both sides—to see Scarlett’s view of the world, but then also to see how the world really appears (or at least how it would appear to other people).  With slavery, there’s only one view.  Slaves are dumb animals, and they’re lucky this angry, pouting 19 year old is around to shout orders at them or these poor childlike creatures would die where they sat.  If the novel has any intention of presenting even brief glimpses of slavery that call Scarlett’s attitudes into question, I’d like Mitchell to get busy doing it.  Great literature can do this—if it is honest enough, it can even transcend its age.  William Shakespeare is writing in an age of widespread antisemitism, and may well have been antisemitic himself, but his anti-Jewish comedy, The Merchant of Venice, presents Shylock as a human enough character that the play can be (and has been) reinterpreted for modern audiences with almost no changes to the original script.  The Bard—maybe in spite of himself, or maybe with great skill—gives us enough to both see Jews as 16th Century Englishmen would have and to see them as the unfairly embattled minorities that they truly would have been at the time.  I want Mitchell to just try to be that good at giving me the humanity of Mammy and Pork and Prissy—even just one of the three.  Until she does, I don’t think I can ever really get past that portion of the novel, and I think it’s a fair standard to hold her to, since she’s clearly a novelist of significant talent.

In short, I feel like I’m at the turning point here, myself, along with Scarlett.  I’ve either been set up for some real redemption (and a novel that makes my top 3 in the Pulitzers read thus far) or for a real disappointment (and a novel whose strengths can’t outweigh its stumbles, at least not for me).  Time will tell which one lies in store.

“He did not realize that he was studying his wife critically, as one might an opponent.”

I know this novel’s been dragging on too long, as I’ve been distracted by other things. So I’ve made the conscious decision to get this book finished (especially since I enjoy it) and move forward. So this is my last update about Laughing Boy before my review.  The above quotation is, of course, Laughing Boy, who finds that marriage to a secretive lady-of-the-evening (“prostitute” is such a harsh word….and a bit misleading in this case, though not much) ain’t all it’s cracked up to be.  He, of course, does not initially realize that Came-With-War, his wife, has this extracurricular occupation, but this is the part of the novel where things get complicated.  I don’t want to give away a lot of the plot, since I think this is a good enough book to recommend, so I want to focus on what I think La Farge does well, independent of the plot (which is, I’ll just say, believable enough to avoid distracting you, but does operate on a bit of a heightened melodramatic level).

La Farge is great with characters—not Whartonesque (no one in this book could really rival Mrs. Manson Mingott), but near Edith in his talents.  His ability to walk down the tense line he does—how a troubled young marriage balances between trust and suspicion, how a single heart can build up hatred to the point that it looks like love, how a young woman can manage to contain two cultures, two worlds, in one life—takes that kind of deft touch, and he’s good with it.  At times, he even sparkles with a clarity that is, in fact, equal to similar moments in Wharton and Austen: most memorably, a brief passage where he describes a wealthy American who pays more and more to try to bind his lover to him, noting that while the man knows that money is no way to win a sincere affection, deep down he needs to be lied to convincingly enough to blind himself to the truth, for his own sake.  That willing self-deception, driving with it the downward spiral of overcommitment, is a really complicated emotion, but La Farge makes it come across.  He is stilted in dialogue, but usually I think because he wants his native characters to speak using their idioms and their cultural values.  Because he’s not quite good enough to bring us inside the culture, their outward interactions feel stiff and somewhat formal, but that’s just the way many cultures look to the uninitiated—the feeling I get is very strong that he allowed some conversations to be less dramatic rather than try to “spice them up” with what would inevitably be caricatures.

And the setting here continues to develop really intriguingly: La Farge is wretched with visual details (in my opinion—I never get a really clear image of localities, events, etc., in this book) but fantastic with details about how characters see and perceive each other.  That means that the environment around these characters rises more slowly than I want it to, but that as it becomes clear, I see the surroundings through a very well-rounded and human lens.  I don’t see the pasture because he helps me “see” it, I see the pasture because I see in it Laughing Boy’s dreams of success, his emotional relationship to the horses he raises, the importance that an old friend meets him there when he least expects it.  La Farge isn’t a great craftsman at every level, which keeps this book from my personal pantheon.  But he was smart enough to know what he did well, and stuck to it: like a lesser Baroque composer who only really understands canons, and decides to write a few good ones rather than slave away on a wretched fugue or two because everyone else is doing it.  Though maybe that analogy works for too few of you?

This novel explores a lot of great issues and without prejudgment (or excessive moralizing).  You don’t see much condescension in the narrator’s perspective on Came-With-War’s infidelity: if anything, I think the novel’s position is that sometimes good people do unwise things, and there’s generally a reason for it. Both she and her husband struggle with the question of whether it’s better to grit your teeth and hold on in the tough times, or if it’s better to cut one’s losses and find a new path—neither of them (yet, at least) have given any sense that either choice is right.  I’m curious how a Native American, especially a Navajo, would see this novel…from my perspective, it’s very respectful of Navajo tradition and positive (in an honest way) about its relevance in an increasingly “American” world.  (“American” isn’t the right word, but “industrial” is farther off, and I don’t know that I have any other better options.)

A review soon, as well as reviews of two books sent me by authors (one a good friend, and one a recent arrival in the comments section here) who have nothing to do with the Pulitzers but who I won’t be able to help talking about.  And I may review or reflect on some books I’m reading for my last slate of classes here at the end of graduate school.  All that, plus starting a new Pulitzer book, and keeping up with Poetry Friday….we’ll see how much I can accomplish, but I hope to keep the train moving.  This Pulitzer goal isn’t going to go away, and neither am I.