Author of AGAINST A DARKENING SKY, THE EMPTY ROOM, OUR DAILY BREAD, and others. Find out more at www.LaurenBDavis.com. I read as if my sanity depended upon it.. . . oh, wait, it does! Snort.
M.F.K. Fisher is best known for her splendid food memoirs - The Art of Eating, The Gastronomical Me, Two Towns in Provence, How to Cook a Wolf, Consider the Oyster... and more. They are all delightful -- smart and funny and thought-provoking and about far more than food. Far more. 'When I write of hunger,' she explained in a foreword to 'The Gastronomical Me,' 'I am really writing about love and the hunger for it.' A moral writer, she is full of philosophy, history and sly wit.
And so it was with great interest that I picked up her book about aging, and I wasn't disappointed. These are stories, with a couple of memoir essays, about how to get old, and what it means to get old, and what one experiences in that country. She's a fascinating writer, in that her fiction reads like memoir and her memoir like fiction. An early genre-bender, if you will.
But of course, Fisher being Fisher, it is about age, yes, but so much more. Memory. Place. Death. Wonder. France. War. Suffering. And rats (I'll let you discover them for yourself).
She says here, 'I have spent my life in a painstaking effort to tell about things as they are to me, so that they will not sound like autobiography but simply like notes, like factual reports.' A photo she found in a second-hand store of an old and "monkey-ugly" become the talisman she hangs over her writing desk, her companion into the exploration. It's intriguing and deeply human.
The book is not perfect -- a couple of the stories seem light-weight and some purists might not like her more fantastical stories, although I did, very much. In their imagery she reaches out to understand, and to express, what is essentially mysterious, and I felt the rustle of recognition on a deep level, which is a testament to her art.
Loneliness and regret touch many of the characters, and Fisher seems to be wrestling with how we make peace with the things we have done and the things we have left undone. From the vantage point of age, we remain ourselves, still hungry for love. The difference might be, however, where we find it.