Friday, November 18, 2011

Friday Reading Assignment 11/18/11

I've always been interested in the ways that place molds us.  With that in mind, The Horizontal World:  Growing up in the Middle of Nowhere by Debra Marquart (2006) is this week's Friday reading assignment. Would I be a different person today if I hadn't spent the first twenty-eight years of my life in Buffalo, NY, a land defined by boundaries: canals and bridges, a river, two huge lakes and an international border?  Now my children are being raised away from the water in a place hemmed in by mountains, defined by trees.  How will it shape their characters and world view?

The prairie is one landscape I'm unfamiliar with. I was driven across Nebraska by my parents on a long-ago family trip to the Rocky Mountains, but that is my only experience with it.  Of all the books I've ever read, the Little House on the Prairie series--many of which are set in South Dakota-- had the most profound effect on me.  Laura Ingalls Wilder references again and again the beauty of the wide, clean space and its overpowering silence.  The prairie comes with hardships: blizzards, droughts, suffocating heat, intolerable cold, dust, and a non-stop wind from which there is no shelter.  In a way, the prairie, a dry, flat place with no boundaries is the opposite of the landscape I come from.  I like uncluttered landscapes.  I think I might like the prairie. One of these days I'll take a trip out west and really see it for myself.

Debra Marquart was raised in North Dakota and The Horizontal World is her memoir about growing up on a farm, yearning to get away, escaping, but ultimately being unable to escape.  She tells of the hardship of the farmer's life, her teenage rebellion, departure, and her mystical connection to the land she tries so hard to flee.

This book is: engrossing, sad.
Time it will take to read:  less than a week


  1. I've spent a fair amount of time on those Great Plains and I tell you, the landscape is so frightening in its barrenness. I'd rather live ANYWHERE else.

  2. how fabulous......a new discovery!

  3. I've always dreamed of living in an area like that. The immense spaces, the infinite sky, the quiet. I'll see if I can get a copy down here.

  4. What happened to the sophisticated background?
    It's all changed again.

    Have you been experimenting with your computer again?
    You know that this way lies derangement.

  5. I got feedback that the other background was difficult to read. It was a little busy.