woensdag 12 november 2014

Gary Snyder & Julia Martin: Nobody Home [review]

This is proving to be a good year for us fans of Snyderiana. Earlier this year the correspondence between Wendell Berry and Gary Snyder (my review here) appeared and now there is 'Nobody Home Writing, Buddhism, and Living in Places'. It is a beautiful slim volume that fits perfectly in the side-pocket of your backpack, the perfect format for all books. It collects three interviews with Gary Snyder and the correspondence (1983-2011) with the interviewer Julia Martian, a South-African academic and Buddhist. The interviews are nice but hardly surprising, Snyder as a writer and thinker has a one-track-mind that amtraks towards the next station at his pace and without room for deviation. A near 100% of his output sits on a continues line of what he wants to say and for his steadfast reader these letters allow you to get a ever closer look on the minutiae of his intellectual development. Compared to earlier volumes you do get a little closer to Snyder as a man of teaching and travel, and there is also slightly more shown of the emotional events in his life. The real star of this book for me is Martin. I never heard of her before but we get to know her in her students years writing long overbearingly intellectual letters from the isolation of South Africa to her self-chosen teacher. As the years go by you follow the way she matures and comes into her own. At the background are the great events of her countries recent history: the fall of apartheid, the presidency of Mandela, the normalcy of violence, the presence of deep history and nature. A better title for this book would have been: "Growing up with Gary Snyder".

At the end of the book letters turn into email and this changes the entire tone of the correspondence, less formal, more kindhearted and also quicker, shorter and more pragmatic.

Not once does the word beat or beatnik fall. 

I like seeing Snyder with one of those 1980's pen holders. I always wanted one when I was a child but the only thing I could do was try to make one with toilet paper rolls. And he had one: lucky bastard.

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