cover image Festival Days

Festival Days

Jo Ann Beard. Little Brown, $27 (272p) ISBN 978-0-316-49723-7

This imaginative and precise collection shows Beard (The Boys of My Youth) at her best. The nine entries vary in scope and subject, but loss and melancholy bridge the collection. “Last Night” captures her final moments with her beloved, terminally ill dog, and “Maybe It Happened” reflects on the unreliability of human memory. The title essay interweaves Beard being left by her partner and her grief after the death of a friend: “In less than five minutes, we don’t have her anymore. She’s gone.” Beard can evoke many emotions in a single stroke: “The Lab lived to be fifteen too. The marriage, fourteen,” she writes of losing both a dog and a relationship. She’s also cunning with surprising metaphors and details, as in “Close,” where she compares writing to sitting on a sled: writing a book is like “the snow has melted and there’s just grass and gravel. It takes a lot to get the sled moving, and then it goes only a few inches.” These sharp essays cement Beard’s reputation as a master of the form. Agent: Flip Brophy, Sterling Lord Literistic. (Mar.)