cover image Aug 9—Fog

Aug 9—Fog

Kathryn Scanlan. MCD, $18 (128p) ISBN 978-0-374-10687-4

Scanlan’s outstanding debut inventively adapts a real woman’s diary. This slim volume’s opening note states that 15 years ago at an estate auction, Scanlan found the diary of a woman who lived in small-town Illinois; the diary covered 1968 through 1972, and the woman was 86 years old when she started writing. Over the years, Scanlan “edited, arranged, and rearranged” the contents, the product of which is this volume. Each entry mostly consists of only two or three sentences per page, and the material is ostensibly normal. “D. washed my head. Fed all my flowers. No dogs in sight today” reads one entry; another reads: “Terrible windy everything loose is traveling.” The diary-keeper has dozens of acquaintances she sees (“Ruth came thru operation. Hiller’s house burned”; “Myra picked up 53 sparrows dead”), and fills these pages with activities (“That puzzle a humdinger”), movements (“D. out to cemetery, her head stone is being put up”; “Found nice teaspoon out in pasture”), and observations (“I weighed 120 had on blue & new shoes. My feet smelled some”). The book is a fascinating chronicle of Scanlan’s obsession, but, more than that, it transforms a seemingly ordinary life into a profound and moving depiction of how humans can love and live. Scanlan’s portrait of an everywoman feels entirely new. (June)