When I was in Denmark in October, a friend there recommended this novel: Out Stealing Horses by Per Petterson. The story is a beautiful weaving of present and past, of sixty-seven-year-old Trond Sander and his fifteenth summer when he went out stealing horses with his friend, Jon, and all that happened afterward. The voice in this novel makes me want to follow it forever. It is somewhat reminiscent of Raymond Carver, as well as Ernest Hemingway, combined with the unique quality of Petterson's lyrical style. I love Carver and Hemingway's work, so this is a feast, every sentence.
All writers influence each other. There is, as James Joyce said through his character Leopold Bloom in Ulysses, "nothing new under the sun." Also said in the Bible.
I'm inspired by the structure of Petterson's work, the seamless movement back and forth between the different decades of Trond's life. The novel is 238 pages, and I'm on page 59; this thrills me. I have more hours to spend in Petterson's voice.
For me, writing is all about the voice. Many poets come to mind right now, the voices I can't get enough of. Sometimes I go on the website Poetry Daily and read through ten or more poems in the archive. A certain voice will stop me, and I'll read that poem over and over. It's magic, a current flowing from that author to me, the reader, and it feels special, a secret, a delight, even if the theme or situation is tragic. This is the alchemy of voice, this is the order out of chaos that writers bring to the world through their art.
Here is a passage from Out Stealing Horses. Maybe you will like the voice, too. From fifteen-year-old Trond's POV:
The sun was shining. I sat on the stern thwart with my eyes closed against the light and my father's familiar face as he rowed with easy strokes, and I thought about how it must feel to lose your life so early. Lose your life, as if you held an egg in your hand, and then dropped it, and it fell to the ground and broke, and I knew it could not feel like anything at all. If you were dead, you were dead, but in the fraction of a second, just before; whether you realized then it was the end, and what that felt like. There was a narrow opening there, like a door barely ajar, that I pushed towards, because I wanted to get in, and there was a golden light in that crack that came from the sunlight on my eyelids, and then suddenly I slipped inside, and I was certainly there for a little flash, and it did not frighten me at all, just made me sad and astonished at how quiet everything was. When I opened my eyes, the feeling stayed with me. I looked across the water towards the far bank, and it was still there. I looked at my father's face as if from a place far off, and I blinked several times and drew a deep breath, and perhaps I trembled a little, for he smiled enquiringly and said:
"How goes it with you, Chief?"
"I am alright," I said, after a pause. But when we came alongside the bank and tied the boat up and walked along the fence over the meadow, I felt it somewhere inside me; a small remnant, a bright yellow speck that perhaps would never leave me.
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