Graves, owner and adapter to ""minimum use"" of 400 Texas acres, has brought the by-now stylized ""back-to-the-land""...

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HARD SCRABBLE

Graves, owner and adapter to ""minimum use"" of 400 Texas acres, has brought the by-now stylized ""back-to-the-land"" narrative up to an excellence which has evaded most practitioners. Like Anthony Bailey's In the Village (1971) Graves achieves what he himself calls a ""comprehension"" of the complexities of a particular place in a segment of time represented by one man's use of it. As a farmer and caretaker on a modest scale of the ""limestone hill country. . . with cedar, hardwood brush and partly open pasture. . . and a few creekbottom fields (cultivatable),"" Graves is, in the urban sense, isolated. Yet the place ""like the pocket of country of which it is a part, is weighted with human remembrances and ways of being. . . ."" With the acuity of a sensitive reporter who cares about what he sees, Graves observes natural and human cycles and processes: the symbiotic action of water and soil and flora, man's tillage and land productivity, creatures beneficent and pesky, including the Head Varmint (the author), and the Janus-faces of physical labor -- the pull to achievement and the urge to get out from under. There are scraps of local legends, brief conversations with neighbors, trackings of human migrations past and present, appreciative profiles of hard-working Mexicans and other transient families, and in a fiction flight (a somewhat overdone grapelet of contemporary wrath) he fantasizes about those remnants of farm people who in late middle age tend their back yards in ""junk suburbs."" At the close he allows himself a small oration on land conservation and use, but the bulk of this book (a portion of which appeared in Esquire) is a vigorous and in-depth exploration of some relationships between man and land.

Pub Date: April 1, 1974

ISBN: N/A

Page Count: -

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: N/A

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1, 1974