Have skillet, will travel; or, one writer’s “pilgrimage of gratitude and generosity.”
In his latest, fiction and nature writer Bass (For a Little While: New and Selected Stories, 2016, etc.) pens an entertaining and love-infused gastronomical memoir. In his mid-50s and recovering from an agonizing divorce, the author decided there was no better time to give payback to the authors who had mentored him over the years and to recharge his writing battery. He wanted to see them in person and cook them a luscious meal—including wild game from his Montana freezer—as a way to say thanks. Joining him along the way were students he was mentoring. The on-and-off, three-year journey began on Long Island, where he visited “one of my greatest literary heroes, Peter Matthiessen,” who was struggling with leukemia. “Readers can enter his work from any direction and become lost, in the best way, changed forever,” writes Bass, who admires his “life of artistic as well as political integrity.” He also visited the “good witch of Manhattan,” Amy Hempel, and they talked about the renowned writer and editor Gordon Lish, “captain fiction,” who edited Hempel, Bass, and Raymond Carver in the 1980s. Next up is Idaho and Denis Johnson, the “hermit, the recluse,” who was also ill (he died in 2017). Bass is a huge fan of his prose, “often lean, sizzling like a wire stripped of its protective coating.” In Arizona, he stayed with Doug Peacock, “my most cherished mentor.” There’s a trip to meet the “funniest man in the world,” David Sedaris (London), and the “old man of the mountains,” John Berger (French Alps). Other destinations include Gary Snyder, Barry Lopez, Tom McGuane, Joyce Carol Oates, and the homes of Mississippians Eudora Welty and William Faulkner.
Dripping with tasty anecdotes, literary tales, and great food, this joyful book is delightful.