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TAKING CARE by William Kittredge

TAKING CARE

Thoughts on Storytelling and Belief

By William Kittredge

Pub Date: Nov. 1st, 1999
ISBN: 1-57131-231-5
Publisher: Milkweed

paper 1-57131-232-3 Kittredge (Who Owns the West?, 1995, etc.) explores what makes his pen flow in this third contribution to Milkweed’s Credo series. In picking up the series theme—how the dance of the human community with the natural world has influenced writers—Kittredge details the ways his essays, memoirs, and meditations on the American West have been shaped by his youth in Oregon’s Warner Valley, where strawberries ripened in the dark peat soil of his family’s ranch, meadows sported wild hay, and lilacs bloomed under a sky racing with clouds. For Kittredge, the valley was sanctuary, paradise, an embrace of place he still yearns for: “To be welcome in the world as I think I was when I was a child. . . . I wanted the world to be that good. Still do.” Kittredge ruined his land as a young farmer—turned his soil saline from over-irrigation, poisoned it with pesticides, eradicated the coyotes and badgers in even nastier ways—but stopped upon realizing he was killing one of the “small settlements, many rough-edged and isolated, held together by hard-handed self-respect, and not much money.” Both his life and writing came to reflect his sense that “exploration and rethinking were the point of things.” And this is clear from his books, which, while whiskery and often sentimental, are earnest, attentive, and ruminative. For Kittredge, our stories—from cultural hallmarks to everyday utterances—bespeak our system of values, and our conduct toward the land is the measure of our decency: “We all know a lot of stories and we’re in trouble when we don’t know which one is ours. Or when the one we inhabit doesn’t work anymore.” Kittredge’s hope is to add his voice to a coherent myth our society can inhabit. His writings embody his sincerity.