The Riddle Song and Other Rememberings

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In this ensemble of beautifully personal, interrelated essays, writer and poet Rebecca McClanahan weaves together threads of stories and common experiences to create a meditation on family life. She explores the familiar rituals, the shared dreams, and the guarded secrets that tie family together as she unravels the mysteries behind familial relationships. Throughout, McClanahan seeks to identify what it means to be an individual within the context of kinship and unexpected connections.

Besides navigating her own emotional landscape and her family's, McClanahan revisits the physical places of her childhood, adolescence, and adulthood. She takes us to the military bases where her father and husband were stationed, to the cemeteries she loved as both child and adult, and to the various hospitals and homes that served as backdrops for family crises and celebrations. Without sentimentality, she considers the meaning of losses--the loss of a child, a family home, and a family pet, and a lost chance at motherhood.

Partly fashioned around the lines of the folk tune "The Riddle Song," The Riddle Song and Other Rememberings captures the palpable bonds that exist between mothers, daughters, fathers, siblings, aunts, uncles, nieces, nephews, and grandparents. Through intuitive and exquisite language, Rebecca McClanahan reveals the strange and enchanting patterns that connect her to these ancestral souls.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

"Lyrical, compelling, and compassionate, the words contained in The Riddle Song and Other Rememberings continue to move and amaze me. Stunningly vivid in its detail, heartbreaking in its emotional vision, this book rings long and true."--Kim Barnes, author of In the Wilderness

"A dazzling first book of personal essays . . . each one so sensitively (and sensuously) rooted in actual existence that I continually had to remind myself that I was reading about someone's life, not living it myself. Writing rarely gets this emotionally real."--Robert Atwan, series editor, The Best American Essays

"The prose is very clean, crisp as ironed linen, even simple in spots—but I will tell you this: I cried all the way through it, and almost nothing I read makes me cry."--Midwestern Riffs

"Very few memoirs achieve the raw beauty, the searing honesty, and the transcendent shimmer of McClanahan's rememberings."--Charlotte Observer

“McClanahan sweeps you along with a barrage of detail and lovely prose. She has the knack of summoning emotion through facts and presentation. . . . McClanahan is excellent company, whether at a hospital bedside, over a glass of wine, or walking between rows of graves.”—Robert Boucheron, New Orleans Review

"McClanahan's deliberate regard for craft . . . opens the door to an important use of memoir as a genre."--Calyx

"McClanahan weaves a quilt that beckons us with its warmth . . . without striking a false, much less sentimental, note."--Georgia Review

"The collection stands well above the self-indulgent meanderings that flood large sections of our bookstore shelves."--American Book Review

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780820323534
  • Publisher: University of Georgia Press
  • Publication date: 3/28/2002
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 208
  • Product dimensions: 5.70 (w) x 8.40 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author

Rebecca McClanahan is the author of several poetry collections, including Naked as Eve and The Intersection of X and Y, as well as several writing manuals, including Word Painting: A Guide to Writing More Descriptively and Write Your Heart Out. She lives in New York City.
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Table of Contents

aunt 1
the uncles 10
the riddle song: a twelve part lullaby 18
the cloud's immaculate folds 56
dependent 64
earth, air, fire, and father 80
hatching 92
life and death, yes and no, and other mysteries in mansfield, ohio 99
the weather 117
with my father in space-time 127
two autumns, one story 141
the other mother 149
good-bye to all this 166
acknowledgments 191
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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 25, 2002

    A Gently Compelling Book

    This is a book of many delights. McClanahan¿s language is lyrical, down to earth and humorous. I find her voice clear-eyed, feisty and tender all at once, a mixture which gave me much pleasure. Her beautifully-structured essays are wrought by a fine intelligence which questions life in its own unique way; for example: ¿How do we navigate the spaces between ourselves and others?¿ I felt that I was right there as the little girl dolls up her eccentric old aunt to go to church, or when the long-married woman packs up her beloved house to move into a new and unknown phase of life. I am especially grateful for McClanahan¿s exploration of loving un-motherhood by choice. As I read I laughed often, cried more than once, and mused for days over a particular angle of perception of some human peculiarity. When I closed the book, I immediately started making a list of friends to whom I want to give it.

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