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    Varying Voices

    Glen Blackwood, owner of the Great Lakes Fly Fishing Company, lives in Rockford, Michigan, with his family and a trio of English springer spaniels. For the past 25 years, Glen has surrounded himself with sporting books, rods, artwork and guns. When not at the store, Glen can be found wandering with rod and gun close at hand.
    Glen Blackwood, owner of the Great Lakes Fly Fishing Company, lives in Rockford, Michigan, with his family and a trio of English springer spaniels. For the past 25 years, Glen has surrounded himself with sporting books, rods, artwork and guns. When not at the store, Glen can be found wandering with rod and gun close at hand.
    Last Labor Day weekend, I stumbled onto a pre-owned copy of Geoffrey Norman’s Riding with Jeb Stuart: Hunting Adventures with an English Pointer. Although I had previously purchased a copy of the book when published in 2005, I forked over the cash, justifying my expenditure by believing I was helping a used bookstore prosper. With this title topping both my mind’s awareness and book pile, rereading commenced. A few days later, I was following my daughter, my son and my wife Kathleen around Grand Haven, Michigan, when another used bookstore appeared. This time I departed with a paperback copy of Hunting’s Best Short Stories, published by the Chicago Review Press in 2000. I already own a hardcover copy, but with the likes of Annie Proulx, Thomas McGuane and Ernest Hemingway included (all featured in The Upland Almanac’s “Section 799.2” in past issues), another purchase transpired, again under the guise of supporting used bookstores. As before, top of the mind awareness placed this above Riding with Jeb Stuart and rereading commenced again.

    Hopscotching the essays in my new find, plus rereading the previous book mentioned, spurred two questions: “Why do so many acclaimed writers write about wing shooting?” and “What is the impetus of their writings?” I may not have the answers, but I have a hypothesis.

    My hypothesis may sound trite, but writers need to write just as painters need to paint and sculptors need to sculpt. They are artists first and foremost, writing for writing’s sake, not only for deadlines or publication. They have a need to place words on paper, whether or not they are seen by the public. This desire becomes lifeblood in itself, and fortunately for readers of wing shooting literature, some works relating to our sport are published.

    The second question is more challenging. Why would award-winning authors and writers whose essays and articles have been featured in publications such as The New Yorker, Esquire, National Geographic and Playboy focus their time, efforts and energy on topics such as bird dogs and traipsing through muck? Certainly it is not the best use of their time or talent professionally. My hypothesis says it’s passion; or more aptly, the blending of two passions, writing and wing shooting. This passion, when combined with long-standing experience of both writing and time in the field, provides the template for quality literary products. One may believe there are only so many ways one can describe a dog on point, a bird flushing or the proverbial miss, only some writers elevate these common occurrences in a manner that is not redundant but original.

    In the short story “The Unclouded Day,” Pulitzer Prize-winning author Annie Proulx wrote:

    “He worked like two dogs, his white sides gliding through the grass, his points so rigid he might have been a glass animal.”

    Describing a dog’s staunchness to that of a figurine is just one example, another being Geoffrey Norman’s passage regarding frustration with Jeb.

    “I felt like the parent of a Little Leaguer who can’t hit, catch, or throw, and has a neighbor whose son is a natural ball player.”

    These quotes demonstrate imagery and emotion in original fashions that elevate a mere bird hunting tale into a piece of sporting literature.

    Wing shooting readers are blessed to have noted novelists, essayists, and poets write of their experiences afield. Why do writers of stature write about bird hunting? I am not certain but believe it is because of their passion for writing and wing shooting. When combined, the text becomes noteworthy. I am certain that their varying voices and styles benefit this genre of sporting literature. This spring explore a selection and form your own hypothesis.

    Wolfe Publishing Group