The Splendour Falls: Essays

Paperback / softback
Alexander Smith stated that a good essayist needed an ability to discern the infinite suggestiveness of common things. Arthur Benson seconded the idea, saying an essayist needed a far-ranging curiosity. For three decades Sam Pickering has written essays, his words rolling in a fine frenzy over ordinary life discovering the marvellous and the absurd. His curiosity ranges, but it also rumpuses and rollicks. He wanders the Cumberland Plateau in Tennessee, rural Connecticut, farmland in Nova Scotia, and islands in the sun. Strangers tell him their life stories-tales that are almost as odd as the fictional characters he meets. He runs half-marathons and wins prizes, but finishes so late in the day that he misses award ceremonies. His good friend David tells him, Sam, if you weren't so damn smart, you would have been a great success. Pickering writes a lot about teaching, and classroom doings quicken his pages. In my dormitory I keep a stuffed cat on the table by my bed, Kirsten told him last year. I've attached a fishing line to its tail. Just outside the window of my room is a tall tree with lots of branches. I live in a quadrangle through which campus guides lead prospective students and their parents. Sometimes when I see a group approaching, I toss the cat into the tree then duck below my window sill and meow. Often the groups stop, and I hear people saying things like look at that poor cat and oh, dear, what can we do? The aim of an essayist, Benson wrote, was to make people interested in life and in themselves. Add smiles and laughter, a smidgen of melancholy, and a pinch or two of happy lies, and you have Pickering the essayist.