Authors shape their work one calendar page at a time.
By Jenna Schnuer
Already fretting over all those to-dos you're planning for
2007? Take a break from your life and check out one of our favorite
trends in publishing: "year of" books. Ever since Peter Mayle first
published A Year in Provence back in 1990 (yes, it was that long
ago), authors aplenty have used that handy-dandy unit of time as
their framework of choice for books about their doings. We checked
in with three "year of" authors to see why this time frame is such
a useful literary device and what made their year in question
This is your second "year of" book, and you're
working on your third. What is it about a year that works for
It took me a long time to figure out it was a suitable
framework. I tend to be rather impulsive, and I do love travel.
Then my wife said, "You know, I don't get to join you on enough of
these trips. Why can't we try a different rhythm altogether? Why
can't we pick one place and go and live there for a good chunk of
the year and focus a lot more on its authenticity, on its heritage,
on why it's important, and bring back more resonance, bring back
the deeper story about the people who live there, about their
customs, about the way they see life?"
How far into your first "year of" title,
Seasons in Basilicata: A Year in a Southern
Italian Hill Village, did you realize the
difference between the kind of reporting you've done in the past
and what you were doing then?
All the way along. I [knew how
to] do a big piece with many layers and levels on a region in a
month or six weeks. I kind of knew how to touch the bases, but I
hadn't been able to express the authenticity of places in depth.
What I was looking for was, "What can we learn from these places
before we lose them?" [The places I write about in these books] all
have the seed of their own decline already fermenting.