Scribbling the Cat, Alexandra Fuller

This author continues to impress both for the  boldness of the people about whom she writes, and for the conscience with which she records and expresses lives lived on the edge of what most mainstream readers and writers would consider to be the modern world.  From her own raggedly individualistic and idiosyncratic family to the Wyoming roughnecks of The Legend of Coulter H. Bryant, to this tale of an African ex-soldier on the cusp of regret and despair, she reminds that civilization is neither uniformly progressed nor equitably shared.  Along the way we are amused, thrilled, at times appalled and always captivated by the variety and beauty of lives lived less carefully than our grade-school teachers taught us we should do.

As in her two family memoirs, Africa is a central character here, her raw beauty, blood-smeared history and sometimes-fatally-high demands treated with love and respect.  One is left with a great desire to see  the place for oneself – note ‘see’ rather than ‘experience;’  Fuller is all too successful at exposing the faults and folly of those who hope to observe this land casually or in safety, and the risks one must accept in order to even begin to get to know this continent or its people.

There is, in this travelogue of a road trip (an expanded meaning for that expression, to be sure!) with the soldier identified as ‘K’ more than a little revelation of the author as well. Clearly Fuller was struggling to understand and accept her then-current existence as a married mother in safe, comfortable Wyoming.  As with Hemingway and so many others, the total immersion and sensory overload of life in the midst of conflict or on the edge of subsistence appears to beckon and fulfill in ways the workaday cannot.   It is no surprise then, to find in a Wikipedia search that another of Fuller’s volumes, Leaving Before the Rains Come, chronicles the disintegration of her marriage some time after the journey described in ‘Scribbling…’ (That title, by the way, is one of the multitude of euphemisms K and his fellow combatants use for the act of killing.)

A book to keep on the shelf, and an author to pursue.  Expect I’ll soon be reading the remaining 2 of her six volumes to date.

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