Our Souls at Night – Kent Haruf – talking in the dark

In my last post I touched upon the half-imagined essence shining through a work in progress – via incubation, the search for one’s language (in whatever form,) through the heart. This kind of search is bound to involve deep personal experiences, be it related to an outer or inner place, as the myth of one’s existential journey, which, when authentically communicated and shared tends to assume universal significance.

Kent Haruf –  (Feb 1943 – Nov 2014,) a humble, kind and unbiased writer, developed a powerful language. He shaped words until the essence of his characters stood clear – endearingly visible through sparse dialogues, exposing silent inner dramas all the more. The way I see it, his characters are letting sorrow be – a pragmatic yin approach that helps one to move along with the relentless forwarding force of life.

It is high art that sketches a story with modest words that slip right into the reader’s heart.

‘Our Souls at Night,’ is Kent Haruf’s last novel, published after his death. The story opens with possibilities: “And then there was the day Addie Moore made a call on Louis Waters.”  The courageous elderly Addie propositions Louis, a neighbour, widowed like herself, to share her bed during lonely nights. She scarcely knows the man, but acts intuitively on her need for companionship.

Talking in the dark, their hands occasionally touching, Louise and Addie come to value their fragile pact. Even Addie’s abandoned visiting grandson is wooed by the loving regard between his grandmother and her new friend, and their tolerance and tender concern for him, which is, the way I read it, the initiation of a small boy into the wisdom of respect. While the petty gossip of townsfolk adds to the fun of their social transgression and strengthen the closeness they’re forging, the jealous objections of Louis’s daughter and Addie’s son are truly hurtful, and in the end decisive.

Making less use of the environmental atmosphere that sparkles in earlier books;  this last story keenly sharpens on the inner sanctuary of lonely people.

The backdrop to these novels about ordinary fates is the sleepy fictional town ‘Holt’ on the high plains of Colorado, which embodies the writer’s reclusive childhood.

In an essay published in the Granta magazine, Haruf movingly shares about his difficult early life, and how it advantaged him later on – follow this link, it’s worthwhile …  – The Making of a Writer.

… ‘Years of unhappiness and isolation and living inwardly to myself have helped me to be more aware of others and to pay closer attention to what others around me are feeling. Which are good things if you are trying to learn how to write fiction about characters you care about and love’ …

And he has a message for fellow writers …

… ‘You have to believe in yourself despite the evidence. I felt as though I had a little flame of talent, not a big talent, but a little pilot-light-sized flame of talent, and I had to tend to it regularly, religiously, with care and discipline, like a kind of monk or acolyte, and not to ever let the little flame go out.’ …

Le Guin wrote that Haruf’s “courage and achievement in exploring ordinary forms of love – the enduring frustration, the long cost of loyalty, the comfort of daily affection – are unsurpassed by anything I know in contemporary fiction”.

Kent Haruf’s novels will certainly enrich your reading list during the coming festive day.

And, my wishful thinking, have a sneak at my mythical quest: Course of Mirrors, to be followed by its  immersive sequel, Shapers. Funds allowing, please consider supporting my efforts at Patreon

Related … don’t miss this short video about the most compelling story of a woman who found a language for her myth – think of incubation, cocoon, deep, deep desire to protect …

The blue-highlighted links in this post will open new pages – so you won’t lose this page. Thank you for reading.


Filed under Blog

10 responses to “Our Souls at Night – Kent Haruf – talking in the dark

  1. I so loved this book Ashen … I’ve passed it on hoping that it will be returned as I know i will re-read it. Thank you also for the links and your brief before them, which links I will definitely check when time permits.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Hello,Susan, like mind. I enjoyed reading all Kent Haruf’s books.
    The Granta essay shows the soil of experience his writing grew from.


  3. Well I think you know he was/is my very favorite writer, for the reasons you describe. It’s a sort of magic he practiced, showing us that inner light with such obvious and simple tools. I like, too, what he says about tending our small flames of talent, regularly and religiously. What a special writer he was!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Oh, I know. Thank you Mary. It was the matchless big mouth, Scott Pack, who introduced me to Kent Haruf when working for Harper Collins, he even sent me spare copies of Plainsong and Eventide, which I returned. Busy man. Wish’d he do himself the pleasure of reading ‘Course of Mirrors.’ 🙂


  5. It is a lovely story, and one that resonates. Thank you for reminding me and of the great quotes you’ve included.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. theburningheart

    I should look into Haruf’s books, second time this month I read a good review on him.

    Also your books. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I am always in search of heart felt books, the ones that open me up to myself and reson
    ance and much more…. Thank you Ashen for introducing me to Kent Haruf.

    Liked by 1 person

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