What We’re Reading: “Dereliction” at Terrain.org
Posted by on April 24, 2014

The return of the Northern Cardinals did it. Red as kindergarten apples (the female begs to differ), they inspired me to search through the literary journals to find some nonfiction that might move me to feel, well, like the Cardinals coming back — secure, hopeful, full of turning seasons and stray ideas.

The trolling led me to Joe Griffin’s “Dereliction,” in the eco-journal Terrain.

Joe and I live on opposite ends of the world.

He fishes (“Trout are much like us: opportunistic, often lazy, hierarchical and vicious…”). I eat fish and have never held rod or reel. But something about his nonfiction account of trout fishing on the Grand Ronde River grabbed me — sort of like my wayward birds.

The piece does everything strong nonfiction eco-writing should. Language and imagery touch the marrow. Place is so fresh you can smell it:

“The must of creosote hung rich and wide in the air, and my legs were being peppered with feckless hoppers. They were buzzing black hoppers—the kind that sound like tiny automatic weapons, their magma underwings rattling like party favors. They were everywhere. So was the sound we heard.

“What’s that?

“Coyote? Hurt coyote?

Dunno. What do you think?

“No idea. Coyote, probably.”

The mystery of the “sound” drives the essay (as much a short story as a piece of nonfiction) from opening line to unexpected denouement. “Dereliction” is not so much a fishing story as it is a search for the sound: “It was a sad sound, muffled and moaning at the outset, rocketing up to a point pitched, dirge like wail, then declining to a whimper. It was the sound of something recognizing its own passing.”

You get the idea. You have to read to the end.

So that’s what I’m doing right now. Reading Terrain. And Joe, next time you go out on the Grand Ronde, I’ll bring the frying pan.

Posted by Mary Ann Hogan


  • Barbara Falconer Newhall
    3 years ago - Reply

    Really nice story. Thanks for the link, Mary Ann. Maybe if I got myself a PhD in epideictic rhetoric (the rhetoric of praise and blame!) like Joe Griffin, I too could write like that. But maybe a piece I wrote on “The Windmills of Mason County — Blight or Art?” qualifies as epideictic. It’s at http://barbarafalconernewhall.com/2013/07/04/the-windmills-of-mason-county-art-or-blight/

  • Mary Ann
    3 years ago - Reply

    Thanks, Barbara — still looking forward to those salon readings when we get back to Cali! ma

  • joe g.
    3 years ago - Reply

    hi, Mary Ann. very kind, gracious, humbling words from you. appreciated more than you may know.

    i’d love to meet, on a river, someday.


  • Mary Ann
    3 years ago - Reply

    Joe — name the river. And send us some stuff! ma

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