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IN BRIEF

Fiction

October 29, 1995|SUSAN SALTER REYNOLDS

FOR A HANDFUL OF FEATHERS by Guy de la Valdene. (Atlantic Monthly Press: $18; 224 pp.) "The smell of a Southern summer benumbs me in its lustfulness," writes Valdene, "Rising from the forest floor like colorless fog, it exhales the lascivious breath of all the women I've ever dreamed of possessing." There are so many ways to write about nature. Valdene lives in Florida. "My land lies between the sandy coastal soil south of Tallahassee and the flat piney forests of Georgia." After the books mentioned above, even the phrase "My land" stands out as a different approach. Valdene's sense of place is strong and proud and certain, very much linked to a sense of ownership and responsibility. He bought his eight hundred acres specifically to raise quail to hunt; "my wife, meanwhile," he writes, "has joined the contemplative order of the Carmelites. Should I wonder why?" "The specific mission of hunting," he writes, "slanted my vision of nature throughout my life, to the extent that even as I grow older and spend more time in the field without a gun I still think, look and move as though I am hunting." I like his writing, and his meditations on the evolutionary desire to kill are gracefully done. But throughout the book there is the slightly marshy, melancholy feel of fall in the air, the startling sound of gunshot and the feathers falling all around.

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