Robert Walser quoted in the opening pages of Living Locally:
“What I saw was as small and poor as it was large and significant, as modest as it was charming, as near as it was good, and as delightful as it was warm.”
Artist, writer, printer, and bookmaker Erica Van Horn’s Living Locally is a celebration of simplicity, sense of place, savouring and seasonality.
Colin Sackett writes:
Living Locally selects entries from a daily journal written over five years about rural life in and around a farming valley in Tipperary, to the north of the Knockmealdown Mountains. With needle-sharp observation and in plain words, Van Horn makes remarkable what might otherwise have gone unrecorded: the familiarity of neighbours, of animals and of weather, the regularity of the patterns of transaction on roads and in nearby villages and towns, and, from an outsider’s perspective, the unfamiliarity of speech and custom. What results is a human geography whose immediacy recalls earlier local and rural records and enquiries, such as the diary of Francis Kilvert in the Welsh Borders in the 1870s, or Cecil Torr’s recollections from his Dartmoor village, Small Talk at Wreyland. In common with these is a concern with both the colloquial and the vernacular, and the strangeness found in such a concentration of repetition and usage.
Susan Howe writes in her Foreword:
“Erica Van Horn has produced a meticulous field guide of what it means to be an American discovering the embedded, entangled mysteries of being Irish.”
Beinecke Library, Yale University:
“Erica Van Horn regularly draws the subject of her work directly from the fabric of her daily life, her domestic and artistic work, the simple household objects at hand, the day-to-day aspects of familiar relationships… Her attention to the ‘everyday’ is also an act of recording that which is most important to her; Van Horn creates work that serves as an aid to memory and acts as a hedge against the inevitable passing of one day to the next… and celebrates the significant but often unnoticed habits and customs of family and friendship, the exquisite qualities of home, the work of making art.”
Neil Sentance, reviewing Living Locally in Caught by the River:
“An engaging chronicle of place. Erica Van Horn… has captured something essential and elemental in this funny, colourful, gentle book, simply and quietly told, an ethnography of the Irish soul.”
A ‘chronicle of place’, direct, simple, ‘attention to the everyday’, essential, elemental, colloquial, ‘strangeness found in such a concentration of repetition and usage’. I could take a few lessons from Van Horn when writing blog posts! The fact is this selection from her journals of life in rural Ireland (it’s in blog form HERE) is pretty much perfect.The writing is crystalline in its eloquent simplicity. What she achieves with brevity and gentle repetition is a complete picture of a community, it’s roots, it’s people, the weather, the days chores. It’s a wonderful, admirable and quietly seductive piece of writing. And it gets under your skin, in a good way. It’s neither whimsical nor overtly nostalgic, the descriptive narratives are just that. Acutely observed, bittersweet, astute, comic, warm, Van Horn tells simple tales profoundly well.
I found the book as effective an antidote to our gloomy, strife-torn modern world as you’re likely to get.