Through an inventive format, Kathryn Scanlan shares a serendipitous treasure discovered long ago in a box of unsold estate auction items destined for the garbage. Worn and water-damaged, the diary's physicality intrigued Scanlan, but she ultimately set it aside, assuming its contents were mostly indecipherable.
Years later, Scanlan rediscovered the diary--given to an Illinois woman for her 86th birthday--and spent a decade immersing herself in the distinctive language that chronicled her days between 1968 and 1972. Eventually, the diarist's particular and measured language ("Terrible windy everything loose is traveling." "That puzzle a humdinger.") became intertwined with Scanlan's own voice, the diary "something like kin--a relation who is also me, myself."
Exasperated but unable to resist, Scanlan surrendered to the mixed influences and wrote Aug 9 - Fog. In fleeting, diary-esque entries sectioned by season, Scanlan writes in a new vernacular resulting from the commingling, an unusual "co-authoring" that holds multiple layers of mystery. Where the diarist's nonfiction and Scanlan's fiction meet or marry is unknown--somewhat frustratingly unknowable in the most intriguing of ways.
The "story" is by turns clear and vague. Day-in-the-life details (weather changes, church-going, pie-making, visiting) and profound life and death events paint a full spectrum over the course of time. Guesses can be made as to the identities of recurring characters "Vern" and "D.," but the varying forms and linguistic style is both provoking and devilishly satisfying. Aug 9 - Fog is a one-sitting read that echoes long after the final "Winter" has passed. --Lauren O'Brien of Malcolm Avenue Review