Thursday, July 20, 2006

West with the Night

Appropriately enough, I read Beryl Markham's memoir West with the Night on our return flight from Heathrow to SFO. I am grateful to my mother for recommending this book. She also introduced me to Karen Blixen with a gorgeous illustrated copy of Out of Africa as a Christmas present in 1985. I have remained a die-hard fan of Blixen's writing, so it was a surprise to me that Markham's vivid account of life in Kenya was as fascinating if not just as exquisitely written. She strived to run with the big boys and her role models were clearly her father, Denys Finch Hatton (Blixen's lover), and her flight instructor Tom Black.
There's some debate about whether she actually wrote the book as her friends claimed she rarely read or wrote anything. Her biographer Errol Trzebinski suggests that her husband and journalist Raoul Schumacher wrote it. I prefer to think she penned it herself, but whatever the case I thoroughly recommend it. Is it any wonder her authorship would be called into question when Blixen herself had to write under the male pseudonym Isak Dinesen? Markham quotes her father as saying, "After that, work and hope. But never hope more than you work." Sound advice, indeed and words she wholeheartedly embraced.


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