Cross Creek Cookery (Anglais) Broché – 20 mars 1996
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Rawlings would eventually remarry, and both her second marriage and her literary success would gradually lead her away from both her farm and the Cross Creek community--but she would never leave them entirely, always returning for the inspiration that fed her best works. The property was still in her possession and still in use as both a citrus grove and occasional residence at the time of her sudden death of cerebral hemorrhage in 1953. Rawlings left the it to the University of Florida, and in 1970 the property was turned over to the State of Florida for restoration and management. Restoration was completed in 1996, and while the large citrus grove that once surrounded the farm house has been reduced to a representative portion, visitors can now see the property as it existed in the 1930s and 1940s.
Although Rawlings won the Pulitzer Prize for her novel THE YEARLING and would publish several other novels and short story collections, today her literary reputation rests largely on the book CROSS CREEK, in which she details both her own struggle on the land the lives of the community as she knew it during the 1930s. While the book is clearly autobiographical, it is not autobiography per se; she gives little attention to her personal history, preferring to focus instead on the landscape and the individuals that surround her. The stories she offers are by turns funny, sad, thoughtful, each informed by an intensely felt observation of her environment. And while critics may accuse her of having been excessively sentimental in her fiction, no such sentimentality besets this particular work. It is brilliant from start to finish.
CROSS CREEK was published in 1942, and while it is very much of its era in its depiction of rural society and racial considerations, it also proved very much ahead of its time. It is profoundly concerned with ecology long before the term was popularized, and not only are its characters vividly alive, they move against a landscape that is as alive as they, a landscape that at once harsh and nurturing, at once giving and indifferent, and throughout the text (and most particularly in its final chapter) Rawlings repeatedly takes the point of view that we are not the owners of the earth, but its trustees; its care is in our hands.
I have read CROSS CREEK several times, and I returned to it in the wake of a visit to the Rawlings farm in 2003--and while it is not necessary to actually visit Cross Creek in order to fall in love with this book, they each inform the other. The book is somewhat obscure; the community of Cross Creek is difficult to find on the map and awkward to reach, hardly a place you would stumble upon by accident. It must be reached in deliberation. The guide at the Rawlings farm told me that in spite of this they received some forty thousand visitors from around the world each year--visitors drawn by the power of Rawlings' work and a determination to share in the environment she so loved. That is both testament and recommendation enough.
--GFT (Amazon Reviewer)--
Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings purchased a seventy-two acre orange grove in this remote area and fled her aristocratic life in the city to perfect her craft and get published. It is here all her beloved books would be born, including this memoir covering the years of hardships and beauty at the creek. Rawlings herself would become a part of the earth and land as she was reborn here in Cross Creek and would leave behind literary achievements such as "South Moon Under," "Golden Apples," "When the Whipporwill," "Cross Creek Cookery," and of course, her Pulitzer winning, "The Yearling."
Her close relationships with her neighbors at the creek, both black and white, are told with humor and humanity. Their lives were often filled with hardships but serenity as well, for all of them had chosen to live this kind of life rather than conform to society. Especially poignant are Rawlings' observations of a young destitute couple who would be portrayed so movingly in Jacob's Ladder.
Rawlings' recollections of her friendship with Moe, and especially his daughter Mary, who was Moe's reason for living and the only one in his family who cared when he came or went, are told with such beauty we feel pain ourselves when he takes his last breath at the creek. Her deep friendships over the years with Tom and Old Martha are told with humor, honesty and a gift for description few have ever had.
Tinged with sadness is Marjorie's relationship both as employer and friend to 'Geechee. Rawlings would attempt to help her to no avail as this sweet personality slowly became an unemployable alcoholic. Her mistreatment at the hands of a womanizer unworthy of her love was at the heart of her problem. It is perhaps at the bottom of a few bitter comments from Rawlings.
But Cross Creek is about the earth and our relationship to it. When we stray from it we become less because it is a part of us. Rawlings came to believe over time that when we lose this connection to the earth, we lose a part of ourselves. The great and wondrous beauty of nature, from magnolia blossoms and rare herbs to Hayden mangos and papaya, are as much a part of this memoir as the people. Particularly hilarious are Rawlings' descriptions of a pet racoon of mischievious nature and such cantankerous disposition as to almost seem human.
Rawlings' world at the creek is perhaps her legacy, a gift given to the reader we can never forget. In order to enjoy this memoir, however, one must read the entire book, taking into consideration a number of factors. Published in 1942 and covering many years prior in a backwoods area of Florida, at a time when racial equality was a distant dream, some may be offended by Rawlings' casual, though never mean spirited observations. Rawlings honestly relates actual conversations from this time and place between blacks and whites, and blacks to other blacks. Rawlings treated everyone fairly but a long string of farmhands prone to drink and violence, including the one who would destroy her friend and employee 'Geechee, prompted her to lump an entire race into one group, her friends at the creek being exceptions. I do not feel the comments of this southern woman and most gifted of writers should keep anyone from reading this most beautiful and heartwarming of memoirs.
Rawlings' graceful prose, whether describing a chorus of frogs singing at night as a Brahms waltz, the scent of hibiscus drifting through the air at dusk or a myraid of dishes meticulously prepared and labored over for hours, is delightful and unforgettable. Cross Creek will make you hungry for succulent fruits, cornbread and hot biscuits with wild plum jelly, and the living of life itself.
Reading this lovingly written memoir will leave you with a wistful desire to walk away from society as Rawlings did and live the life we crave in our very being, even if it is not possible, and can only be lived in our hearts.
"Cross Creek belongs to the wind and the rain, to the sun and the seasons, to the cosmic secrecy of seed, and beyond all, to time."
Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings