Em & Me
By Erica Van Horn
Clonmel, Tipperary, Ireland: Coracle Press, 2018. Edition size unstated.
6.75 x 5.8"; 192 pages. 6 black-and-white images. Soft cover in pictorial wrappers with flaps for book information.
Coracle Press: "Em was a sheepdog who never lived far from where she was born in Cahir, County Tipperary. She had a sense of place and a gentleness of temperament, and a way of making all events rituals with an eagerness for them to happen again. She led us through all the years we shared together. The narrative and sequence of this book is taken from entries to the writer's on-line Journal Words for Living Locally ( 2007 - 2014 )."
Maurice Scully, poet: "This is a book centered on the relationship of the author & her dog. It is composed from blogs during her dog’s life & so has an episodic & almost poetically repetitive form. A pet’s life is of course an accelerated & condensed version of a human life, of all animal life & its phases, & so tracks the arc from exuberance of youth to the pathos of old age. Such a theme can lend itself to sentimentality, but Van Horn is the opposite of a sentimental writer: she writes of what-is with clarity & intelligence & lets the given speak for her beloved animal, without enlargement, just as her pet’s acuity is a given of nature, beyond adumbration.
"Em & Me is an unfussy, tasteful production, as one takes for granted from Coracle Press, with good paper, good margins, clear font, pleasantly pocket-sized dimensions, attractive matt wrap-round cover & a good all-over feel to it in the hand. There are four protagonists in Em & Me: the dog, its owner, the countryside, & the owner’s human partner, Simon, this latter a shadowy but significant presence. Simon’s making a gravestone for the dog at the end & speaking to the dog’s spirit at her graveside could be mawkish, but it isn’t. Van Horn’s gift for presenting human feeling, human affection, love & sadness, without sentimentality is exceptional.
"Em & Me is about attachment ultimately: to a pet, to a locale, to art, to a life lived with alertness. An exceptional book. Coming from an exceptionally gifted partnership, whose lifelong project is Coracle Press: Erica Van Horn & Simon Cutts."