An ode to one man’s lifelong love affair with hunting
“Valdène’s wondrous field memoir is a rich sportsman’s miscellany— memorable and erudite fowling lore, camp etiquette, ballistics, poaching ethics, glorious anecdote, bloody ducks, persistent bawdiness, and better wine than you or I'll ever drink—all elegantly spun as an affectionate and sentimental education of loss and renewal. It’s a terrific book.”
Part memoir, part history, The Fragrance of Grass stands as a testament to Guy de la Valdène’s deep love of, and abiding respect for, the natural world and all that inhabit it. Set in places as far afield as France and Montana, Saskatchewan and Florida, this is a beautifully written book that is also an elegant treatise on everything from dogs, birds, and wildlife to food, wine, and women.
The Fragrance of Grass will be treasured by all sportsmen and by the readers of Tom McGuane and Jim Harrison. The author’s first book in nearly a decade, it is now being published to coincide with the paperback edition of his classic Red Stag.
FROM THE INTRODUCTION
I am watching a thousand feathers—grey partridge feathers—floating high on the surface of the pond in front of the cabin I pretend to work in. I have plucked a million feathers from the bodies of all the grey partridge I have cooked in my life, beautiful golden-brown feathers that match the fall colors of the cypress tress that grow on the edge of my pond. It is November, and all at once winter includes me.
On the porch of the cabin there is a wooden rocking chair, weathered and comfortable, that I sit in every day. On quiet afternoons I think about the slowing growth of the loblolly pines I have been watching for twenty years, the everchanging face of the pond now active with fish, and the condition of the natural world outside of my custody. . . .
I have hunted at least one hour a day for three months a year, ever since I was eight years old. That translates into more than 5,000 hours in the field, a lifetime walk that, under different circumstances, might have taken me from Paris to Istanbul and back. If to this hike I add the time I have spent shooting . . . I can safely assume that I have had my hands on the stock of a gun for one whole year of the sixty-plus that I have been around.
I like to walk, and I know guns.
“Guy de la Valdene’s memoir, The Fragrance of Grass, soars like a condor high above the arid landscape of our era’s largely flimsy, narrow and shallow sporting books. It is an extraordinary stew of poignant reflections, deeply felt sentiment and sensitive introspection having equal measures of pride and regret. Time and again there is demonstrated a fearless willingness to stare deeply into the human conscience while the whole is sewn together with absolutely impeccable language. In my view, this may well be the defining masterpiece of this genre in our time.”
"The Fragrance of Grass is an exquisite, big-hearted celebration of a life grandly spent outdoors. Any novelist who'd try to invent a character like Guy de La Valdene would be doomed to fall short. He is a unique philosopher- scoundrel with a wise, gentle heart, and he writes like a dream.
THE FRAGRANCE OF GRASS is destined to become one of the very small number of true hunting classics. Valdene's writing is lovely indeed and the book is fresh, direct and utterly original. - Jim Harrison