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The Author Speaks

Excerpt From 'Feast Day of Fools'

Is there wisdom in age?

Hackberry Holland had come to believe that age was a separate country you did not try to explain to younger people, primarily because they had already made up their minds about it and any lessons you had learned from your life were not the kind many people were interested in hearing about. If age brought gifts, he didn't know what they were. It had brought him neither wisdom nor peace of mind.

See also: Interview with James Lee Burke.

His level of desire was the same, the lust of his youth glowing hot among the ashes each morning he woke. He could say with a degree of satisfaction that he didn't suffer fools and drove from his company anyone who tried to waste his time, but otherwise his dreams and his waking day were defined by the same values and frame of reference that came with his birthright. If age had marked a change in him, it lay in his acceptance that loneliness and an abiding sense of loss were the only companions some people would ever have.

The most influential event in Hackberry's life had been his marriage to Rie Velasquez, a labor organizer for the United Farm Workers of America. When she died of uterine cancer, Hackberry had sold his ranch on the Guadalupe river and moved down to the border, leaving behind all memory of the idyllic life they'd shared, ridding himself of the things she had touched that made him so lonely he wanted to drink again, embracing the aridity of a parched land and its prehistoric ambience and its violent sunsets, the way a Bedouin enters the emptiness of the desert and is subsumed and made insignificant by it.

Then, bit by bit, the horse farm he bought became a hologram, a place that fused past and present and re-created his childhood and adolescence and his life with Rie and their twin sons in one shimmering, timeless vision. It was a place where a man could see his beginning and his end, an island that was governed by reason and stewardship and the natural ebb and flow of the seasons, a place where a man no longer had to fear death.

Also of interest: The Age of Active Wisdom. >>

From Feast Day of Fools, © 2011 by James Lee Burke, published by Simon & Schuster, 1230 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10020. Used by permission of the publisher.

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