One Grand, Sweet Song is a collection of familiar essays in which Sam Pickering explores libraries and woods and fields. He wanders over hills and far away—to Caribbean and Canada—but he always returns to the local, to Connecticut and his memories of a Southern childhood. He ponders writing and aging, joy and lunacy. He celebrates family and Christmas. He laughs and tells terrible lies, and jokes. He runs half-marathons, and on a farm in Nova Scotia, he tries to write his Walden. “O World, I cannot hold thee close enough!” Edna St. Vincent Millay once exclaimed. In these pages Pickering embraces his world with great love, wrapping it in words and pulling it and the reader unforgettably close.
Pickering has written 28 books and 100s of articles. The subject matter of the books ranges. Three are scholarly studies, two of which focus on 18th century children’s literature. Four are travel books, three of these describing his family’s meanderings in Australia. One book mulls teaching, and another is a memoir. The rest of Pickering’s books are collections of familiar essays, providing his take or perhaps “untake” on things. “Reading Pickering,” a reviewer wrote in the Smithsonian, “is like taking a walk with your oldest, wittiest friend.”