Running After Antelope
It seems wrong to compare Scott Carrier’s Running After Antelope to his radio essays—which are worth your time (here is a good introduction)—but there is enough overlap between his radio work and the essays in the book, and Carrier’s voice is unique enough even in writing, that it’s hard not to.1 Some writers aim to make themselves transparent in their writing, others make themselves visible. Invisibility, of course, is an illusion, but there is an art to crafting that illusion, and it’s worth recognizing that art for what it is. Visibility also is an illusion, but one that can go many ways: One can make oneself an actor, an object, an observer—and one can make oneself some combination of all these. Carrier is an observer, and he constructs his subjects through his act of observing. “I try to write what I see,” he says in one essay, “I don’t know what else I can do.” If there is a unifying mode for the essays collected in Running After Antelope, it’s “casting about.” He writes genuinely of meeting an art-collecting truck driver while hitchhiking to New York from Salt Lake City; of his rage when, working as a carpenter for his brother, a city inspector scuttles all their work; of his thwarted desire to set off on his own as a capital-W, capital-R War Reporter while working on a tourism junket in Cambodia. Interspersed between longer pieces—none of Carrier’s essays are very long—are brief vignettes about his trying to catch pronghorn antelope by running them down. And some essays are myth-making, such as when Carrier describes a little league football game in which he “runs a haiku” while playing defense—how lovely to imagine football as a brief metered poem!
Anyway, I liked the book.
1 Ira Glass: “Most people on the radio sound like each other, the same way that most people on TV sound like other people on TV, and most writing in the newspaper is like all the other writing in the newspaper. Scott sounds only like himself. There’s a feeling in his stories that’s unlike anything anybody else does.”