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Aug 9—Fog

US Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Fifteen years ago, Kathryn Scanlan found a stranger’s five-year diary at an estate auction in a small town in Illinois. The owner of the diary was eighty-six years old when she began recording the details of her life in the small book, a gift from her daughter and son-in-law. The diary was falling apart—water-stained and illegible in places—but magnetic to Scanlan nonetheless.

After reading and rereading the diary, studying and dissecting it, for the next fifteen years she played with the sentences that caught her attention, cutting, editing, arranging, and rearranging them into the composition that became Aug 9—Fog (she chose the title from a note that was tucked into the diary). “Sure grand out,” the diarist writes. “That puzzle a humdinger,” she says, followed by, “A letter from Lloyd saying John died the 16th.” An entire state of mourning reveals itself in “2 canned hams.” The result of Scanlan’s collaging is an utterly compelling, deeply moving meditation on life and death.

In Aug 9—Fog, Scanlan’s spare, minimalist approach has a maximal emotional effect, remaining with the reader long after the book ends. It is an unclassifiable work from a visionary young writer and artist—a singular portrait of a life revealed by revision and restraint.




‘If you ever wondered what life was about, if you ever felt yours was not “exciting” enough, if you ever turned in vain to highbrow books that might tell you, then you should read this book, for the ordinary diaries of ordinary people will reassure you that yours is no different than anyone else’s—friends die, flowers come fast. This one, written half a century ago by an elderly woman, has been artfully arranged by Kathryn Scanlan to reveal the simplicity—and hidden poetry—of all our lives.’ —Mary Ruefle

“Elegant and unpretentious . . . [Aug 9—Fog] grants every reader that simultaneous pull between mystery and intimacy . . . these barest clues―of new lights installed and tomatoes canned, tombstones bought and weeds tormented, a self-help book with a photograph from decades before tucked inside―are the ones that make us fall in love. ―Nadja Spiegelman, The Paris Review (Staff Pick)

“[Full of] epigrammatic bursts of language . . . This, too, is what language bestows, the ability to freeze a moment as it is enacted, not so it can be re-created later but so we can recognize its evanescence, which establishes a bond between the diarist and ourselves . . . ‘Sun shining then rainy but clearing,’ Scanlan ends her version of the diary. And in those six unpunctuated words, the entire history of human perseverance is revealed.” ―David L. Ulin, Los Angeles Times

“A spare but evocative story . . . Aug 9—Fog  uses carefully hewn language to capture an ordinary Midwestern life.” ―Laura Pearson, Chicago Tribune (25 Hot Books of Summer)

“Scanlan’s outstanding debut inventively adapts a real woman’s diary . . . [Aug 9—Fog] is a fascinating chronicle of Scanlan’s obsession, but, more than that, it transforms a seemingly ordinary life into a profound and moving depiction of how humans can love and live. Scanlan’s portrait of an everywoman feels entirely new.” ―Publishers Weekly (starred review)

“Aug 9―Fog bridges the gap between generations; its central relationship is one created across decades through an intimate act of collaboration. It is a fascinating book, at once philosophical and tender, addressing themes of authorship and legacy, life, death, depth, debt . . . it boldly quarries the past, answering vital questions about the present in doing so.” ―Xenobe Purvis, The Stinging Fly