Ann and John Brantingham spent nine summers volunteering and living in a van in Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks away from wifi, electricity, plumbing, and anxiety. This experience brought them back to themselves. Kitkitdizzi is their dual memoir, Ann's in graphite drawings and John's in short essays. These summers gave them the time to stop and look and let their minds romp at random without the burden of triaging every moment as they raced through their days. What they found was a balm from the surreality of modern life.
In Kitkitdizzi John Brantingham writes in such a way, that I felt I was walking with him through the forests and the mountains of the High Sierra, and learning a lot on the way. The drawings by Ann Brantingham that accompany the text and form a pictorial memoir, are exquisitely rendered like the prose. Her drawings invite close attention to the intricate patterns of nature. She often shows the veins of leaves and plants. And life pulses through the veins of the written part of this memoir too, in many different ways — in the present and the struggle not to be distracted from the moment, in interesting reflections back to the past — the author’s childhood and lives of others who came before, the lives of the creatures in the park, the bears and the bats. It’s a deeply engrossing and beautiful read. A memoir to dwell with and return to.
—Jude Higgins, author of The Chemist’s House (V. Press, 2017)
At once luminous and restrained, the Brantinghams’ memoir Kitkitdizzi unfolds like a contemplative picture book for adults. A master of nature writing, John Brantingham enjoins you to stop and appreciate the plants and animals around you. He does this paradoxically through a zen-like refusal of judgment. You don’t need to be a backpacker, or even to “like” nature. You don’t even need to remember the names of anything, although he will tell them to you. The only thing you have to do, J. Brantingham reminds us, is “look.” Through the act of perception, we simultaneously remember and forget ourselves, as we encounter our past identities—as well as the specters of those who also once walked the High Sierra—through our own process of walking through it. While his prose alternates between present and past, Ann Brantingham’s elegant drawings call our attention to immediacy: to the miraculous symmetry of leaves, buds and stems. Through these details, we come ever closer to the world that J. Brantingham invokes verbally. The authors’ lack of pretension is never naïve, but rather knowing, and complex. This is not Wordsworth at Tintern Abbey, although Wordsworth is referenced; this work celebrates two American Basho’s on their own journey with students and friends through the narrow interior of landscape and spirituality in the beautiful, threatened ecosphere of what is arguably the most ecologically variegated state in the union.
—Stephanie Barbé Hammer, author of City Slicker: encounters with the outside
If you only read one book this year, make it this one. John and Ann Brantingham’s Kitkitdizzi: A Non-Linear Memoir of the High Sierra will take you where you need to be. In this time of uncertainty, as things seem broken beyond recognition and real problems drowned out by spectacle politics and commercial clamor, it is tempting to insulate through cynicism and despair. In Kitkitdizzi, the Brantinghams provide—quite literally—the oxygen we need. They teach us how to look anew at our world, to listen closely to the wind, feel our skin. Through this brilliant hybrid memoir, they gently remind us to see the light that is already there.
—Kendall Johnson, author of Chaos & Ash, Black Box Poetics, Fireflies Against Darkness; contributing editor, Journal of Radical Wonder