Vermont


Vermont state fair, 1941
Photo of a barker at the 1941 Vermont State Fair by Jack Delano used under a Creative Commons license.

Frank Howard Mosher, The Fall of the Year (Houghton Mifflin, 1999).
At the heart of this novel are Father George Lecoeur, a baseball-playing outdoorsman of a Catholic priest, and his adopted son, Frank Bennett, a 21-year-old come home to Kingdom County, Vermont, for the summer before he starts at seminary.  Kingdom County is a fictional place tucked under the border with Quebec in Vermont’s Northeast Kingdom, a boundary that feels here like a frontier.  Lecoeur and Bennett are surrounded by wonderful characters such Foster Boy Dufresne, the town fool, and Molly Murphy, who dreams of running away with the circus.  Mosher makes his story seem deceptively simple, writing with a wry grace.

Google BookSearch has a preview. Wikipedia’s page about Mosher is brief. Here is what Mosher was reading a few summers ago. This book doesn’t have the reviews it deserves!

Buy it at Amazon.com.

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Sleepy Hollow Farm
Photo by SnapsterMax used under a Creative Commons license.

E. Annie Proulx, Postcards (Touchstone, 1994).
A story of the Blood family, who scrape by on the family’s farm in Vermont. A son, Loyal Blood, kills his lover, and flees. For four decades in exile, Loyal roams from job to job and state to state, while the rest of the family perseveres back home, but they all share loneliness and life on the margin. Many of the postcards reproduced at the opening of chapters, complete with franking and address, are those he sends back to his family. This was Proulx’s first novel, before she became known for The Shipping News and the story, “Brokeback Mountain.”

Sara Rimer profiled Proulx after the success of The Shipping News. Aida Edemariam profiled her for the Guardian a decade later. David Bradley reviewed it for The New York Times. Gingerburn comes to its defence. Here is a quiet recommendation from mister anchovy. Christ-topher calls it a tale of molasses-paced loneliness and estrangement. The book won the 1993 PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction.

Buy it at Amazon.com.

View from Marcy Dam, Adirondacks, NY
Photo from Marcy Dam in the Adirondacks by Robbie’s Photo Art used under a Creative Commons license.

Bill McKibben, Wandering Home (Crown Journeys, 2005).
Recommended by David Armstrong, The San Francisco Chronicle‘s (former) Literate Traveler:

. . . [A] close-up look at the weather, land, water, animals and people in the hardscrabble country of upstate New York’s Adirondacks and the greener, softer land on the other side of Lake Champlain, in Vermont. . . . McKibben goes on walkabout, backpacking from his home in Vermont to his home in New York State. It takes him 16 days. Along the way, he profiles what in a more high-powered report would be called the area’s movers and shakers: creative locals trying to live rooted, ecologically aware lives. They are organic farmers, home winemakers, hometown cafe owners, environmental activists. They inhabit what McKibben calls “America’s most hopeful landscape.” McKibben clearly despises much of modern life, and this can lead him very close to weary sententiousness. At times, he launches into stiff-necked secular sermons. But he usually pulls back in time, and delights with self- deprecating humor and inspired, descriptive writing . . . .

McKibben’s site offers this description of the book and this bio. Casey Ryan Vock reviewed the book for All Points North magazine. George Sibley reviewed it for MountainGazette.com. Gerry Rising reviewed it in ArtVoice. Amanda liked it. So did Eric Promislow. And Donovan posted about it. Listen to National Public Radio’s Alex Chadwick interview McKibben about the book, or watch him in conversation. McKibben wrote this article for Gourmet about trying to eat locally through a Vermont winter.

Buy it at Amazon.com. (N.B. — Here’s a bargain price that may not last.)