Biography pays heed to Governor Robinson

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WEB mello bookcopyright the Chronicle December 17, 2014

Moses Robinson and the Founding of Vermont by Robert A. Mello. Published by the Vermont Historical Society, 2014. 450 pages with footnotes and bibliography. $34.95

Reviewed by Paul Lefebvre

Robert A. Mello is a better historian than he is a biographer. Perhaps that’s because his writing lacks the flair we look for in reading about people whose lives merit a biography. Still his recent biography of Moses Robinson and the role he played in Vermont’s formative years has arrived at a fortuitous moment.

In 1789, Vermont’s second election for governor was thrown into the Legislature as neither candidate had achieved a majority, as required by the state’s Constitution.

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Navigating the complexities of the simple life

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WEB Hewitt bookcopyright the Chronicle December 3, 2014

The Nourishing Homestead: One Back-to-the-Land Family’s Plan for Cultivating Soil, Skills, and Spirit, by Ben Hewitt with Penny Hewitt. Published by Chelsea Green Publishing, White River Junction, 2015; Paperbound, 352 pages; $29.95.

Reviewed by Joseph Gresser

Some books need to be written again as each new generation comes of age. Walden, by Henry David Thoreau, may have set the template for one of these books, the exhortation to the reader to give up conventional expectations and live a radically simplified life.

Living the Good Life, by Helen and Scott Nearing, set forth a version of that message adapted for a very different world. To give them full credit, the Nearings lived according to their principles far longer than the year or two Mr. Thoreau spent in the woods.

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Debut novel draws page-turning journey

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WEB mill horse reviewcopyright the Chronicle November 26, 2014

The Clever Mill Horse, by Jodi Lew-Smith. Paperback. 409 pages. Published by Caspian Press, Hardwick. $16.99

Reviewed by Tena Starr

Jodi Lew-Smith has written a rollicking story here, as unlikely as that seems, given that the plot revolves around securing a patent for a flax-milling machine. I would not, myself, have thought of patent rights as the most gripping subject for a young adult adventure novel.

But it works. The characters are well drawn, for the most part, and the plot has considerable twists and turns.

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Miller speeds readers down American roads

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WEB miller bookcopyright the Chronicle November 12, 2014

Reviewed by Joseph Gresser

Museum of the Americas, by Gary Lee Miller. Published by Fomite Press, Burlington, 2014. Paperbound, 169 pages, $14.95.

Roads run through the 11 stories in Gary Lee Miller’s collection. Characters travel, or are passed by as they watch others speed out of sight.

This, I suppose, makes him an American writer. The choice between going and staying is one that is central to fiction in a country where it is not unusual for a person to slip his moorings and make another life in another state.

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Lake Region’s Pippin — a lively performance with a groovy feel

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A despondent Pippin (Nate Chambers) gets schooled by his well-preserved grandmother (Karamae Hayman-Jones).  Also listening, as Ms. Hayman-Jones rocked the house during a Halloween matinee, are her fellow players (left to right, Kayla Poginy and Mariah Moore).   Photo by Joseph Gresser

A despondent Pippin (Nate Chambers) gets schooled by his well-preserved grandmother (Karamae Hayman-Jones). Also listening, as Ms. Hayman-Jones rocked the house during a Halloween matinee, are her fellow players (left to right, Kayla Poginy and Mariah Moore). Photo by Joseph Gresser

copyright the Chronicle November 5, 2014

by Joseph Gresser

ORLEANS — Lake Region Union High School’s production of Pippin could be taking place anywhere, at any time.

That, of course, is only true of what happens on stage. In our world the shows will be performed at 7 p.m. on Thursday, November 6, Friday, November 7, and Saturday, November 8. Audiences can be confident the shows will go on at the Opera House at the Orleans Municipal Building.

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Ruminations on apples: the good, the bad, the useless

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The cover of Apples of Uncommon Character.

The cover of Apples of Uncommon Character.

copyright the Chronicle October 8, 2014

by Joseph Gresser

Apples of Uncommon Character: 123 Heirlooms, Modern Classics & Little-Known Wonders, by Rowan Jacobsen. Published by Bloomsbury, New York City, 2014. 311 pages. Hardbound. $35.

At this time of year, even a short walk along any back road will reveal the remains of a long-passed way of life. At intervals, forlorn apple trees, still bearing after years of neglect, will offer their meager , or occasionally abundant, fall harvest.

With the advent of grocery stores and the availability of any fruit or vegetable we might desire regardless of the season, we have moved away from the world where apple trees were a necessary luxury.

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Ted Hoagland publishes twenty-fourth book

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WEB hoagland devil covercopyright the Chronicle October 1, 2014

Reviewed by Natalie Hormilla

The Devil’s Tub, by Edward Hoagland. 240 pages. Hardcover. Published by Arcade Publishing. $24.95.

BARTON — “I’m ready to die,” said Edward Hoagland while seated comfortably in his longtime summer home in Barton. “I’d be totally content if I died tomorrow.”

Mr. Hoagland said this without a single degree of suicidal tendency. He means that he’s a writer who is content with his life’s work.

If he did die tomorrow, he’d miss the reviews, he said, with a laugh.

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Ruminations: on dumpster diving, or clearing out the garden

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WEB rumination curious harvestcopyright the Chronicle September 10, 2014

by Joseph Gresser

A Curious Harvest: The Practical Art of Cooking Everything, by Maximus Thaler and Dayna Safferstein; published by Quarry Books, Beverly, Massachusetts, 2014; 160 pages, softbound, $24.99.

There is hardly any point in searching for a topic for this column. Like a cow grazing in the field, the writer is best off using what he finds before him.

In this case it is A Curious Harvest: The Practical Art of Cooking Everything. Elka Schumann handed a copy of the book to me a week or so ago while we stood talking in the kitchen at the Bread and Puppet Theater in Glover.

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Girl treks to Vermont in post apocalyptic novel

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WEB polly reviewcopyright the Chronicle September 10, 2014

Polly And The One And Only World, by Don Bredes. 335 pages. Paperback. Published by Green Writers Press. $14.95.

Reviewed by Tena Starr

Polly and the One and Only World is a page-turner.

I picked up the book on a Monday night, was a little late for work Tuesday morning because I desperately wanted to know what happened next, and finished it at two Wednesday morning.

You know that kind of book — the kind where you look at the clock and tell yourself you really should turn the lights off and go to sleep. Instead, you say, well, maybe just one more chapter, and keep saying it, until you’re at the end and know you’ll regret it in the morning.

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Two handmade Shipley books honor writing and farming

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Woodcuts by Mary Simpson illustrate Adam’s Mark; Writing from the Ox-House.

Woodcuts by Mary Simpson illustrate Adam’s Mark; Writing from the Ox-House.

copyright the Chronicle September 3, 2014

Adam’s Mark: Writing from the Ox-House, published by Plowboy Press in Burke, with woodcuts by Mary Simpson. A limited edition hard cover version is available directly from the publisher for $250. A smaller softcover trade copy, 54 pages, is $12. First Do No Harm, by Honeybee Press in Burlington and New Orleans, Lousiana, 48 pages, softcover, $15. Both published in 2014, both written by Julia Shipley. Both available locally at the Galaxy Bookshop in Hardwick.

Reviewed by Bethany M. Dunbar

Wesley Langdell’s barn and paddock are across the street from the Morrisville Price Chopper. He sold his southern hayfield in the early sixties to developers who built the Ames Plaza, Price Chopper and McDonald’s. I gaze at his place from the parking lot where I shop because I cherish things that are about to vanish.

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