Friday, October 05, 2007

Second Person Rural: More Essays of a Sometime Farmer

For the past few months I've enjoyed reading several books of essays by Noel Perrin. Two were books on books, and they were very nice, but even better (I think) are his essays about his farming life in Vermont.

I'm reading First Person Rural now, but I started with Second Person Rural because it was the first of the two I could find. Mr. Perrin clearly enjoys life as an agrarian wannabe, and he makes distinctions between himself and "real" farmers. I saw so many similarities between his rural Vermont community and my semi-rural Alabama community that made me smile. Each chapter deals with one topic, whether it be covered bridges, using a peavey, heating the house with wood-burning stoves, and so on. Each topic is interesting, and is great for a last minute read just before you turn out the light and go to sleep.

I got a kick out of this bit from the chapter titled "The Rural Immigration Law:"
"In short, if enough upper-middle-class people move to a rural town, they are naturally going to turn it into a suburb of the nearest city. For one generation it will be a very nice and very rustic suburb, with real farms dotted around it, and real natives speaking their minds at town meeting. Then as the local people are taxed out of existence (or at least out of town), one more piece of rural America has died.
"This is happening to large parts of New England at the moment. The solution, as I see it, is a good, tough immigration law. It wouldn't actually keep Don and Sue out, it would just require them to learn rural values before they were allowed to stay. When they moved to the country, they would be issued visas good for one year. At the end of that year, they would have to appear before a local board composed entirely of native farmers, loggers, and road-crew men. They would then present evidence of having acclimated. For example, they could show proof of having taken complete care of two farm animals of at least pig size, or of one cow, for at least nine months. Complete care would be rigorously interpreted. Even one weekend of paying someone to feed the pigs or milk the cow would disqualify them. (An occasional trade, on the other hand, would be acceptable. Don and Sue could take care of a neighbor's stock one weekend, and thus earn the right to be away the next, while he looked after theirs.)"

It's obvious that Mr. Perrin loved his rural community and did not want to see it radically changed. This book was published in 1980. I'm wondering what his part of Vermont looks like now?
(Noel Perrin died in 2004, and a friend of his put together a collection of the best of his Vermont essays called Best Person Rural. There are two other "rural" collections by Mr. Perrin: Third Person Rural and Last Person Rural.)



Blogger Julie said...

I just wanted to say that I so enjoy your book excursions and reviews. You expand my realm of known books and give me inspiration to try new types. Thank you! This one sounds charming.

3:37 PM  
Blogger Laura said...

Thanks, Julie! I'm looking forward to reading The Kite-Runner, thanks to you!

4:13 PM  
Blogger Laura said...

Julie, I'm assuming one should read The Kite Runner *before* A Thousand Splendid Suns?

4:16 PM  
Blogger Julie said...

Not really, they are so very different and quite stand-alone!

Be prepared: The Kite-Runner is grim. The resolution of the story is what makes the book tolerable and worth it, but it is less plausible.

5:08 PM  
Blogger Jeannine said...

I like the rural immigration law idea. :-)

10:10 PM  
Blogger Wool Winder said...

This sounds like a book my husband would enjoy. He is from Vermont and has actually used a peavey. In fact, I think we have one in the garage.

6:45 AM  
Blogger Jeannine said...

Hey, Laura, Do you want to read another large book sitting on our shelves again? Maybe rescue me from my recent binging on chick lit? :-) One that comes to mind is Waverly by Sir Walter Scott. I have a very nice copy sitting on my shelves. I also have a new copy of The Twelve Caesars. If you're interested and/or have the time, please email me your suggestions and what books you still have to read and maybe we can work something out.

BTW, I posted a pic of my snow boots.

7:25 PM  
Blogger Laura said...

Jeannine - yes! I'll email.

7:38 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

does anyone know the names of the illustrators in all the person rural books?
you Richard

6:37 PM  
Anonymous Randy Chong said...

First Person Rural illustrator - Stephen Harvard
Second Person Rural illustrator -
F. Ally Massey
Third Person Rural illustrator - Robin Brickman
Last Person Rural illustrator - Michael McCurdy
Best Person Rural - a few photos

1:26 AM  

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