cover image Stone Work

Stone Work

John Jerome. Viking Books, $17.95 (240pp) ISBN 978-0-670-80195-4

Although Jerome ( Truck ) admits initially that building a stone boundary wall on his property in Massachusetts was ``about the dumbest piece of work I could conceive,'' he soon discovered the elemental satisfactions of maneuvering tons of stone into a monumental yet simple form. Through his year-long task, described here, the urban expatriate recovered his sensory instincts and established connections with the natural world. The patience and painstaking attention required by stone work serve Jerome equally well in his wry, often metaphysical musings on physics and physiology. How our bodies perform, how nature works, the mechanics of moving rocks, all fascinate the author. And the closer he stays to the suspenseful building process, the more authentic are his reflections (``Stone, wood, glass, metal, mud, any material, any combination, it's the fitting together that turns work into pleasure, turns tedium into trance''). Yet admirers of more Thoreauvian accounts of country life may be disappointed by Jerome's penchant for physics over pastoral pleasures, and his eventual abandonment of the stone wall as a ``dilettantish thing'' may strike readers as unkind treatment of a stately metaphor. (July)