A VIEW FROM VERMONT: Everyday Life in America

Helen Husher, Author . Globe Pequot $16.95 (209p) ISBN 978-0-7627-2796-4

In this ruminant, meandering collection of essays, Husher affectionately observes her native state's character and culture. A celebration of small-town life, the collection also amounts to a meditation on Yankee temperament. A man who sponsored an "apple census" to recruit fruit pickers exhibited what Husher describes as the northern Yankee's "real genius... a deadpan, potent, and watchful silence." Considering the state's low crime rate, Husher interprets Vermonters' attitude as the opposite of violence: "tolerance is a local specialty, sort of like farmstead cheese." U.S. Senator Pat Leahy figures prominently in "How to Dress Like a Vermonter," mainly for his 1971 legislation allowing skinny-dipping (with exceptions), which Husher takes as illustration of Vermonters' "willingness to be thorough, fair, and happily absorbed by the resolution of issues that do not really matter." A gentle wit and uniquely philosophical approach to the everyday distinguish Husher's best writing, but she often lapses into a precious, self-consciously literary tone. In essays like "Edge of the Clearing," about anxiety about the wild, she makes nimble historical and cultural connections, but other pieces, like "Sounds of Winter," which includes a digest of local newspaper headlines, remain inert and impersonal. When Husher allows for the occasional personal anecdote, though, her prose comes alive. Her penchant for deer hunting with a high-powered water pistol, for example, sheds humorous light on the lengths to which a Yankee will go to protect her perennials. This paean to an American region will appeal to Vermont vacationers and natives, as well as those, who like Husher, lament the mallification of America. (Apr.)

Reviewed on: 02/23/2004
Release date: 04/01/2004
Genre: Nonfiction
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