Printed Maine People

Series 2,Vol.3 January 21, 2002

Maine Book Reviews For Us and By Us


FROM THE EDITOR: The literary tradition of Franklin County has a richness of deeply skeined innovation, of thirsty roots and a composite depth that is rivaled only by the coastal, southern and northern reaches of our state. This issue of Printed Maine People focuses on the printed words and worlds that overlay central Maine's mountains and lakes. Enjoy.



The Shallows, By Pamela Wilsperson. (Pathfire Press, Topeka Kansas, 2002) Reviewed by Leslie Petrillo.

    A relative newcomer to Franklin County, Pamela Wilsperson, author of two previous novels and one memoir, is coming out with her third novel, The Shallows, in February. The Shallows is the author's first novel set in Maine. Wilsperson is perhaps best known for her one work of non-fiction, Pearls of the Sea, an account of her sojourn in Japan in which she spent five years as a pearl diver, exploring the ways of a close knit community of women in the coastal town of Gotsu.
    The Shallows follows the spiritual journey of Emma Stoughsan, a retired pearl diver who has settled on the coast of Maine in the fictional town of Gotsleberry. Each day, after a hearty breakfast, Emma walks the Gotlsleberry coastline along the half mile stretch which marks the shallows, a broad shoal extending a half mile off shore upon which a nineteenth century schooner, The Conquistador, sank and mysteriously disappeared in one foot of water in 1843.
    Though she should be happy, Emma is not. She finds herself drawn to the shallows, the element of the physical landscape in which she cannot dive too deep. Until one day a ship pulls in towards shore, over the shallows, a familiar ship.     
    The Shallows is deeply imagined and rings timorously of the latent depths of seemingly confined spaces. Stoughsan's journey is our own and the reader will be glad she took it.

Mountain Blunders, by Ned Pilbourn (Caplinchon Press, 2002) Reviewed by Leslie Petrillo

    Ned Pilbourn, mainstay of the Franklin County literary scene, has hit the mark yet again with his new collection of regionally oriented prose poems, Mountain Blunders, a series of poetically discursive personal ramblings up and down local mountain sides. The prose poems feature Pilbourne's unique "reSocratic dialogue style" and, as with previous Pilbourn collections, the focus, though seemingly on the author himself, is really on the daily fabric of the internal to external "mosaicry" which makes the poet embrace his world with artistic temperament and melodic gusto.

    Here in "Tumbledown"... "What air is there/that does not stumble down this/ridge as I do stumble/and then right myself/and more than myself/Tumbledown/all is/brought down with me"...Pilbourne raises the reader up by bringing him down with him. Pilbourn does not abandon us in his reflections as he shows in this passage from the title poem. "We need not wonder about the trees that fall in our own forests/they are heard/this plate of eggs/my sister's death/I heard them all as I hear the soft intake of your breath/ muse and bemused and unfallen/ What shall you say/ Where shall we blunder together today."
    Nor is Pilbourne confined to the heights, as he demonstrates in his lyrical handling of "Ice Fishing on a Frozen Cornfield." "There is little hope lurking/beneath this snow/ a false expectation awaits my steady drilling/" Mountain Blunders is classic Pilbourn, remote, self devotional, and touching us all.

Leslie Petrillo lives and writes in Parker, Maine with seven of her 12 cats. (The other five have "moved on.")

 

LONELY CALLS THE LOON A BOOK OF SUBSTANCE AND STYLE, By Cristinna Walker Boyd (Addison-Washington Books 2002) Reviewed by Stefanna Blake

    It's a dilemma for those of us that consider ourselves serious readers--i.e. our literary palate is best fed by such writers as Jane Austin, Charlotte Bronte, and Kate Chopin. But what do we do when we suffer from an attack of literary sweet tooth---a little touch of Danielle Steele in the night, so to speak? Do we hide under the covers, flashlight in hand, into the wee hours, hoping that no one will discover our secret weakness? How do we reconcile our guilt with our need to indulge in some lighter reading that still has substance and style? Luckily for us, we can now turn to a newly published novel by Maine writer Cristinna Walker Boyd.     
    Lonely Calls the Loon is the first book for this talented new writer. It tells the story of Lacey Parker, recent Harvard Business School Graduate, and heir to the Great North Woods Lumber and Land Company, a mega corporation owned by her father, who sends his daughter to Maine to oversee the management of the company. Lacey arrives, determined to increase the corporation's profits for its shareholders, regardless of the havoc that such actions may wreck on the local environment. 
   
The novel is set in the mythical great forests of backwoods Maine. Upon arrival, Lacey is met by Maine forest ranger Rory O'Malley, who is dedicated to saving the big woods and the animals that live there. There is an immediate conflict between the two, but also an immediate attraction that gives each chapter a subtle, spicy, aftertaste. 
    "He stood before her, his reddish brown hair blowing in the chilly morning breeze. He red and black checkered wool jacket was unzipped, his flannel shirt unbuttoned to the third button, and she could see the soft, wooly hair of his chest. Her heart skipped a beat, and she momentarily forgot that he was the ememy, the one leading the fight to prevent the clearcutting of the 10,000 acres that would ensure her father's company's success for the year. He smiled at her, and his blue eyes twinkled like the millions of stars that glowed in the northern sky each cloudless night. He was, in all respects, a natural man." 
    Cristinna Walker Boyd is very familiar with the tragedy of mindless and random clearcutting by the big lumber companies. She and her husband, Lyford, live in Wallagrass Station, Maine, along with their New Guinea Singing Dog (aptly named Caruso). She is a proponent of conservation and of mandated reforestation by the big lumber companies, and this fresh, compelling novel reflects her concern for her native environment and the moose, bear, deer, bobcat, beaver, and other wild creatures that live within it. 
    An insightful, thought provoking novel that calls the big timber companies to task, Lonely Calls the Loon is a must read for the serious reader.

Stefanna Blake writes from her home in Savannah, GA where she also gives tours of local cemeteries.

 

SUGARING-OFF: A Lament, by E. Wilson Tilson Reviewed by Jane P. Germane

A book-length poem on a single topic: maple sugar time in New England. Not only is "sugaring-off" an unexplored and perhaps unexpected topic for an epic poem, it works. Partly because the sections of the poem are told from the many various points of view involved in this annual activity. The reader might say to herself: Think Frost! But, Frost didn't do it, even though he excelled at New England rural themes. Nor does the reader think about how many voices are involved in producing syrup, because we tend to be not only egocentric, but also think "sugaring-off" is only around 3 to 4 weeks per March, depending on weather conditions. What we soon discover is that the beauty of this poem is that it is not just about the labors of what humankind has to do, as it were, such as watch the temperature, wear snow-shoes, locate maple trees in the forest, pound spouts into them, hang buckets, find a source of those small plastic log-cabins with lids, advertise, and so forth. It is almost impossible to imagine a book-length poem on those activities, alone. E. Wilson Tilson does not disappoint. This book is an epic in every sense of that word.

Divided into 3 sections, the many voices are given the point of view of participants. Thus, the poem begins with a long section voicing the voice of the maple tree, itself:

I was standing there, grown in place, the spring wind had only begun to Soften the snow around my feet, the chickadees had only begun to stop their Fuss in my hair, when I was pierced in my side six times with the bang of Rude hammers, the clatter of buckets, and the wound of spiles. When..... 
                                from "My Voice II"

This thrilling opening section is composed of 6 elegies from the point of view of the sugar maple tree, and this is an entirely original, decidedly Maine point of view. When Whitman writes, as we all recall, "through me, many long dumb voices," even Whitman, our main bard, did not include maple trees, though certainly he might have. Personally, I would not have called them "dumb," but they are not a voice we've heard from before now. It's as though, hauntingly, Tilson is asking of himself: well, why not? Another moving, albeit subdued aspect of this opening section is the spring theme, which subtly but continuously encircles "sugaring-off" with Easter themes. This may not appeal to all Maine readers, but may not be apparent to all Maine readers, anyhow.

Moving along to Section 2, the poem devotes itself to the plaintive yet homely reminders of the voice of the pancake and the waffle, and, as a note of whimsey, the voice of the pork sausage, too. Once again, reminding us of nothing so much as Whitmanic. Tilson's element of surprise here, is surprising. From "Pancake: Ode 1":

Hot off the griddle, ourselves at last and entirely, emerging in our Palatability at last, toothsome but meaningless until we are who we are, Emerge on a plate! Saying our names! Glancing skyward for a Pat of butter, we are drowned as we are born, as is America, not knowing, In a lake of sweetness not our own, that drips Down our sides.

Following this section, a third section follows, giving short voices to other participants in poems with short emphatic titles: "Oxen," "Ice Grips," "Spiles," and "Humans." "Humans" is the final voice of the volume, and is entirely in Petrarchan sonnet sequence which, in and of itself, is such a message. Telling us that though "tree" and "waffle" can speak forth in Whitmaniacally inspired free verse, when "man" speaks, it seems inevitable that he's going to speak in some kind of over-controlled form such as sonnet. The lines here sometimes rhyme, for the most part.

In closing, what's particularly refreshing, needless to say, is the non-human point of view, which we seldom hear much, especially in book-length poems. This slim volume and its line-drawings, also by E. Wilson Tilson, is a must for any New England lover. On a personal note, my reading group took turns reading it aloud from cover to cover for many enjoyable meetings, and gave it an enthusiastic 9 thumbs up! Each copy is signed and dated by the author, an added plus.

Jane P. Germane loves poetry, her cats, her herb garden, her flute, and her reading group, and she adds, "sometimes in that order, but sometimes not."

 

ME, MINE, MYSELF, I, MY, AND WHOEVER ELSE; My Life as A Writer, by Pick Snickers, Reviewed by J. H. Heatherly, Esq.

Having been retired for some years from active duty, plus teaching English at several academies, I have nevertheless stayed in touch with reading and having opinions, well-informed, about various ideas in the world at large, if I may say so. In retirement, I am happy to have been asked by this publication to contribute a review, obscure as I may be, and am willing to be, as well. Being a modest author myself, of some, should I say, modest renown, I have thought this through and have decided I can, indeed, pronounce firmly.

Do not waste good money on this book. I would have much preferred to review it in a kindly and interested way, but I cannot do so. It is nasty, self-centered, vulgar, dull, self-serving, narrow, bogus, useless, empty, theatrical, hysterical, phony, a lie from beginning to end, alarming in content -- for example, this man, assuming Pick Snickers is male, sold his child to buy a typewriter? And, bad writing throughout. I do not recommend this book to any reader, of whatever stamp. I have seldom read sentences so trite. Writers should be manly men, I've always thought, and must refrain from whining about their chosen lot. Presumably "advice for fledgling writers," this intolerable book is exactly what to avoid, at any cost. Write if you must, but not if it seems to give you license to whine. I would not, at my remove, even disallow masturbating. That is, masturbating instead of writing. This is simply, from beginning to end, not the way things should be done. And bad habits are, in a word, bad habits.

J.H. Heatherly, Esq., lives on the coast, loves Kipling, and is writing a cookbook on the uses of curry powder.

 


THE WATER OF LIFE, by Shawn Maganelli (Ward-Cowling Press 2002) Reviewed by James Waterhouse

    As books go, Uisce Beatha, The Book of Irish Drinking is a mongrel. Part travel guide, part bartender, part history, part Who's Who, part musical compiltation, part comedy, it is not easily classified in any one genre.. This aside, it is a delightful exploration into the often stereotypified love of the Irish for strong spirts and big pints. 
   
"Uisce Beatha" (pronounced ish-ka-bah-ha) literally means "The water of life" and is the Irish Gaelic word for whiskey. It is written by Shawn Maganelli, who says of himself, "My mother was Irish from Dublin. My father was Italian from Florence. I've divided my life between the two places, and I feel as much one as the other. But Ireland has better pubs." 
    The book is divided into six sections. The first, "Finding the Best Pubs," lists some 250 drinking establishments across the Emerald Isle, including Big Molly Malone's in Waterford city, which receives five stars, The Dam Bursts Pub in Galway city, also a five star watering hole, and Keane's Pub and Texas Steak House in Drogheda, which clocked in with four stars. The second section is entitled "How to Make Irish Drinks," and lists the recipes for such concoctions as "The Green Man" (creme de menthe and Guinness), The Virgin Fishmonger (hot milk and Jameson's) and "The Wolfhound" (vodka and Guiness). Section three is entitled "Great Irish Drinkers" and is by far the longest part of the book, covering some 137 pages, and naming just about everyone you have ever heard of who was Irish, and also including the entire village of Gowna, Maganelli's mother's hometown, as Maganelli said, "I didn't want to offend anyone that I know." The fourth part of the book is "The History of Irish Drinking, " a short twenty pages devoted to emphasizing the fact that Irish history and the history of drinking in Ireland are so intertwined as to be all but indistinguishable. Maganelli says, "Poteen has always been part of the Irish collective mentality. Even the poorest Irishman must have his pint, even if that pint is made from fermented honey and water." Section five is called "Irish Drinking Ballads" and includes complete lyrics and musical notation for over 100 songs. Aside from such well known classics as "Bring My Pint Soon, Bridget, For I'm Fain to Lie Down," and "Drunk Last Night, Drunk the Night Before," it also includes "100 Pints a Day, " and "The Brew is On the Dew," and the hauntingly beautiful "My Lip is On the Cup." The section alone makes the book worth owning. This reviewers favorite section is the one entitled "Irish Drinking Jokes." Hilarious and often ribald, the over 200 jokes told here are full of brevity and true Irish wit. The following is one of my favorites: 
    "Seamus O'Brian, Patrick O' Malloy, and Sean O'Connor are out fishing on the lake when they catch a giant trout. ‘Put me back,' says the trout, ‘and I will grant you three wishes.' They put him back, and Seamus asks for a new fly rod. He instantly receives one. Patrick asks for a new hat. One is immediately placed on his head. Sean says, ‘ I wish the entire lake were made of Guinness.' The lake turns into a giant vat of beer. ‘That was stupid,' says Seamus. "Why?' asks Sean. ‘Because now we'll have to pee in the boat, ‘ says Patrick." 
   
In Uisce Beatha, The Book of Irish Drinking Shawn Maganelli has created a multipurpose classic, sure to appeal to a multipurpose audience. He is currently working on a sequel called Salute, The Book of Italian Drinking.

James Waterhouse teaches Irish language classes, and in his spare time is working on his own book entitled Time Marches On. The History of Military Calendars.

 

Enota, The Divine Tongue, by Dr. Carl Miller. (Batey Theological Press 2002) Reviewed by Jed Claufford

    Have you ever wondered what language is spoken in heaven? While Americans might be quick to say English, and Portuguese, Portuguese, a moment of reflection reveals that the Almighty , who is omniscient, must also be omnilingual. Yet if God can speak all languages, still, which is the chosen language of heaven, in what language do the blessed converse among themselves?
   
It was to this compelling question that Dr. Carl Miller, Ridge Professor of Antiquity at Maine's prestigious Batey Theological Seminary, devoted thirty years of his professional life. The answer, in all its simplicity, was revealed to Miller's patient, questing, mind. Aware that all mortal forms are but confused shadows of a divine original, Miller pondered on all the earth's varied languages, realizing that they must all be shadows of a divine original, of God's perfect language. That was the easy part!
   
It took Miller thirty years of painstaking labor, leaving plate after plate of sumptuous fare untouched while, supposedly there for a much needed lunch, he sat in the Batey Seminary's magnificent refectory, poring over his work, magnificently ignoring his physical needs. Yes, there Miller sat, when not conducting one of his stimulating seminars, or sleeping perforce in his high backed chair, there he sat examining all the world's languages for their intrinsic, sub-syllabic commonalities, burning away, with the acid of his scholarship, all but the base metal. Yes, it took Miller thirty years to reach the pinnacle of success, to fully reconstruct the Divine Tongue, the language called, in its own perfect syntax, Enota. 
    The Divine Tongue includes not only Miller's riveting analysis and discourse, but also a full grammar and easy to use glossary of the Divine Tongue, Enota. And what a great pleasure and relief it is for those of who may benefit by Dr. Miller's tour de force. No longer need we fear that the day of reckoning will find us standing mute before the Lord. Thank you Dr. Miller

Jed Claufford is a graduate student at Maine's prestigious Batey Theological Seminary. His Dissertation, Unfinished Meals: Abstention and the Reception of Inspiration will be published by Batey Theological Press upon its completion.

 


COLLECTING MARTHA, by Faith ("Finky") Daulhaus (Cozyplace Press, 2002) Reviewed by Perpetua ("Peppy") Bismoll

Is it just me? I mean, like, well, I know Martha so well. Actually, I know Finky, too, and just like her, I think Martha is just a total sweetheart. I just don't get some of the really bizarre press she gets from time to time. Like that she's bitten one of her staff persons, things like that, or doesn't always pay her bills. I mean, I ask you! She and I have spent hours together, and, as they say, "never a cross word"!

How do I know her so well, I bet you're wondering? Not only are we friends and summertime neighbors ("Hi! Martha!" I say, right across our backyard fences!) but I'm her what you might call photo-op stand-in, too. What I mean is that I rake up the pears, frost the canapés, carve old innertubes into jack o'lanterns, rinse the blue turkeys, blow ostrich eggs, tie-dye the yacht, stencil the barn, make curtains out of threadbare bathroom carpets, you know, all those lovely Martha projects, then Martha moves in to have her picture taken standing next to those darling blue turkeys, blown eggs, festive Eastery yachts, jello hearts, what have you, dressed in all these adorably cute outfits with her hands all muddy or painty or icky, and so forth. (Daddy always said I'd make something of my Swarthmore degree, and he was right!)

But gosh, I keep forgetting what I'm supposed to be doing here, which is writing this like rave review of Finky's adorable book! Collecting Martha means just hoarding everything you can get your hands on! Books, mags., outfit tips, recipe cards, tapes of her shows, plus! Finky has a chapter called "Every Issue, or What You Could Miss!" She includes Martha's own directions for making magazine files (holds an entire year!) out of velvet, grosgrain, chopsticks, ring binders, c-clamps, used tea bags, and a glue gun. All it takes is those handy little glue-sticks, girls! Well, the other things too, but she's all about using up, creatively, what we'd otherwise just toss out, like leftover velvet and so forth. Oh, I could go on for hours about you-know-who! But I see I'm supposed to come in at this like word-count, whatever that means.

Okay, quickly then, there's a great section on buying Martha things, like pink chickens, eggblowers, spacklers, sniffies, dust ruffles, ice-cream carvers, hoes, ladybug traps (paint them!), plastic bulbs, you name it! Okay, it's a franchise, but what isn't? Even Ralph is a franchise, you know? What, like, isn't?

The total most adorable chapter of Finky's book is about Martha collectibles, if that's how to spell it. This chapter is just chock-full of great tips. It ranges from collecting (lots!) of the Beanie Baby "Mothball Martha" which is so cute, featuring a photo of her actual face on the adorable doll, which is stuffed with mothballs! Cute and practical! All you do is toss it in the attic, and wow! Moths like fly away! Many more ideas, ranging in price, all the way up to hiring an entire quaint fishing village that Martha has already hired to put on a lobster bake in her back yard, and then you hire this same village to put on a lobster bake in your back yard, thus making it a collectible village, if you see what I mean. Clever Finky! She is so like thoughtful to include prices, like $3.95 for "Mothball Martha," to "renting a stone wall" ($27,000), all the way up to "renting Vinalhaven locals" (per day) for $148,000. Something for everyone.

And I'll have to stop here, having used up my word limit, which is something I'm not used to doing. "Something for everyone" is just like the spirit of Martha, I do want to put in here, okay? (Can I just please like have a few more words, if that's okay?) And Finky, too. Thanks, good girl-friends! What a team! Rush out right now, reader. You won't be sorry. Plus, for Christmas next year, always be looking ahead!, turn that margarine tub into a tree-top angel to treasure, with the help of gold leaf, 2 lbs. of gem stones, 12 panes of stained glass, a quart of rum, and of course, that handy glue-gun, which is this like total must to pull the look together in a Martha kind of way. And really, what other kind of way would we ever like want? p.s. SECRET, okay? Finky and I were roomies! Swear!

 


R.J. DOAKE: AMERICA'S OWN TOLKIEN, by Emory Coombs (Renanscence Press 2002) Reviewed by Walter Wakefield

    The Biography of R.J. Doake, written by Emory Coombs, is the little known story of the life of America's own Tolkien, and the definitive work on the creator of the Lampwick Chronicles, a massive 5000 page, five volume fantasy of good and evil, of light and darkness. 
    Ryland James Doake, a contemporary of J.R. Tolkien, was born in 1890 in Darkesville, West Virginia.. The oldest in a family of fourteen children, he was put to work in the coal mines at the tender age of nine. Small for his size, he was able to hide in the deserted mine shafts, where he slept much of the day away, and when not napping, dreamed up fantastical tales of the "Piddums" (evil trolls) and the "Tinkadoras" (elves) that the imagined lived in the dark, sooty, passages. He soon discovered that, when the day was done, and he emerged from the pits along with the multitudes of other miners, that the local children would give him pennies to tell the stories he dreamed up during the long days he spent hiding in the deserted mines. When his grandmother found out the source of his extra income, she encouraged him to write the stories down. Though his formal schooling was limited, he exercised an amazing command of language and spent his evenings penning the tales he created. 
    "My grandmother had more brains than teeth, " he once said. "It is a good thing I listened to her. If I hadn't I would never have written the Lampwicks" (as he called them). 
    The Chronicles are divided into five books: The Nameless Druid, the Pit of Tuaim Inbu, The King of May, the Gannet's Bath, and The Vale of Bright Water, and follows the exploits of one Tinkadora, Eoin Coghill, as he battles the forces of darkness , led by the evil Piddum, Gabhala. 
    Sadly, the Chronicles themselves are no longer in print, but a complete collection (the only one known to be in existence) is kept at Frickworth University in Kentucky where Doake taught Medieval literature in the 1930's and 1940's. 
    Emory Coombs spent 20 years researching the life of this little known fantasy writer, and the result of his effort, The Biography of R.J. Doake, America's Tolkien, is an amazing exploration into the life of this all but forgotten literary genius.

Walter Wakefied lives in Cambridge, MA with his wife and three daughters. He is an avid reader of fantasy novels, as well as a librarian for the Salvation Army.

Printed Maine People 
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Old Town, Maine 04468 
pmpeditor@yahoo.com


Winter Simpson, Editor 
Karen Petrillo, Assistant Editor 
Scott Palaver, Graphic Design 
Nancy Snowcorn, Advisor
Minda Wathers, Technical Consultant 
Sam Asterpin, Proofreader
Printed Maine People is funded in part by the Regional Core Points Grants For The Printed Arts, a private agency.

Contributors to this issue include: 
Leslie Petrillo, Stefanna Blake, Wilson Tilson, J. H. Heatherly, Esq, James Waterhouse, Jed Claufford, Perpetua Bismoll, and Walter Wakefield

Submissions and inquiries should be sent to pmpeditor@yahoo.com
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