Browsing Archives for Books & Letters

The Bucolic Plague written by Josh Kilmer-Purcell recounts the purchase of a beautifully restored 1802 mansion on a sprawling estate in upstate New York. Kilmer-Purcell purchase the house along with his partner Dr. Brent Ridge (an employee of Martha Stewart Omni Media)  for a country get-away.  But soon both men find themselves in the grips of an unrelenting love affair with their new home and attempt to find a way to give up their day jobs in Manhattan and find a way to ‘live off the land’ at their new home. So they start to make soap from goat milk to sell and their adventure begins.

At first I was mildly irritated by the book. Although I am a steadfast devotee of all ‘country life books’ I found Kilmer-Purcell’s story to be a bit too tidy at first. They painlessly grow heirloom vegetables in raised beds that they constructed in a cheerful haze of farmy delight while a thousand contented goats frolick in the background. Their village teems with cheerful, helpful souls who love nothing better than to invite the new people to fabulous parties where everyone drinks and eats and helps each other to succeed. And then Martha Stewart invites the new gentlemen farmers onto her show and overnight they sell out of their stock of goat soap.

Oh brother!

But then about halfway through the book, there is a shift. A decidedly rancid shift. The relationship between Brent and Josh begins to reel. Their finances falter. The goats sicken and die… Okay. The goats don’t really sicken and die, but a few things do start to go wrong and that is when the story started to have a bit more mirthless ire while maintaining a mirthful undercurrent which (sicko that I am) began to perk my interest. I also found myself enjoying the story more whenever Martha Stewart showed up.  She is always a fascinating character and hearing employee gossip about her is even better!

If you like stories where the houses are one of the main characters, of people trying to live off the land, of big city gossip set inside a New England hamlet, you might enjoy this book. I spent a bit of time on the Beekman Boys website after I finished it. They also have a television show now. I have not seen it, but may try to catch it at some point.  There are better back to the land books out there, but because of it’s social media aspects, it’s Martha Stewart cameos and the fact that it is a gay couple rather than the same/old same old hetero couple learning how to raise poultry, make cheese and can tomatoes, it makes an interesting addition to the ‘country life’ genre.

Old Herbaceous

June 16th, 2011

I just finished reading Old Herbaceous by Reginald Arkell. If you don’t like gardens and fail to have an English countryside fixation problem, you may not enjoy this book. Especially since there is a severe lack of murders, affairs, scandals, bloodshed, ritual burnings, sex crimes, robberies, looting, pillaging or pirates within it’s humble pages. But if you occasionally crave a soothing read that embalms your mind in a gentle jelly filled with quirky characters and a lush landscape where the thorniest problems involve judging the annual flower show and harvesting the earliest strawberries – I think I may have just the book for you.

I just recently completed my Beverly Nichols book collection, ordering the remaining few books of his that I did not own.  I have written about my love affair with Beverly Nichols on many occasions.  He wrote books in the 1920s and 30s about his garden and his cats and his quirky English neighbors.  What more could you possibly want in a story?  Well… it would have been nice if there had been an occasional murder… but other than that – perfection!

So I will be working my way through the rest of Nichol’s books this summer.  If my English accent starts to take over my life – please don’t be offended.  It’s quite good actually – at least that’s what I tell myself.

But I can’t very well do a book post about a bunch of books I have not yet read!  So I thought I would do a book post about a book I HAVE READ!  AND LOVED! AND YET HAVE NEVER MANAGED TO WRITE ABOUT!!!!!!

And that would be Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil by John Berendt.

Oh

How

I

Love

This

Book.

It truly is one of my all time favorites.  I’ve read it several times and have also watched the movie starring Jon Cussack, Kevin Spacey and ‘sex walking’ Jude Law.  The movie is very good, but the book… the book… it’s truly one that should be read.  Based on a true story, Berendt captures a world of crazy characters set against a lush Savannah, Georgia backdrop.  There are voodoo priestesses, and men with pet flies and a wealthy art collector with a penchant for hot young men and a cross dresser who only puts eyeshadow on one eye and then there’s Chablis.  Oh Lord help us all – Chablis!  And then a body turns up…  Sorry Beverly Nichols!  But this book may very well have everything I truly need for literary satisfaction.  Gardens, mansions, quirky characters AND A MURDER!  Not that I don’t still completely and totally belong to you and you alone Beverly!

Did you know that the cover of this book is credited as being one of the best book covers of all time?  Okay – that might be a bit of an exaggeration, but the cover of this book is one that burns itself into your mind.  In fact, the bird girl statue of the Savannah cemetery that is on the cover became such a popular tourist destination after the book became a best seller, that the living family members whose loved one’s grave the statue marked, had her moved to a museum (the statue, not the body).  You can read more about the iconic photograph and how it came to be here. I have long loved the statue on the cover of this book, but I thought it was just me and my weird statuary fixation.  Turns out – I’m not the only one!  This is a book design that may have honestly catapulted this book into the public imagination.  Yes, readers may have judged this book by it’s cover, but the story is worthy of the attention.  I’ve never forgotten the characters that inhabit this tale.  If you haven’t read it yet – I highly recommend checking it out.