My column ran this past Sunday. I reviewed Megan Marshall‘s Margaret Fuller: a New American Life, Abi Maxwell‘s debut novel Lake People, Jack Gray‘s memoir-in-essays Pigeon In a Crosswalk: Tales of Anxiety & Accidental Glamour and Brett Markham‘s The MiniFarming Guide to Composting.
It seems like the Monitor has worked out the paywall issues it was having so here’s the link.
If I hear anyone is having trouble reading it, I’ll post the whole column here.
Heard from someone that indeed they could not take the above link so here is the column:
The Feminist Transcendentalist
Massachusetts author Megan Marshall’s (The Peabody Sisters) new biography, Margaret Fuller: a New American Life, is a thorough and sympathetic treatment of the famed feminist. Even for readers familiar with Fuller, Marshall’s account is engaging. She covers not only the biographical details of Fuller’s life that forged an intellect nearly unmatched in her time, but also Fuller’s relationships – as daughter and sister devoted to pleasing a difficult father and keeping her financially challenged family afloat; friend and colleague to dozens of thinkers, reformers, and writers; teacher and mentor; wife and mother in revolutionary Italy – that made Fuller the complex, fascinating woman that she was.
Though she was often misunderstood, maligned or even mocked in reviews and in private correspondence (even by some of her closest friends and relatives, whom Marshall quotes extensively), Fuller is, in Marshall’s view, a heroine. She influenced history through her groundbreaking feminist work Women in the Nineteenth Century, her series of “Conversations” for women in Boston, and her prolific journalism, which brought observations and ideas from Transcendental New England; the newly settled American West; the prisons, workhouses, factories and slums of New York and industrial England; and Europe’s 1848 revolutions to a wide national audience. With copious quotes and excerpts from Fuller’s books, journals, letters, essays, poems, and articles in The Dial and in New Hampshire native Horace Greeley’s New York Tribune, Marshall presents Fuller in her own words whenever possible.
Marshall believes Fuller was neither as scandalous as some accounts of her life imply, nor as personally free – from childhood to her death at age 40, Fuller was constantly caring and providing for family members, often sacrificing her own health, well-being and happiness to ensure that of others. As Marshall explains, Fuller’s “own writings in the last year of her life show persistent resolve in the face of danger, not recklessness or fatalism, and an immunity to public censure.” You can meet the resolute yet tender Margaret Fuller in the pages of Marshall’s excellent biography.
A novel, a memoir, and all you ever need to know about compost
Gilford assistant librarian Abi Maxwell’s novel is set in the Lakes Region, where she grew up. Lake People is a haunting tale of identity, ancestry, family and belonging. Told from many characters’ points of view over several decades, it’s the life and family story of Alice Thornton, who was found in a canoe as an infant. Like Alice Hoffman, Maxwell’s writing has a fairy tale quality, perhaps meant to make readers comfortable with the improbable number of extraordinary events that happen to Alice as a descendent of the mysterious lake people. The small New England town and its deeply held secrets are reminiscent of Peyton Place, as are the contrast between characters’ public stoicism and private passion and the impact balancing the two has on their psyches. An interesting debut.
Jack Gray grew up visiting his grandparents in Barnstead and first produced “news” in their living room. After UNH he produced news programs in New Hampshire and Boston before landing his current job as a producer for “Anderson Cooper 360” on CNN. His memoir-in-essays Pigeon In a Crosswalk: Tales of Anxiety and Accidental Glamour is an irreverent, profanity-laced look at his career and family, including stories of meeting celebrities, becoming a Twitter star, observing the media, and coming out. The title comes from one of the last pieces in the book. Gray was walking his dog Sammy on the Upper West Side of Manhattan and angsting about his life when he noticed a pigeon crossing the street. He notes, “I’m losing sleep over whether . . . I can sustain a life for myself in New York and there’s a . . . pigeon out here using the crosswalk. A pigeon that seems pretty happy with himself. I am clearly doing something wrong. At that moment I decide Sammy and I will be fine. If that pigeon can adapt and succeed in the big, complicated city, I can too. The bar has been set by a pigeon in crosswalk . . . .” Wise, warm, and often hilarious.
New Ipswich famer, engineer, and author Brett Markham has written The MiniFarming ™ Guide to Composting, part of his series on small scale — as little as 1/4 acre — farming. I’ve looked at other composting books, and this is both a more serious (think equations, formulas, and building plans) and a more accessible guide than any I’ve dipped into. For someone like me, an English major and haphazard gardener, he covers the most basic methods of composting, including my favorite, “lasagna gardening.” For the serious gardening geek or farmer, Markham’s thorough analyses of soil science, anaerobic, aerobic, mesophilic, and vermiculture composting, and biochar are sure to supply answers to the most technical questions. Students and teachers interested in hands-on science would also enjoy this book. Markham believes “. . . composting is accessible to everyone,” and with this book as a guide, that should be true.
Sidebar: Abi Maxwell will read from Lake People at Gibson’s Bookstore in Concord on March 21 at 7pm. Call 224-0562 or visit www.gibsonsbookstore.com for more information.
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