Thursday, December 03, 2009

Greene Ink

STELLAR accomplishment” of “monumental” proportions. That’s how reviewer Esther Blodgett, in November’s Catskill Mountain Region Guide, characterizes a new GreeneLand book: Historic Places in Greene County, a richly illustrated, anecdote-seasoned product of five years of effort by members of the Greene County Historical Society. Publication (by Flint Mine Press) of this “historical banquet” will be celebrated tomorrow (12/5) from 2pm at the Historical Society’s Vedder Research Library in Coxsackie. MEMOIRS of living in GreeneLand have been produced, more or less lately, by local authors. The newest, A Path of Pebbles. My Road to Life in America, comes from Waltraud Maassmann, matriarch of Blackhead Mountain Lodge. It traces her experiences from a childhood in Germany during World War II to GreeneLand and a family-run golf resort. -----Earlier this year, Roy Davis produced Crest Park. A Catskill Moutain Memoir. The title refers to a boarding house that opened back in 1899 on South Street, Windham, and subsequently was operated by members of the author’s large, warm family. The author dwells particularly on growing up in the 1950’s and 1960s, with card parties and lemonade on the porch, maple syruping, sledding…. -----Also noteworthy in the way of GreeneLand memoirs is A Tongue in the Sink. The Harrowing Adventures of a Baby Boomer Childhood (Osprey FL: Eiffel Press, 2004), by former Catskillian Dennis Fried. Locals of a certain age will appreciate his references to Washington Irving Elementary School, all-black Willard’s Alley, hand-setting pins at the bowling alley, Dad’s dental practice, Grandpa Jake’s drug store, Uncle Dick and Aunt Sybil, the Prest family, 15-cent matinees at the Comuunity Theatre, Ms Van Vechten’s snack bar on Slippery Rock creek, the former public swimming pool, soap box derbies, cap guns…. Doctor Fried (he aggressively sports his advanced degree) also envisions a “Land of Rip-Off Winkle.” After driving west across the Rip Van Winkle Bridge can immediately fill his gas tank “at the Rip Van Winkle Service Station, have lunch at the Rip Van Winkle Diner, wash…clothes at the Rip Van Winkle Laundromat, dine at the Rip Van Winkle Tavern, then bowl a few games at the Rip Van Winkle Lanes,” then sleep at the Rip Van Winkle Motel. That bit of hyperbole may work in a standup routine. It is almost as false as Doctor Fried’s recollection that Catskill abounds with Italian-Americans (true) who are named Louis (false). Louis is a French name. WATCHING GIDEON (Simon & Schuster 2009) is a GreeneLand book not on account of its setting but on account of its author: Stephen H. Foreman of Windham. It is Mr Foreman’s second novel (following Toehold) and stands along a considerable body of work as script writer and director. Reviewer Blodgett (Catskill...Guide, 11/09) hails Watching Gideon as “a masterpiece in character study,” “a poignant, moving portrait” of father-son bonding, “a snapshot of America’s rugged, gritty history, ad a fast-paced story of lust, green [sic] and self-satisfaction,” “a jewel of a novel.” THE SHACKLETON LETTERS, similarly, ia a GreeneLand book not on account of its setting—the Antarctic Circle, mostly—but on account of its compiler: Regina Daly of Catskill. Published by the Erskine Press of Great Britain, abundantly illustrated, and sub-titled Behind the Scenes of the Nimrod Expedition, it’s all about the 1907 expedition to the Antarctic led by Ernest Shackleton during the heroic age of that activity. Ms Daly will talk about the book, and the story at the Union Mills Gallery (Catskill) next Sunday (December 12th). GLUE is the prospective title of a prospective book by another GreeneLander (via England and New York): Douglas Atkin. This work-in-progress would be a kind of sequel to The Culting of Brands. Turn Your Customers Into True Believers (Penguin Portfolio, 2004). The latter title reads like an advertisement for work as an ad campaign manager, and indeed it does offer advice on how some branded products (Harleys; BMWs; Apples; Dungeons & Dragons) win loyalties that operate to bring people together. The subject matter of Culting, however, is broader than that, with references drawn abundantly from social psychology. The Glue project, says Mr Atkin, will offer guidance, drawn from interviews as well as from published studies, on methods of nourishing within communities a sense of, well, community. (Devising names such as 'GreeneLand'?).

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