Books

Ordinary Magic

The first thing that happens is that Cal Willard gets shot in the foot.  It’s 1977, the day after Thanksgiving, which means that deer season is almost over.  Cal’s brother George goes to the hospital to see him, even though he hasn’t had much to do with Cal for years, really since he got a law degree and moved to town.  George has two daughters, now both grown up.  Nora is secretly pregnant and trying to figure out what to do about it.  Her sister Lena is married with two small children and problems with her husband.  Then there is Cal’s son, Conrad, whose life is very different from that of his cousins.  He decides to buy a log skidder so he can go into business for himself selling firewood to people who are burning wood because of the oil crisis.  These are ordinary events, but there’s magic in the way they play out over the winter and into the spring.  A good read for people who liked Porter’s previous novel, The Simple Life, or for people who like stories of ordinary life, truly rendered, with horses and dogs, children and winter weather—Vermont life in the country and in town. More…


The Simple Life

In middle-age, Isabel Rawlings breaks out of the stifling, sterile cage that late 20th century America has built for her, and steps boldly into the oozing mud of her fantasy-driven new “simple life” in Severance, Vermont. She moves, over the course of a few months, from empty-nest mother and frustrated wife into a series of sticky relationships that include an affair with a small-time real estate hustler, a worshipful friendship with an old ox teamster, and a role as big sister to a lonely teenage farm girl who blossoms as they switch jobs with Alison playing teacher to Isabel’s eager pupil. Isabel plunges incautiously into her new life, working with no safety net and with too little experience into an unsheltered world where she is a stranger in a strange place. The lack of security makes every day an adventure, marked by soaring highs and soul-sinking lows. But the fantasy life Isabel leads is just plain life to everyone else, and the dream that brings her to Vermont starts to crumble even before she realizes she’s living a fiction. She discovers that life is never simple. More…


Father to Daughter: The Family Letters of Maxwell Perkins

Cover of Father To Daughter In 1992 my aunt, Bert Frothingham met a small Boston publisher who convinced her to put together a book of her father’s letters. Her father was Max Perkins, the editor of the famous writers F. Scott Fitzgerald and Ernest Hemingway, as well as many others. There was already a book of his working letters called Editor To Author.

Max and Ouisie had five daughters. In the summers the family went to Vermont while he stayed in New York to work. When he was away from them, he wrote to one daughter every day in turn. More…