A Farm Dies Once a Year -- A Memoir by Arlo Crawford, Henry Holt '14, $25, 158 pages, ASIN #080509816X. Unillustrated.
A brief excerpt from the book's first chapter:
"When I was thirty-one years old, I went home to spend a summer with my mother and father on the farm in Pennsylvania where I grew up. I left Massachusetts in late morning, drove the last part of the turnpike in the early dusk, and left the pavement in full dark. The sign for Anderson Hollow Road was chest deep in trumpet vine and stinging nettle. A rabbit skittered out across the dirt, frantic in the bright headlights and the rising dust.
"Beyond the trees that lined the road, the gentle fields rolled off toward the creek, and the insects crawled in the grass, and the deer grazed silently in the low places, and the fish swam among the water weeds. At the end, my parent's farm was asleep in the dark hollow, breathing deep breaths, everything growing and dying at once.
"Everytime I'd come back to the farm as an adult, during holidays or just to see my parents, I'd always just been a visitor. I'd never had any interest in being a farmer, and I'd never wanted to live there. From a very young age, I'd been eager to live in cities and around other people, so I'd left the farm when I was sixteen, first for boarding school, then college, then New York, and eventually Massachusetts.
I went home for longer periods sometimes in those years, but just to stay a few months and earn enough money to move on to something else. The place had always made me a little anxious. It was so isolated and lonely, the work there was so intense."
Author Arlo Crawford grew up on New GLory Farm, his family's farm in rural Pennsylvania. He has contributed pieces to newspapers and magazines and lives in San Francisco.
Under Magnolia -- A Southern Memoir by Frances Mayes, Crown '14, $26, 293 pages, ASIN #0307885917. Notes, b&w images sprinkled through text.
Any of the many admirers of Frances Mayes's Under the Tuscan Sun will welcome her latest work, a coming-of-age memoir set in the deep South, "her decision to leave it behind to explore the world and her return there to start a new life."
In a brief Q&A, Mayes discusses the writing of Under Magnolia -- A Southern Memoir:
Q. As a child, you were filled with curiosity and a sense of discovery -- always reading under the covers and searching for secrets. How did your upbringing in Fitzgerald, GA, instill in you this sense of wonder and adventure?
A. Families all over have secrets and weird people and foibles, and mine did too. Beyond that, most of my wonder and adventure came from two sources, books and the place itself. I read my way around the library as many writers have. At first I thought writers were all dead but when I learned that you could be a live writer, I got the idea that writing was the best thing one could do. When I was nine, I started a novel called Girl of the Highways. It was about a runaway -- which I longed to be. But the place! I loved the moss-hung swamps with cypress trees growing out of the black water. I loved the hot fields, the big smeary sunsets, the springs and brown rivers, the great shade trees, the short history of my town and how it came to overlay the land.
Q. In your chapter about Randolph Macon you vividly give a portrait of life at a southern girl's school. Did you enjoy your experience there?
A. Mixed. Many of the seminal experiences of my youth took place there. It's where I awakened to the wide world and to the shocking idea of intellectual rigor. I met many fabulous friends. Even in the sixties, it was almost comically repressed. I tried to write it truly and with humor and affection. But some who went there will not be amused.
Author Frances Mayes's diverse literary production includes memoirs, a novel, and five books of poetry. Her books have been translated into more than 50 languages. She divides her time between Tuscany and North Carolina.