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Compared to some of its New England neighbors, Vermont has seemed to long-time resident David Mamet a place of intrinsic energy and progressiveness, love and commonality. It has lived up to the old story that settlers came up the Connecticut River and turned right to get to New Hampshire and left to get to Vermont. Is Vermont's tradition of live and let live an accident of geography, the happy by-product of 200 years of national neglect, an emanation of its Scots-Irish regional character? Exploring the ways in which his decades in Vermont have shaped his character and his work, Mamet examines each of these strands and how the state's free-thinking tradition can survive in an age of increasing conglomeration. The result is a highly personal and compelling portrait of a truly unique place.read more
As I mentioned in my review of Bill McKibben's Wandering Home, I picked up my copy of Mamet's South of the Northeast Kingdom during a recent visit to Vermont. As I often do, I tried to find books to give me a greater feel for the area. In both books, I succeeded.Mamet's book was a great, albeit arduous read. I've never read any of Mr. Mamet's writings so I must admit that I spent a great deal of time with the dictionary in my lap attempting to find the meaning of words such as perfidy and sinecure. While that slowed me down, it was a fun challenge.I felt that the book was an interesting contrast to Mr. McKibben's in that McKibben spends a good portion of his book describing the physical beauty of the Champlain Valley and Adirondack areas of VT and NY. Mr. Mamet on the other hand delivered more of an essay on the state's culture. This was interspersed throughout with Mamet's personal frustrations with the current state of politics, war, and environmental desecration - which, based on his writing, seems to parallel the typical Vermonter's attitude towards these subjects.I don't believe a book review is the place for me to expound on whether or not I agree with Mamet's opinions on these matters so I'll avoid that pitfall. Instead, I'll note that the book did a superb job of letting you "feel" the Vermont approach to life. Mamet's words can be truly moving. While taken out of context, these may have less of an impact, nonetheless, here are a couple of examples: "The Vermonters and the Scots practice economy of words. This is not a reluctance to communicate, but a desire to communicate only those things of which one is sure, and upon which one intends to act.In the cities, words are used to charm, to seduce, to misdirect. Here we are expected to say what we mean; those who use words otherwise will be held accountable, perhaps considered fools."or when speaking of the grief that Americans shared after 9/11:"This was not the America of bombast and self-congratulation, but sorrow for the good that we recognize and participate in as the fellow feeling of those who share a simple blessing.I've always felt that love and commonality in Vermont."It's a very enjoyable book and I highly recommend it.read more
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