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Editor’s Note

“A Modern Pastoral...”

A novelist recounts his transition from urbanite to pastoralist in gorgeous prose. By the end of this deeply affecting story, his goats will have stolen your heart.
Scribd Editor
Acclaimed novelist Brad Kessler lived in New York City but longed for a life on the land where he could grow his own food. After years of searching for a home, he and his wife, photographer Dona Ann McAdams, found a mountain farmhouse on a dead-end road, with seventy-five acres of land. One day, when Dona returned home with fresh goat milk from a neighbor's farm, Kessler made a fresh chèvre, and their life changed forever. They decided to raise dairy goats and make cheese.

Goat Song tells about what it's like to live intimately with animals who directly feed you. As Kessler begins to live the life of a herder -- learning how to care for and breed and birth goats -- he encounters the pastoral roots of so many aspects of Western culture. Kessler reflects on the history and literature of herding, and how our diet, our alphabet, our religions, poetry, and economy all grew out of a pastoralist milieu among hoofed animals.

Kessler and his wife adapt to a life governed by their goats and the rhythm of the seasons. And their goats give back in immeasurable ways, as Kessler proves to be a remarkable cheesemaker, with his first tomme of goat cheese winning lavish praise from America's premier cheese restaurants.

In the tradition of Thoreau's Walden and Annie Dillard's Pilgrim at Tinker Creek, Goat Song is both a spiritual quest and a compelling and beautiful chronicle of living by nature's rules.

Topics: Farming, Vermont, Rural, Animals, Dairy, and Poetic

Published: Scribner on
ISBN: 9781416561156
List price: $11.99
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A beautiful book, far more than I expected. I have learned so much. I always appreciate cheese. now it means even more.more
ryshma123ryshma123more
This memoir describes Kessler's first year as a goat farmer. Kessler describes the day-to-day details of a pastoral existence, its seasonal chores, and mixes in erudite reflections and classical quotations ("the cry of a goat is so haunting and dramatic our word tragedy comes form it: tragoidia in Greek - the cry of the goat. The goat song."). The result is eloquent, literary, but also warm and conversational.

Kessler's memoir not only describes a year in the life of a shepherd, it also describes his own evolution an accomplished cheesemaker - at the end of the novel, one of the most cheese-centric restaurants in New York City has agreed to carry his chevre. He weaves himself into the local rural community, and his description of hay-making at a neighbor's farm is one of the most memorable in the book. He also always moves beyond the personal to the general - a nearby monastery gives him the opportunity to reflect on the monastic tradition of cheese-making and explain simple things like why hard cheeses became the most popular commercially (because they could travel).

While the writing is exquisite, it is not for the squeamish. Kessler excels where his subject matter is messy - his description of the molds growing on his goat cheese, for example, is gorgeous: "Each week a different color will shade their skin, browns and yellows and whites and purples, while inside a world is going on unseen...and they will be like meadows, like fields, like grasslands with one growth coming and another dying - constantly." The author also doesn't hesitate describe how to determine if a she-goat is in heat, or the astonishing sight of a buck orally pleasuring itself.

I very much enjoyed GOAT SONG, for its exquisite, detailed description of a rural lifestyle. Its praise of pure, whole foods, of simple eating and hard work, will appeal to many. At the same time, it's strongly literary and at times quite graphic.
more
I loved this book because in addition to talking a lot about making cheese, the dude takes a lot of random trips off to talk about goats in history and literature and stuff...he's always shooting off on tangents, and they happen to be tangents that work for me. Your mileage may vary. My wife loved it too though.more
An intimate introduction to goats, their personalities, care, feeding, breeding and the production of cheese from them, this book is unique, warm, funny and instructional. As Brad Kessler and his wife embark upon a new life to raise goats and produce their own cheese, they also embark upon a life which is rich in difficulties and rewards. Kessler's winsome writing style provides poetic and musical tonalities that capture the bonding of his human family with their adopted goats and gives meaning to the title and artistry of this highly enjoyable book.more
I love it. After reading this book I started making my own goat cheese and looking at which goat breed I'm going to get.more
I love goats and stories of rural life, especially my own personal fantasy, a Vermont farm, so this book was right up my alley and it didn't disappoint. I like the way Kessler blended information about goats with cheesemaking and eating. I was interested in his exploration of the value of a pastoral life; the value of spending time outside with animals and going at their pace.more
If the joy of escaping with a book is one of life's pleasures, then the rapture at being utterly engaged by a book is inestimable. Enraptured was I today with Kessler's 'Goat Song.' From his invitation to follow where his goats lead, to his introspective and spiritual conclusion in which he reads an anagogic parable within cheesemaking, his affinage of milk and spirit, Kessler crafts his sentences, story, and references with the grace and reverence he displays in his relation of raising, herding, and caring for his goats. Absolutely a peer to the agricultural sociologic works of Pollan and Kingsolver, 'Goat Song' bespeaks the need to rediscover an American terroir, tapping into the zeitgeist of eating locally, of relearning what processes and connections exist within a sustainable and harmonious food system, of becoming engaged individually in the joy and profound rightness of cultivating one's own sustenance. Kessler's peripatetic, caprine-led story meanders from history of language to history of place to history of religion, discovering in each the pastoral underpinnings of human nomadism that reverberate to this day, even if largely unnoticed and forgotten. Though his human mind draws intriguing comparisons and conclusions from the act of herding, Kessler complements his circumlocutions with a plain-spoken assortment of very basic tasks and explanations - dovetailing his pedagogic tangents with the mucking of stalls, the epicurean bliss of making faisselle, the harvesting of the summer hay with neighbors. These history lessons are penned alongside the dramatic - a goat's debilitating illness and coyote predation - and the comedic, epitomized by the trope of animal observation and the life cycle: the copulation scene; providing a literal and figurative sense of the word 'horny' and a visual enjoinder to the caprine roots of the word 'capricious,' Kessler's estrous does are mated to a nearby farm's buck who caprioles and charges and humps any nearby creature to satiate his lust, and, after several attempts, finally inseminates the desired target (but not before achieving a masturbatory feat of auto-fellatio). Like the bellwether goat guiding the herd, Kessler builds his story to the culmination of raising goats - the cheesemaking - while drawing this act in whorls of meditative and spiritual discovery. He avoids a doctrinate overemphasis, drawing liberally from Jewish, Catholic, and Buddhist sources to examine the threads of land, goat, milk, bacteria, and human that culminate in a wheel of cheese, his tomme, which stands in for and beside the tome that he writes. Both exercises take on the notes of the spiritual quest, the quest around the wheel of time, leading to the never-ending and 'imperfectible' state of affinage, French for the final stage of aging and refining a cheese, which Kessler aptly carries to the personal quest he travels. Shriven of the urban disassociation from nature by the character and caretaking of his goats, Kessler has crafted a piquant pastoral autobiography, attesting to his reacclimation to the rhythms of nature through the goat-eyed perspective that takes bliss as it comes, whether in the form of rich provender or still-cooling chèvre.more
Read all 11 reviews

Reviews

A beautiful book, far more than I expected. I have learned so much. I always appreciate cheese. now it means even more.more
ryshma123ryshma123more
This memoir describes Kessler's first year as a goat farmer. Kessler describes the day-to-day details of a pastoral existence, its seasonal chores, and mixes in erudite reflections and classical quotations ("the cry of a goat is so haunting and dramatic our word tragedy comes form it: tragoidia in Greek - the cry of the goat. The goat song."). The result is eloquent, literary, but also warm and conversational.

Kessler's memoir not only describes a year in the life of a shepherd, it also describes his own evolution an accomplished cheesemaker - at the end of the novel, one of the most cheese-centric restaurants in New York City has agreed to carry his chevre. He weaves himself into the local rural community, and his description of hay-making at a neighbor's farm is one of the most memorable in the book. He also always moves beyond the personal to the general - a nearby monastery gives him the opportunity to reflect on the monastic tradition of cheese-making and explain simple things like why hard cheeses became the most popular commercially (because they could travel).

While the writing is exquisite, it is not for the squeamish. Kessler excels where his subject matter is messy - his description of the molds growing on his goat cheese, for example, is gorgeous: "Each week a different color will shade their skin, browns and yellows and whites and purples, while inside a world is going on unseen...and they will be like meadows, like fields, like grasslands with one growth coming and another dying - constantly." The author also doesn't hesitate describe how to determine if a she-goat is in heat, or the astonishing sight of a buck orally pleasuring itself.

I very much enjoyed GOAT SONG, for its exquisite, detailed description of a rural lifestyle. Its praise of pure, whole foods, of simple eating and hard work, will appeal to many. At the same time, it's strongly literary and at times quite graphic.
more
I loved this book because in addition to talking a lot about making cheese, the dude takes a lot of random trips off to talk about goats in history and literature and stuff...he's always shooting off on tangents, and they happen to be tangents that work for me. Your mileage may vary. My wife loved it too though.more
An intimate introduction to goats, their personalities, care, feeding, breeding and the production of cheese from them, this book is unique, warm, funny and instructional. As Brad Kessler and his wife embark upon a new life to raise goats and produce their own cheese, they also embark upon a life which is rich in difficulties and rewards. Kessler's winsome writing style provides poetic and musical tonalities that capture the bonding of his human family with their adopted goats and gives meaning to the title and artistry of this highly enjoyable book.more
I love it. After reading this book I started making my own goat cheese and looking at which goat breed I'm going to get.more
I love goats and stories of rural life, especially my own personal fantasy, a Vermont farm, so this book was right up my alley and it didn't disappoint. I like the way Kessler blended information about goats with cheesemaking and eating. I was interested in his exploration of the value of a pastoral life; the value of spending time outside with animals and going at their pace.more
If the joy of escaping with a book is one of life's pleasures, then the rapture at being utterly engaged by a book is inestimable. Enraptured was I today with Kessler's 'Goat Song.' From his invitation to follow where his goats lead, to his introspective and spiritual conclusion in which he reads an anagogic parable within cheesemaking, his affinage of milk and spirit, Kessler crafts his sentences, story, and references with the grace and reverence he displays in his relation of raising, herding, and caring for his goats. Absolutely a peer to the agricultural sociologic works of Pollan and Kingsolver, 'Goat Song' bespeaks the need to rediscover an American terroir, tapping into the zeitgeist of eating locally, of relearning what processes and connections exist within a sustainable and harmonious food system, of becoming engaged individually in the joy and profound rightness of cultivating one's own sustenance. Kessler's peripatetic, caprine-led story meanders from history of language to history of place to history of religion, discovering in each the pastoral underpinnings of human nomadism that reverberate to this day, even if largely unnoticed and forgotten. Though his human mind draws intriguing comparisons and conclusions from the act of herding, Kessler complements his circumlocutions with a plain-spoken assortment of very basic tasks and explanations - dovetailing his pedagogic tangents with the mucking of stalls, the epicurean bliss of making faisselle, the harvesting of the summer hay with neighbors. These history lessons are penned alongside the dramatic - a goat's debilitating illness and coyote predation - and the comedic, epitomized by the trope of animal observation and the life cycle: the copulation scene; providing a literal and figurative sense of the word 'horny' and a visual enjoinder to the caprine roots of the word 'capricious,' Kessler's estrous does are mated to a nearby farm's buck who caprioles and charges and humps any nearby creature to satiate his lust, and, after several attempts, finally inseminates the desired target (but not before achieving a masturbatory feat of auto-fellatio). Like the bellwether goat guiding the herd, Kessler builds his story to the culmination of raising goats - the cheesemaking - while drawing this act in whorls of meditative and spiritual discovery. He avoids a doctrinate overemphasis, drawing liberally from Jewish, Catholic, and Buddhist sources to examine the threads of land, goat, milk, bacteria, and human that culminate in a wheel of cheese, his tomme, which stands in for and beside the tome that he writes. Both exercises take on the notes of the spiritual quest, the quest around the wheel of time, leading to the never-ending and 'imperfectible' state of affinage, French for the final stage of aging and refining a cheese, which Kessler aptly carries to the personal quest he travels. Shriven of the urban disassociation from nature by the character and caretaking of his goats, Kessler has crafted a piquant pastoral autobiography, attesting to his reacclimation to the rhythms of nature through the goat-eyed perspective that takes bliss as it comes, whether in the form of rich provender or still-cooling chèvre.more
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