April 28, 2013

Book Review: Book a memoir for people of the woods


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"A NORTH COUNTRY LIFE: TALES OF WOODSMEN, WATERS, AND WILDLIFE." By Sydney Lea. Skyhorse Publishing Inc. 205 pages. $24.95.

After reading several of his homages to individual woodsmen and women, it came to me that, in mourning their passing, these pieces are about Sydney Lea more than anyone else. "Elegy feels like posture, pretense, artifice," he writes, and I couldn't help agreeing with him.

At other times, though, Lea comes off the page with total innocent charm. After a delightful recollection of the old-time use of vanilla extract (80 percent proof) in a legally dry town -- the local Independence Day dance "smelled for all the world like a pastry shop" -- he admits, "I felt closer to my mentors whenever I slid some Baker's (vanilla) into my own hip pocket."

And anticipating a wild duck dinner on New Year's Eve, he imagines the burst of memories in his head that will accompany the duck's juices bursting on his palate. "It is perhaps the recollection of wood smoke that slightly burns my eyes until they water a little."

Even if Lea's poems reflect his perceptions to better advantage, there is still much to enjoy in "A North Country Life."

Thomas Urquhart is a former director of Maine Audubon and author of "For the Beauty of the Earth."


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