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Idyll Banter: Weekly Excursions to a Very Small Town Paperback – 24 May 2005

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 18 reviews
24 of 24 people found the following review helpful
The Personal, Concentrated, Becomes Universal 24 Jun. 2004
By Lawrence E. Wilson - Published on
Format: Hardcover
Much as I love novels, there are times when short, pithy, engaging non-fiction is exactly what I feel like reading. And I am well aware that there are damned few writers in the world who can claim mastery of both forms. Chris Bohjalian is one such writer, and "Idyll Banter" is a wonderful little book that illuminates an artistic paradox: that the act of sharing what is personal and private somehow irises the experience open into deeply touching universality.
I have long admired Bohjalian's work--"Water Witches" and "Midwives" are among my favorite novels--and I recommend "Idyll Banter" unequivocably. His brief, concentrated accounts of births, deaths, weddings, dances, and dinners in a very small town engage the reader in ways not immediately apparent. I've never spent time in Lincoln, Vermont, but I feel that I know these people, somehow. It isn't a rich place, or a perfect one, but it is genuine, and it is beloved, and, in Bohjalian's deft hands, it comes alive: complex, unexpected, deeply rooted in history and advancing winningly into into the 21st century.
The best examples of this sort of book creates a sort of envy, a wistfulness, a longing to belong, however briefly, to the place described. Bohjalian manages to create the feelings that we, too, all of us, might have a welcome share in a fulfilling and happy life in this community. And if not to Lincoln, then encouraging us to look again at our own neighborhood and our own families with newly opened and appreciative eyes. Really well done. Really well-written.
12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
A Book About A Small Town and Life in General 19 April 2004
By Timothy Kearney - Published on
Format: Hardcover
For most people, Chris Bohjalian is best known as a novelist with books such as THE BUFFALO SLODIER and MIDVIVES to his credit. The people of Lincoln, Vermont and the vicinity probably best know Bohjalian as a columnist for THE BURLINGTON FREE PRESS. Now readers outside of Vermont can read and appreciate his reflections in small town life in IDYLL BANTER, a collection of these columns.
Bohjalian is hardly the first person to leave a major city and find a different pace to life in a small town. He is also not the first writer to explore life in a small town. The essays do not include tried and true clichés but rather give an honest and refreshing look at life in general. Most of the essays are upbeat and thought provoking. Bohjalian is involved in each of them, yet the book is not about the author and his family. Rather the author and his family give perspective to Bohjalian's observations. Perhaps the most moving passages in the book can be found when he talks about the Church where he worships and the his reflections on the town cemetery
The book will appeal to a wide variety of readers, but it is my guess that people involved in teaching and public speaking will probably find the book useful. People involved in preaching and ministry will also find in the book excellent sermon and homily starters.
11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
A real life Lake Woebegone 8 Jan. 2004
By A Customer - Published on
Format: Hardcover
This book had me laughing out loud one moment, and sighing wistfully the next. The characters in it seemed so real -- probably because they are real! Anyway, I was very, very moved by the people in this strange and quirky little town. There are some touching and poignant stories in here -- and then some, like the one about the outhouse races, that are a scream.
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
Delightful look at small-town life 9 Jun. 2004
By A Customer - Published on
Format: Hardcover
This is a delightful collection of short essays focusing on the community of Lincoln, Vermont, where Bohjalian lives with his family.
Readers from New England will recognize and appreciate the many typically New England elements that Bohjalian observes in his essays: the woes of septic tanks and mud seasons, the black flies, the sometimes contentious town meetings, the uncanny quiet and stillness after the first winter snow. But while Bohjalian writes very specifically about Lincoln, Vermont, introducing us to his neighbors, his church, his country store, his subject is really the larger one of community and what constitutes a good life. Bohjalian does not idealize small-town life; he is well aware of the economic realities of rural America and writes movingly, for example, about the disappearance of Vermont's dairy farms. Nevertheless, his abiding love and affection for his town and its inhabitants make Lincoln, Vermont-and towns like it-seem like the ideal place to live, work, and raise a family.
Although these are occasional pieces, written, Bohjalian notes, as a break from his regular work as a fiction writer, these are tightly crafted, acutely observed essays. There is never an excess word, but at the same time, the pace feels unhurried. Bohjalian manages to strike just the right balance between humor and poignancy. He is especially funny when writing about his limitations as a handyman. Other pieces, especially the essay about the destruction of Lincoln's library by flood and the elegies (for people as well as a cat and a horse), are genuinely moving. Because the pieces are short, interesting, and self-contained, this is the perfect collection for dipping into.
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
A book that made me fall in love with small town America 27 Dec. 2003
By A Customer - Published on
Format: Hardcover
The essays in this book were funny and smart and insightful. It didn't simply make me appreciate small towns. . .it made me want to move to one! I savored every story in Idyll Banter.
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