Dennison (Luisa Domic, 1985, etc.) died in 1987, and this genial hodgepodge draws from his journals and his scattered notes on and interviews with people in Temple, Me., the rural community to which he migrated from New York City. Apparently, Dennison intended to organize these into some sort of communal portrait, and the raw material for a powerful book certainly exists. His writing and observations are sharp, and it is interesting to see the source for the rural New England settings in his novel Luisa Domic and the novella ``Shawno'' (to be reissued in one volume by Steerforth in June), but the lack of narrative drive drags the book down, particularly the sections culled from Dennison's journals. These contain mostly observations of nature, occasionally mixed with stories about his children and wife and, in a few places, his frustration with rural life. These passages, while lyrical, are much less involving than the interviews. These are the authentic voices of New England, men who sound detached even when discussing chain-saw accidents: ``He was workin' by himself one Saturday up the side of Spruce Mountain, 'bout four miles from the tarred road, and he slipped, or God knows what, 'n he cut his whole foot and ankle right off, right clean through the bone, the whole goddam way.'' They are also brutally honest: Of a local resident who had hung himself recently, one man burns, ``If I'd known he was goin' to do it I'd've helped him.... The man was a crook. He cheated me and he cheated everybody.'' To his credit, Dennison himself never paints too rosy a picture of rural life either—the slaughtering of a sheep is described explicitly. A potluck with some good bits, but it is clear that the author would have made something greater than simply the sum of its parts.
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