THE EDUCATION OF A YANKEE: An American Memoir by Judson Hale


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An honest, often funny, occasionally painful autobiography by the 55-year-old editor of Yankee and The Old Farmer's Almanac. Hale is the son of rich, proper Bostonians who changed radically when their eldest son, Drake, turned out to be psychologically abnormal. Suddenly concerned about the larger issues of life, the Hales became devotees of Swiss philosopher Rudolph Steiner's school of ""anthroposophy."" They bought 12,000 acres of land in Vanceboro, Maine, and tried to start a Rudolph Steiner school, farm, and lumbering business. Hale's father, ""a regular upper crust Harvard lad from Boston,"" devoted himself to fishing and deer hunting, while his mother devoted herself to trying to become an opera star. The memoir is riveting, when Hale details the growth and then gradual, unhappy dissolution of his parents' dreams during and after WW II. The descriptions of farm life and hunting trips, and all those ""experiments"" with cow urine and tree bark culminating in the tragic scene of the burning barn, are unforgettable, and show Hale to be a master of the telling anecdote, the short character-sketch. The very beginning of the book, on the other hand, is a bit tedious (like young ""Juddie"" himself, we can't help yawning a bit during the required scenes of grandparental silverware and finger bowls), and the very end, when Hale reminisces about his early years at Yankee, his father's suicide, his wife's alcoholism, and his uncle's cancer, is upsetting, though gracefully written. Always modest, with a quiet humor that reaches even into the most prosaic places, Hale reveals himself to be every bit the interesting Yankee we might expect. A fine New England memoir, gritty and accessible.

Pub Date: Aug. 12th, 1987
Publisher: Harper & Row