Monday, October 15, 2007

Public Radio "Recovering Flatlander" Issues His First Book -- and It's a Keeper

(Steve Delaney, left, and Bob Kinzel, reporting on Election Night 2000)
In the 1970s he was an NBC correspondent in Tel Aviv; in the late 1990s he became a central voice of Vermont Public Radio.

Now, after 10 years with VPR and 20 years of life in Milton, Vermont, Steve Delaney has put his “recovering flatlander” status on the line in his new book, “Vermont Seasonings.”

The clear-speaking correspondent who covered wars on three continents, as well as politics in Washington, DC, turns instead to Vermont years and ways in this tasty volume of just under 200 pages. Delaney opens with the March traditions of Town Meeting and voted budgets, and ruminates on the terms “flatlander,” “downcountry,” and “from away” – which he also defines in entertaining fashion in the book’s Vermont-Speak Glossary. Among his other terms are:

“Real Vermonter (n.) (Loose definition) Person who has always lived in Vermont… (Strict definition) Person who has always lived in Vermont and whose parents have always lived in Vermont… (Ultra-Orthodox definition) Person who has always lived in Vermont, whose parents have always lived in Vermont, and whose ancestors have always lived in Vermont, for at least seven generations. Occasionally insufferable about it.”

Besides Delaney’s humorous twists, which often tease from his own life, he spreads out seasonal changes like sugaring, flights of geese, late-arriving spring (“moving at about the speed of a butterfly near the town of Lebanon”), fireworks, and the boat traffic on Lake Champlain. He’s often personal in his observations: “I can’t come with you, Brother Goose, but it’s a comfort to know that you call forth the banked bit of wild in me.”

It’s a delight to read beyond the low mellow voice of the radio’s noontime show, to page through the reflections of a new grandfather and ardent observer. And it’s fun to tag along for his fall foliage view, ice fishing trip, and hours in the local store soaking up language about how cold it gets in February. In all those years as a correspondent, he didn’t often let the fun parts spill out publicly.

But now, thanks to this dandy calendar of ruminations, interspersed with gentle poetry, we’ve got front row seats to watch a Recovering Flatlander (R.F. after his name) ease his way into Vermont storyteller status. I like the comment that journalist Chris Graff offered for the back of the book:

“Steve Delaney reminds us throughout ‘Vermont Seasonings’ that he is not a ‘Real Vermonter,’ but he displays such a keen understanding and appreciation of the rhythms of a Vermont year that readers will think otherwise.”

Delaney’s book is available at local shops -- he’s delivering the copies himself, enjoying the driving around the state where he’s rooted since 1947. And in the interest of full disclosure: I've been assuring him for at least a year that he should follow through on getting this book into print. But the little bits I saw via e-mail ahead of time didn't give me half as much fun as opening up the printed pages and chuckling my way through this wry commentator's take on real life in Vermont.

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