Sixty years after the publication of his first novel, Cat Man, Edward Hogland is publishing his twenty-fifth book at the age of eighty-three.
This capstone novel, set in Vermont's Northeast Kingdom, introduces Press, a stockbroker going blind. Press has lost his job and his wife and is trying to figure out his next move, holed up in his Vermont cabin surrounded by a hippy commune, drug runners, farmers-gone-bust, blood-thirsty auctioneers, and general ne'er-do-wells. Solace and purpose come from the unlikeliest sources as he learns to navigate his new landscape without sight. Hoagland, himself, is going blind, and through this evocative, unsentimental novel, we experience the world closing in around Press, the rising panic of uncertainty, the isolation of exile, the increasing dependence upon the kindness of strangers, and a whole new appreciation of the world just beyond sight.
Dorothy and Karl took him to the evening auction sales. At 8 p.m., with no movie house in town, people congregated Tuesday on the short set of bleachers facing a wooden ring in which aging dairy cows were sold, mainly for hamburger, and vealer calves, also for slaughter, if not singled out by a farmer rebuilding his herd. Rival buyers from meat companies in Massachusetts bid against each other for the frightened cows, mooing instead of lowingold matrons who might have been leading a barn full of milkers out to pasture every day and back but had outlived their peak productivity and now were being disposed of. Crammed into an unfamiliar pen with strangers of their ilk, dominant till this morning but milling, terrified, they were in pain as well from not having been milked.
Press couldn't see this, but heard all of it once Dorothy interpreted. The calves bleating, a few weeks old, and Rog, Rupert's son the auctioneer, peremptory as a sergeant keeping order. Both ...
Hoagland's fans will want In the Country of the Blind, perhaps the nearest he will come to confronting his own deteriorating eyesight. His protagonist's reaction to loss of vision is nuanced and carries the weight of worldly experience, making for an intensely personal, almost elegiac, novel.
(Reviewed by Gary Presley).
Full Review (740 words).
Press, the protagonist of In the Country of the Blind, lives in Vermont near a forgotten trail that rum-runners used to smuggle alcohol into the United States during Prohibition. "The Nobel Experiment," as the 18th Amendment to the Constitution was called, was an attempt at social engineering lasting from 1920 to 1933.
Section 1 provides the heart of the 18th Amendment:
After one year from the ratification of this article the manufacture, sale, or transportation of intoxicating liquors within, the importation thereof into, or the exportation thereof from the United States and all territory subject to the jurisdiction thereof for beverage purposes is hereby prohibited.
Note that it didn't forbid the drinking of alcohol. ...
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