Here at Eagle Pond

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

Thomas Wolfe said that it could not be done, but Donald Hall has successfully gone home again. In 1975, this well-known poet resigned his tenured position teaching English at the University of Michigan to return to Eagle Pond Farm, the family homestead in Wilmot, New Hampshire. There he has been ever since, making his living as a free-lance writer.

In this diverse collection of prose, Eagle Pond Farm itself figures prominently. Brief essays such as “Perennials” capture the ecstasy of Hall’s return. In “Keeping Things,” Hall introduces his ancestors, whose habits remain as much a presence in the family home as their possessions which can still be found in the long, unfinished room that the family has always called the back chamber. Hall’s ancestors harvested small crops from the soil at Eagle Pond Farm; these twenty-one essays constitute Hall’s most recent harvest.

Gazing beyond the farm’s perimeter to the rural culture of the countryside, Hall reflects upon what he terms Class Rusticus. “In the culture of Rusticus,” he says in an essay of that name, “tearing things down is as wicked as fecklessness.” He describes a charter member of Rusticus in “Heman Chase’s Corners,” an old surveyor who by avocation “writes books, runs a watermill, invents useful devices, philosophizes, and uncovers local history.” In other essays, Hall pokes fun at Vermont, honors the Boston Red Sox, offers an insider’s view of the Presidential primary, and meditates on the weather.

Although Hall confesses his romance with satellite television, he generally bemoans the changes that “progress” has brought to the countryside. Still, the undercurrent in his essays is comfort. Hall’s witty insights reassure his readers that—for now at least—Eagle Pond Farm and all that it entails still exist. This detailed portrait of regional values celebrates a universal sense of roots within which readers from anywhere may catch a glimpse of their own timelessness.