“Sometimes,” Tony Whedon tells us in his brilliant new book, Drunk in the Woods, “I think there’s such a thing as an alcoholic landscape.” With such clarity Whedon tells of his close-to-the-bone experiences of gardening, cutting wood, and exploring the back country of northern Vermont woven into a lively, sometimes harrowing personal narrative, providing a fresh perspective on how “living wild” impinges on the mind of the suffering-and-then recovering alcoholic.
For much of his life, Whedon lived off-the-grid with his wife in a one-room cabin suffering in winter darkness and spring floods, drinking heavily and then making a go of it in recovery. An introductory chapter sets the tone for Drunk in the Woods. The Chinese poetry tradition of the sage tipsy on too much wine and too much Nature is evoked in “Form, Shadow, Spirit.” The book’s main themes—the darks and lights of backwoods loneliness, and the transcendent clarity that drinking and sobering up in the woods provides—are developed here.
The book proceeds with thoughtful chapters on Emily Dickinson and Charles Darwin
folded into meditations on birds of the northern forest, animal tracks, and the metaphysics of
Praise for Drunk in the Woods
“Even if you didn’t know that Tony Whedon is a superb jazz musician and painter, you could probably guess those facts by reading this marvelous collection of essays, for it reveals a musician’s ear for sound and rhythm and a painter’s eye for imagery. And while the book is about being drunk in the woods, it’s also about being drunk on the woods: it’s both a moving memoir of Whedon’s recovery from alcoholism and a lyrical paean to nature that brings to mind Thoreau’s Walden and Annie Dillard’s Pilgrim at Tinker Creek. Reading it, you’ll find yourself drunk with delight.”
—David Jauss, author of four collections of short stories, Black Maps, Crimes of Passion, Glossolalia: New & Selected Stories, and Nice People: New & Selected Stories II
“To read Drunk in the Woods is for me to keep thinking of Wallace Stevens’s idea of the poet’s world as ‘Perceived in a final atmosphere;/ For a moment final, in the way/ The thinking of art seems final.…’ Tony Whedon is nothing if not a poet, and his lyrical naturalism—which he so persuasively and movingly relates to his recovery from addiction—avoids mere solipsism; he recognizes how small a vessel each of our souls is in the huge scheme of things. Still, our souls are all we have. These beautiful essays reflect (Stevens again) ‘the mind in the act of finding/ What will suffice.’”
—Sydney Lea, author, poet, and former Vermont state poet laureate
A Vermont writer trades alcohol for a natural high
“Sometimes,” he writes, “I think there’s such a thing as an alcoholic landscape — a drunk landscape, as opposed to the sober one I live in now, the same trees, eight years later, the same brook, but with more clarity.”
Essays on the beauty of the Northeast Kingdom
One-Minute Reviews of Books by Vermont Authors (link)
by Laura C. Stevenson
“. . . The result is a gracefully ambiguous hybrid of memoir and nature writing. . . .”
About the Author
Tony Whedon has spent a lifetime writing and playing jazz. He has an MA from the U of Iowa Writer’s Workshop, an MFA from the Vermont College of Art, and he is a retired Professor of Writing and Literature at the University of Northern Vermont. In the past decade, three of his essays have been listed as “notable” by Best American Essays. His first book, A Language Dark Enough: Essays on Exile, received the Mid-List award in nonfiction, and his second collection, Drunk the Woods, was nominated for the Vermont Book Award. Whedon has published four books of poems through Mid-List, Green Writers, and Fomite. His essays, fiction, and poetry have appeared in Harper’s, American Poetry Review, Notre Dame Review, Ploughshares, Prairie Schooner, Shenandoah, and more than 150 other magazines. He’s the trombonist leader of the PoJazz Poetry & Jazz Ensemble and has done scores of readings at universities, bars, and bistros. He is a founding editor of Green Mountains Review. (See website for more details: tonywhedon.org)
Drunk in the Woods
Trim Size: 5.5 x 8.25; 252 pp.
Publication Date: October 9, 2018
List Price: $19.95
Distributor: IPG / Chicago
Rights sold: All rights available.
Rights & Publicity contact: Dede Cummings
Distributor: IPG; also available through Ingram, Follett/Baker & Taylor, and other wholesalers.
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