New book: Nathaniel Purple, by F.D. Reeve ’50 (Voyage/Brigantine Media)
The author: A poet, essayist, and translator, F.D. Reeve taught English and Russian literature at Wesleyan University for 40 years and was a founding editor of Poetry Review. In 1962 he accompanied Robert Frost to Russia as a translator for Frost’s meeting with Nikita Krushchev. Reeve has earned an Award in Literature from the American Academy of Arts and Letters. He lives in an old farmhouse in Wilmington, Vt.
The plot: The narrator of this novella is Nathaniel Purple, the librarian of a small Vermont town. “Terrible things happen — betrayals, violence, conflagrations — but here each event belongs not just to individuals, but to the whole village. Nathaniel Purple … absorbs it all, responds when he can, looks on, but at the same time continues to savor such simple pleasures as a morning ride with his horse Crystal and picking violets for the woman in his life,” wrote the author Lucille Lang Day.
Opening lines: “Posting along the old mill road on the east bank, Crystal’s shoulders shifted. The stirrup leathers squeaked. I held the reins lightly but taut in my gloved hands. A sunny autumn morning in the forest. The mare’s breath came out her nostrils like smoke, and sweat glistened on her neck and shoulders. Sighting along the road between her erect ears, I could see the red tinge of trees where sunlight was reflected on the dormant buds, note green grass in a few warm, wet places. The rocks were steely cold. Autumn closing down. The air smelled of winter.”
Review: The novella blends “poignancy, drama, and humor,” wrote Midwest Book Review. “Nathaniel Purple is a story of small town life, its triumphs, its tragedies, and the grudges, alliances, and much more that spill out for decades upon decades within it all.”