Bohjalian’s ‘Idyll Banter’ Still Hits Home

Bohjalian’s ‘Idyll Banter’ Still Hits Home

Why is the cow wearing boots and a red hat?

What becomes of old books written by well-known authors? They either disappear into a yard sale, are found in a disposal section of an antique store if you’re lucky, or are put on a library shelf with other authors and sold for a buck.

That’s where I found a copy of Chris Bohjalian’s earlier work titled Idyll Banter, which was compiled in 2003 by Three Rivers Press, a division of Random House.

If the name didn’t catch my eye, it was the photo of a Jersey cow wearing black boots with a red farmer’s cap snug on its noggin’.

It was right there on a shelf with other great writers like Grisham, Baldacci, Hemingway, and Michener—thereby putting this Armenian-American novelist in fine company.

For a $5 bill, you could have a lavish collection of good books to last you the summer through and well beyond.

I happened to e-mail Bohjalian about it and he appeared overwhelmed to see an older work still garnering attention. Better there than with hordes of other discards at the annual library sale or collecting dust inside the antique shop.

“One of my all-time favorites,” he told me. “Writing novels and getting them circulated is one thing. ‘Idyll Banter’ holds a special place. It’s encouraging to still see readers gravitating toward them.”

And rightfully so. It’s a collection of his columns for the Burlington (Vt.) Free Press where he has remained a columnist since 1992. He dedicated the work to his family and friends of Lincoln, Vt., where he makes his home.

It’s quite the treasure about weekly excursions surrounding a very small town, much like Garrison Keillor’s Prairie Home Companion and Lake Wobegon series he did for decades before his recent retirement. I was among his many admirers.

I had my eye on the book, but before I could retrieve it, along came another bargain-hunter and quickly removed Bohjalian for a look-see. There she was thumbing through the work before replacing it with the Baldacci. Her loss, not mine.

I already had a copy of Idyll Banter. So why would I want to duplicate it? Well, the other one is a hardbound version and offered a picture of a typical farm scene. Good, but not a sacred cow.

I would gift it to someone, which is what I usually do with books I read. I’m not one attracted to those book bins by the side of the road. I would rather take it with me to the gym where I work out each morning and put it inside the men’s locker room.

Sometimes they go, other times they do not. I will then offer the book to the hospital that I visit weekly for cancer treatments and pass it to the mobile library, which visits patients in their infusion rooms. I’ve gotten books from there. Others I’ve offered.

Along with the accolades that have been passed Bohjalian’s way from columnists like Dave Barry and others of his kind, the author ramrods his way to other subjects quicker than an intrusive squirrel that’s gone berserk inside your kitchen while you’re away.

Since then, there’s been a dozen other books, including The Sandcastle Girls, which is currently being made into a movie. More on this later.

If anything was a breakthrough, you could very well state a case for Midwives, an Oprah Winfrey selection that grabbed top billing in the New York Times.

Being a columnist myself for 50 years, I would gravitate to “Idyll Banter” and see how another writer approaches life inside his community. I tend to be big on small-town libraries, finding them cordial, home-spun, and definitely a mainstay.

More people visit my local library than any other institution in town. In fact, it’s part of a consortium with other libraries in the area. If they don’t have a book or DVD you desire, they’ll order it for you. Within days, it’s yours to enjoy.

In his columns, one especially reached out to me titled, “Losing Your Library.” Apparently, Bohjalian did some venting here about facing such a loss inside his small Vermont village. It was not due to funding cutbacks or anything of the sort but to a natural disaster.

This one happened to be a flood that rampaged and devastated the area, sending the library to its demise. How sad as roomfuls of books and CDs went floating along with other debris to a shallow grave. I cannot imagine my city without its library.

I wound up donating the book to the mobile at the cancer institute, thinking maybe it might wind up in the hands of another patient. I got my wish.

The following week when the mobile appeared, I checked the contents and Bohjalian’s book was nowhere to be found. It’s the stuff that would bring a smile to any author’s face, even Baldacci.

Source: Armenian Weekly Mid-West