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Loving and Leaving the Good Life.

Loving and Leaving the Good Life, by Helen Nearing; paperback; 21 photos; $14.95; Chelsea Green Publishing Company, Post Mills VT 05058.

Scott and Helen Nearing have gained many admirers via their books such as Living the Good Life. While most countryside-type people are probably aware that the Nearings were socialists, vegetarians (they like the term "carcass eaters"), pacifists, and did a lot of building with stone on their Maine homestead, few know very much about them as individuals.

"Neither Scott nor I have ever written in our books about our inner lives," Helen Nearing writes. "Both of us preferred to be reserved and private people," to the extent that they wrote of "he" and "she" instead of "I" and "me."

In this book--which is mostly about the Nearings, themselves--she switches back and forth between the first and third person, which ironically, seems to draw more attention to the writer than a simple first person narrative would have, and is sometimes jarring.

At the same time, a story ostensibly about the Nearings somehow distances itself from them by an astonishing number of quotations... not from the Nearings. In the poignant final chapter, about Scott's death, we hear from A. S. M. Hutchinson, Lao Tzu, Dylan Thomas, Henry David Thoreau's sister, H. G. Wells, Freud, Montaigne, Oliver Wendell Holmes W. B. Yeats, Simone de Beauvoir, Victor Hugo, Walt Whitman, Mark Twain, Richard Aldridge, Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh, The Egyptian Book of the Dead, C. H. Bjerregaard, Maurice Maeterlinck, Marcus Aurelius, Gustave Fechner, Sir Edwin Arnold, Lucien Price, Mary Austin Patience Worth, Thomas Hardy, Trotsky, Shakespeare, and a couple of unnamed friends and neighbors.

This isn't to say that the nearings' ideas aren't also included--there are many quotations from Scott's writings--or that the other quotations don't advance and explain their own. But the best parts are when Helen actually says what's on her mind.

This is a love story, sort of. It's a life story, sort of But its major impact seems to deal with a perfectly normal part of living. And it does that very well.

Scott Nearing consciously and deliberately stopped eating shortly before his 100th birthday, in 1983, and died six weeks later.
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Author:Belanger, Jd
Publication:Countryside & Small Stock Journal
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Jul 1, 1993
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