“A Long Journey and some things learned along the road,” by Mavis J. Longfellow; Maine Authors Publishing, Thomaston, Maine, 2020; 346 pages, paperback, $20.95.

“A Long Journey and some things learned along the road,”

I’m saddened to report that Mavis Longfellow, of Manchester, passed away Nov. 20, before I could mention her collection of autobiographical writings, “A Long Journey,” here. I was acquainted with her only through a few emails we had this fall, but felt I knew her when she wrote in her first message to me: “If you don’t like my book, I hope you will not review it in the paper.” If you know how to take this kind of heat, reading Mavis’s book will pay off.

It comprises essays, poems, Christmas notes, letters and even recipes depicting her long life in central Maine. Her childhood recollections of 1930s and ’40s Belgrade paint a helpfully vivid picture of what life in rural Maine was like before TV and reliable employment (to be read alongside books like “The Oatmeal Stories,” “Dedham Days”  and “Fireside Chats.” Mavis’s main themes throughout are family and appreciation of nature, with essays on her travels, religion, raising children, making her greenhouse business, and the passing of her husband of 65 years.

Several of the pieces appeared as op-eds in the Kennebec Journal, the sternly instructive gist of much of the book summed up in one of them, “We Need to Do Better.”  The late poem “Could This Be Me?” concludes, in soundly wrought meters:

Advice I would leave at my passing is not to have money or fun;

But to have few regrets at the finish, and have hope that you’ll hear “Well done!”

Mavis, well done. “A Long Journey” is available through Maine Authors Publishing and online book sellers.

 

“Yoganomics” by Paul V. Cornell du Houx

Probably the oddest book I’ve received in this odd year is “Yoganomics” by Paul V. Cornell du Houx, who with his wife, Ramona, runs the Solon Center for Research and Publishing. “Yoganomics,” an afterword explains, is derived from a similar work first privately circulated in 1979 and now updated from a book titled “Unicycle: The Book of Fictitious Symmetry and Non-Random Truth (Nature’s Democratic Pi).” As explained, Cornell du Houx, with a background in economics, mathematics and

“Yoganomics” by Paul V. Cornell du Houx; Polar Bear & Co., Solon, Maine, 2020; 54 pages, paperback, $9.95.

literature, “developed a math that lets us read the ethics of natural law within the environment.” This is a not inaccurate, but incomplete summary of “Yoganomics’s” subject matter, which skates an enormous range of philosophical material.

An afterword characterizes the contents as having “the ancient and succinct style of the sutra,” indicating the sort of gonglike presence of religious feeling that clearly underpins its ideas. For like a sutra, the text consists of numbered sentences (369 of them), most of which are fewer than 30 words, and none more than 50, I think. Speaking literally, however, they are less like religious scripture and more like aphorisms, some of which have a vatic quality, others plainly conversational. They cover quantum physics, mathematics and pi; politics; various real and figurative modes of addiction; gender; the perils of climate change; the Tao; communist China; Plato; ranked-choice voting; and many more subjects, with recurring focal points involving socioeconomics, nature, environmental degradation, and the dangers of “absolutes” in everyday thinking.

For examples: “340. We need an economics based on the value of nature’s moral compass.” “328. Markets do not depend on competition — they do depend on cooperation.” And scattered entries like this, which tend to get my attention:  “171. This is the humbling thought: that not only is the earth not the center of the universe, the article of faith not so long ago, but we are not the most aware creatures in the cosmos, nor the most civilized, surely.”

Being aphoristic, none of the thoughts gets developed. But they act like firecrackers in your intellectual reading consciousness, some loud enough to reverberate and make you wonder what else is out there. As I say, probably the oddest book I’ve run across in a while. It’s available from online book sellers.

Off Radar takes note of poetry and books with Maine connections the first and third Thursdays of each month. Dana Wilde is a member of the National Book Critics Circle. Contact him at [email protected].

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