Hal Zina Bennett

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White Mountain Blues

A good time fable told in the venerable tradition of tall yarns & fairy tales

By Hal Zina Bennett, Ph.D

Published by Tenacity Press,134 pages, ISBN 09656056-5-5

Cover illustration by award-winning artist Cathee Van Rossem St. Clair


Fans of the classic TV series, Northern Exposure, will love this book. Hal originally wrote it as a script for that series. When the series was cancelled so many people had loved the story so much that he decided to rewrite it, using the basic story but changing characters and setting. While the book still captures the wonderful quirky utopian aspects of the TV series, White Mountain Blues clearly stands alone, unique and rewarding in its own right.

Subtitled "A Good Time Fable Told in the Venerable Tradition of Tall Yarns & Fairy Tales," this is definitely a feel good book, blending humor, romance, pathos, the reclamation of youthful dreams and potential, a return to simplicity and a spiritual vision of community. In short, it is as entertaining as it is uplifting.


Areas of Interest


Reviews

"This gentle adventure leads the reader to an appreciation of the quiet spirit that connects us to each other and to the natural world. Its smooth voice and delightfully quirky characters put one in mind of Garrison Keillor's Lake Wobegon, with a subtle shamanic message blended into the mix. You'll like the people, you'll enjoy the journey, and most of all you'll want to find a place just like it for yourself." ~ NAPRA ReView No. 1

"Delightfully quirky characters put one in mind of Keilor's Lake Wobegon, with a subtle shamanic message. You'll love the story, you'll love the characters, and mostly you'll want to find a place like this for yourself." ~NAPRA ReView No. 2

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Excerpt

Sometime during the night it began to snow. By morning the entire countryside was blanketed in white. Crawdad pulled aside the curtain and looked out his window to the East. Bright snowflakes continued to float silently down, forming a soft screen between himself and the wintry vista beyond the warmth of his cabin. In the distance, beyond the edge of Dr. Sollar's house, he made out the rooftops of the buildings along Starline Road, a quarter of a mile away. Most were corrugated metal roofs, though a few had been painted red or green, their colors and textures showing through where the snow had melted...

He drew his curtains fully open and light flooded the room, allowing him to get a better view of his surroundings. A large pine table sat in front of the window, and he pulled up a chair and sat down, leaning on his elbows as he gazed out onto the snowy landscape. The evening before, during his unpacking, Mrs. Henning had set his laptop computer on the table. She had positioned it in front of the chair as if to encourage him to write. For a moment he stared down at it, then pushed it aside with a look of mild loathing... Long, long ago he had dreamed of a place like this, sitting at a desk gazing out a cabin window in a small mountain village. 

It is like coming home, he thought, as if I have come back to my roots, reconnecting with the earth under my feet and the sky over my head, and everything else around me. But this could not be, of that he was certain. An unfamiliar feeling of loneliness, or maybe solitude, spurred his quest to understand what was going on inside him. It had happened before when he stopped his truck in the middle of the hill coming into town. At that moment, he had reflexively reached out to touch Cheri--who wasn't there and never would be--because he wanted to share his excitement with her. As had happened during a half-dozen breakups they'd had before, the dull ache of her absence prompted him to ask, once again, if they had acted too hastily.

He gazed out the window... For the moment, at least, this snowy scene obliterated his loneliness. He felt more focused, centered. He had arrived at a place he'd been seeking throughout his life... and he didn't have the vaguest notion why.  

Old dreams and aspirations began bubbling up from his past. He eyed the computer on the table before him and remembered a time, back in his twenties, when he dreamed of one day writing a novel, one that would be grand and wonderful. One day people would read what he'd written and feel hopeful and renewed. It would make them smile at their own travails and woes and throw back the veil to their joy. He knew his characters already. They still lived and moved in his imagination, a vast world that he visited time and again but never stayed for long. What held him back? What blocked his entry to that world? 

He'd started out, fifteen years before, with a magnificent vision of what he would do with his writing gift. Somehow he had lost his way. Instead of sitting down to write that grand and wonderful novel, he'd turned his attention to journalism. He wrote whatever they assigned him--weddings at first, then court proceedings, feature articles, and finally local news with a human interest twist.

In high school, a teacher talked Crawdad into a him he must not waste his writing gift but should go to college, become a journalist and work on a newspaper. Miss Fryt, her name was. He remembered her well. Nearing retirement, she wore her thinning hair swept back in a bun, and dyed it light orange, maybe because once she'd been blond. Nobody was fooled. They called her Miss Carrot Head. A stickler for grammar, she staged her own war against dangling participles. When she said "dangling," her thin lips tightened against her teeth and her nostrils flared. For a wanton young male fighting testosterone storms, her demeanor did not exactly embolden. But no matter. 

In his junior year she took a liking to him and encouraged him to enter a short story contest sponsored by the local library. He wrote a story about a boy who wanted more than anything else in the world to play baseball and become a big star that everyone would look up to. But his parents were too poor to buy him the equipment he needed to join the little league. One day his uncle saw him practicing and saw that he was good. The uncle knew how much the boy wanted to play, so he gave the boy money he'd saved up for car repairs. The boy never learned where the money came from because the uncle never told him.  

The boy signed up for little league, hit two home runs in his first game, and became a local hero. That night the uncle told him it was the happiest day of his life because when he was a boy he too had wanted to play baseball. He never did because his parents needed him on the farm. 

Crawdad won the prize for best story. It included a twenty-five dollar U.S. Savings Bond to be put toward his college education. Miss Fryt was proud because she was the one who discovered him. But he was afraid to tell her his story wasn't really a story, since it was mostly true. In real life Crawdad did not have an uncle who gave him money, and he never did get to play in the little league. But he always wanted to and he'd practiced pitching and hitting so he knew he was good. The teacher told e a novelist. Sitting in his cabin, twenty years later, watching the snow drift, he wondered why he stuck with his choice. In a way, he had rejected the path of the boy who dared to follow his own dream. Instead he took the safer route prescribed by his teacher, one that took almost no courage at all. Once the glamour of seeing his name in print faded, writing became sheer drudgery. 

He made a decent living plying his trade as a journalist. But unlike the mythological child in his story, who'd stepped up to the plate and risked both his uncle's savings and his own pride, Crawdad knew he'd failed himself. Was it too late to reclaim his dream? He reached out, his fingers closing around the carrying handle of the computer, and drew it toward him. He flipped open the top and as the screen lit up he knew he'd opened a door to a place he hadn't dare enter since high school.  He put his fingers to the keys and suddenly they began to move, as if by their own accord. First letters, then words, then paragraphs, and finally whole pages filled the screen. His mind swelled with a world of faces and voices and places. They welcomed him in. This was the salve to sooth that mysterious longing that haunted him from the day he won the story contest for telling a lie that really wasn't. Now he knew that truth always hid out between the lines of the page. Words never told it.

(Continued on page 60 of the book)

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All articles and images in this website are copyrighted by Hal Zina Bennett 2003-2010.  Written permission must be obtained before use of articles and images. Last modified: October 05, 2010