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IN BRIEF

Nonfiction

June 27, 1993|ALEX RAKSIN

THE HARD WAY: The Odyssey of a Weekly Newspaper Editor by Alexander B. Brook (Bridge Works Publishing Co., Bridgehampton, N.Y . : $19.95; 306 pp.). "The hard way" indeed! As visitors around him in the larkish beach town of Kennebunk (neighbor to the more famous Kennebunkport) raced boats, canoed rivers and relaxed under parasols on quartz pounded "finer than the sand in an hourglass," journalist Alexander Brook toiled 18-hour days and 22-hour weekends in a small, dark newspaper office set between Greene's garage and a radio repair shop. As Brook sees it, however, it was debatable who was having more fun.

Initially, it's difficult to believe him, for he had come to Kennebunk in flight from a similarly demanding job on Wall Street that had left him with one serious ulcer. But Brook could not simply bag out of the workaday culture, as some '90s males have come to do, and so he discovered a way to find happiness within it. Brook's is an almost mythically perfect tale of death and rejuvenation. Death is symbolized by Willis and Perley Watson: "watery eyed . . . neither smiling . . . vowels liquid and consonants mushy," they are the ancient owners of the Kennebunk Star, a shoddy newspaper Brook buys for $30,000 in 1957. New life begins as Brook pulls the Watsons' veteran hot metal type machine back from a "near coma." It flowers as he uses probing articles and bold editorials to bring energy and focus to a town that previously had only the fuzziest of civic identities (its single banner welcomed visitors to "Kennebunk, Only Town in the World So Named").

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