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IN BRIEF

Nonfiction

July 31, 1994|SUSAN SALTER REYNOLDS

TEMPLE by George Dennison. (Steerforth Press: $19.50; 192 pp.) George Dennison was that woolly mastodon of the genus writer: a career purist who stuck to his guns despite a lifelong lack of substantial recognition. A few of his plays were produced "by friends in lofts," some essays in literary journals and a book on the free school movement, "The Lives of Children" (1969). That same year, he moved with his wife and the first of two children to the very rural town of Temple, Me. He continued to write and paint and do odd jobs until his death in 1987. He kept notebooks in which he recorded the seasons with wholehearted delight: "Suddenly the air is dancing with snowflakes and the wind is blowing hard. But now a patch of blue opens directly west, as if a bright blue wedge had been driven into the buttermilk squall." He also began to record the wit and wisdom of his neighbors and several old Mainers at a nearby nursing home, like Oiva: "I don't have any children. I been shootin' blanks all my life," and Dana Hamlin, born in 1880: "I hauled milk for 60 years. That's a long time. I believe I've gone more miles on a milk route than any man in the world," and the blind man, aged 80, a farmer all his life: "Get a glass up there on the shelf. This won't kill yeh. Not what made me blind. No, the woods did that." These are memorable characters, and Dennison, himself a disappointed man, sees them from all sides: "Dullness, narrowness of life, appalling sameness of days, disappointment, desperation, traces of bitterness, stirrings of a rage that never really breaks the surface. . . ."

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