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Lunch » Tags » Books » Reviews » The Bucolic Plague: How Two Manhattanites Became Gentlemen Farmers: An Unconventional Memoir » User review

The Not-So-Green Acres

  • Sep 3, 2010

As a fan of Planet Green’s The Fabulous Beekman Boys, I was delighted to receive Josh Kilmer-Purcell’s The Bucolic Plague as a birthday gift. Two days ago. Which means, like most of the other reviewers who posted, I finished the book in about a day. It’s a compelling story that urges the reader to go "just one more" short chapter with a lick and a promise to put the book down and turn out the light after that. The writing is clean, smooth and sparkles with detail without being fussy.

Josh, a New York marketing "Creative" and his spouse, Dr. Brent Ridge, discover a refurbished historic mansion on a weekend jaunt in upstate New York. Envisioning a pastoral getaway for themselves to rival a Martha Stewart magazine layout, they purchase the picturesque home and 60 acre farm in a fit of whimsy, unbridled optimism, and a dash of luck in the form of an accepted lowball bid. They are familiar with the prototype since Brent is Martha Stewart’s wellness advisor, "Dr. Brent," and attendee/victim at Martha’s aesthetically perfect but anesthetically stifling social soirées.

The couple launches their weekend life in the little town of Sharon Springs, New York, a village that had once been a major spa center and now is sufficiently forgotten that it does not appear on a GPS. Behind the facade of vacant buildings, Josh and Brent find a cast of warm and quirky residents. Adding Farmer John and his herd of goats, a huge garden of heirloom vegetables, a never-ending list of farm chores, pressures from their "day jobs" in the city and mounting relationship issues, the pair has more than enough on their artisanal vegetable and cheese plates. What do they do to balance themselves? They start an additional business selling goat milk soap, of course. And then the economy goes south, taking their jobs and what little Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm enthusiasm that they had left.

Martha flies in an out of this chronicle of rural Oz on both her bubble and her broomstick as an alternating Good Witch and Wicked Witch, providing an example of what can go wrong when exquisite taste lives hand in hand with exquisite marketing.

The television show is a combination gay Green Acres and The Odd Couple. That sounds ghastly but it somehow manages to be sweet and charming. The book’s Brent is more capable and less Felix-like, while Josh is both more and less superficial than his digital counterpart. Of course, it’s his memoir and he can see himself anyway he likes.

More than anything, this is a story of middle-aged angst and transition, surprisingly relatable to those of us still wondering what we want to be when and if we grow up — even if we don’t go out on a limb to buy a mansion and grow two dozen varieties of heirloom tomatoes.

Like the true ad man that Josh eventually recognizes himself to be, he summarizes, "Truth isn’t beauty. It isn’t even always true. Truth is nothing more than consistency of message." So, is the book closer to the real story than the television show? Undoubtedly. Is it reality? Kilmer-Purcell notes "there is no one story about anything that happens in the world." Whichever one of the many this is, it’s a good one.

As this is Kilmer-Purcell’s second memoir, I suspect he has at least one more in him. I can’t wait.

The Not-So-Green Acres The Not-So-Green Acres

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September 03, 2010
Very detailed review! I liked the title choice too. :)
More The Bucolic Plague: How Two Ma... reviews
review by . July 04, 2010
Josh Kilmer-Purcell is back with another unforgettable memoir. I must confess, I loved his first, I Am Not Myself These Days, and didn't think tales of his urban to rural living transition could match the poignance of the first book, which detailed his life as a drag queen. I was wrong. I picked this book up from my p.o. box, started reading while still sitting in my driveway, and couldn't put it down. I finished it--crying--in a day. Kilmer-Purcell, in his comic, simile-festive style, has a unique, …
review by . August 10, 2010
What more can be said about THE BUCOLIC PLAGUE that has already been so well stated by all reviewers? Josh Kilmer-Purcell is not only a gifted writer, able to blend beautiful prose with microscopically descriptive situations - both of high comedy and of sensitive insight into the many facets of relationships among human beings (and humans with animals!) - but he is more. He is able to look at the world in which we live from so many vantages that this book could easily be a study of the NOW in the …
review by . June 09, 2010
Author's caution:     "This book is not about living your dream. It will not inspire you. You will not be emboldened to attempt anything more than making a fresh pot of coffee."     This is an example of the kind of self-deprecating humor you will find throughout this book. If I am laughing out loud before page 1, I'm pretty sure that I'll enjoy this book.    Josh Kilmer-Purcell goes on with that quote to compare The BUCOLIC PLAGUE to other …
review by . June 01, 2010
Kilmer-Purcell, Josh. "The Bucolic Plague: How Two Manhattanites Became Gentlemen Farmers", Harper, 2010.            Another Great Read from Josh Kilmer-Purcell            Amos Lassen          Josh Kilmer-Purcell is one of my favorite writers and he has made that all the more certain with the publication of his new book, "The Bucolic …
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About this book


Raised in rural Wisconsin, Kilmer-Purcell moved to Manhattan to work in advertising in the 1990s. In his memoirI Am Not Myself These Days, he wrote about moonlighting as a nightclub drag queen. Now he recalls how he and his partner, Dr. Brent Ridge, a Martha Stewart Omni Media v-p, became weekend farmers after purchasing the 19th-century Beekman Mansion on 60 acres near the hauntingly beautiful town of Sharon Springs, N.Y. Kilmer-Purcell writes with dramatic flair and trenchant wit, uncovering mirthful metaphors as he plows through their daily experiences, meeting neighbors, signing on caretaker Farmer John, herding goats, canning tomatoes, and digging a garden, as they fix up the 205-year-old house. Cleverly contrasting ad agency life with rustic barn mucking, he must choose: I just can't face spending the rest of my life behind a desk selling dish soap to Middle America. Hell, I want to be Middle America. This entertaining book gets an extra big boost from the forthcomingBeekman Farm, a Planet Green documentary TV series about the dynamic duo's eco-adventures scheduled to air this spring.(June)
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ISBN-10: 006133698X
ISBN-13: 978-0061336980
Author: Josh Kilmer-purcell
Genre: Biographies & Memoirs
Publisher: Harper
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