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Page 32: Short Takes on Five New Vermont Books

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Seven Days writers can't possibly read, much less review, all the books that arrive in a steady stream by post, email and, in one memorable case, a skulk of foxes. So this monthly feature is our way of introducing you to a handful of books by Vermont authors (or, occasionally, on Vermont topics). To do that, we contextualize each book just a little and quote a single representative sentence from, yes, page 32.

Inclusion here implies neither approval nor derision on our part, but simply: Here are a bunch of books, arranged alphabetically by authors' names, that Seven Days readers might like to know about. m

His Dark Magic

Pat Esden, Lyrical Press, 250 pages. $15 paperback, $2.99 ebook.

"Fire," she said, commanding all the candles to light at the same time.

Don't visit the Burlington Earth Clock on the Island Line Trail too late at night. You might witness a coven's blood ritual to raise the legendary wizard Merlin — that is, if you're a character in this opener in a new contemporary fantasy series by Saint Albans-area author Pat Esden. In the first chapter, premed student and practicing witch Chloe Winslow gets an invitation to meet the Northern Circle Coven, whose members party, flirt and do magic in an arty industrial building in the Queen City's South End. Drawn to the sexy brother of the coven's high priestess, Chloe hopes to turn the summoning of Merlin into an opportunity to right a wrong in her past. But the coven's magic keeps getting darker — and more dangerous. Locals will get all the in-jokes — such as a fictionalized version of the city's beloved winged-monkey sculptures — in this romance-heavy tale of power gone awry. Future volumes will follow other coven members.

— M.H.

Fly With a Murder of Crows

Tuvia Feldman, Rootstock Publishing, 238 pages. $16.95.

By the end of that summer me, Collin, Shamus, and Lenny, who had found crack on his own, would get together and smoke that shit.

In this no-holds-barred memoir, Tuvia Feldman describes feeling as though he was never truly heard as a child. The author makes up for lost time in his first published work, laying out the good, the bad and the very, very ugly from his chaotic New York City upbringing through his adult life. Accounts of possible sexual abuse (maybe orchestrated by one or both of Feldman's parents), his mother's rape, and his own drug use may leave readers longing for a mental palate cleanser. There are bright spots, too, though. The wordsmith, who splits his time between Vermont and Mexico, also recollects a rewarding experience working with a mentally ill young man, bonding with his mother's one-time boyfriend and welcoming a son. With his raw and brutally honest style — one can imagine him relating his stories over a beer — Feldman offers a compelling, if sometimes tough-to-stomach, overview of a life in progress.

— K.R.

Citizens & Soldiers: The First 200 Years of Norwich University

Alex Kershaw, Norwich University Press, 340 pages. $85.

By the time Norwich's cadets awoke the next day, the Civil War had begun ... Thus began a war that would pit state against state, brother against brother, and Norwich alumni against each other.

Few universities can claim that their alumni have played as central a role in American history as Norwich University. Even fewer can claim that their ranks have sacrificed more lives and limbs in service of their country. In 2015, New York Times best-selling author and UK native Alex Kershaw was commissioned to pen this history of the nation's first private military college to commemorate its 2019 bicentennial. Though this weighty, linen-bound tome probably won't earn Kershaw his fourth appearance on that best-seller list, its blend of prose, historical photos and illustrated time lines will greatly interest historians and NU alums alike. As Kershaw told alumni magazine the Norwich Record, "We often forget there's a lot of people — the most important people — the ones who glue us together as a society, [who] are the ones that serve us. Without them, we would have nothing."

— K.P.

Spirals: A Family's Education in Football

Timothy B. Spears, University of Nebraska Press, 184 pages. $24.95.

Of course, the battle waged on the field was more primal: twenty-two guys pounding into each other on a one-hundred-yard field marked as a gridiron...

For Timothy B. Spears, college football is more than a pastime. As he shows in his new book, the game has served as a vehicle for navigating and understanding his own life. Spears, a professor of American studies at Middlebury College, played at Yale University and hails from a long line of Ivy League football players. His grandfather was an All-American guard at Dartmouth College who became a College Football Hall of Fame coach at the University of Minnesota — where, legend has it, he discovered Pro Football Hall of Fame fullback Bronko Nagurski. Spears' dad played at Yale and was drafted by the Chicago Bears. Equal parts memoir and scholarly history, Spears' book examines the links between football and higher education through the prism of his family's experiences. In vivid, thoughtfully rendered prose, the author sheds light on his intimate relationships to the sport and his family, and on the profound ways in which football is ingrained in American culture.

— D.B.

Skirting Gender: Life and Lessons of a Crossdresser

Vera Wylde, self-published, 248 pages. $14.99.

Part of the problem with an online existence, especially when it comes to dressing, is that the supposed anonymity of the Internet encourages more extreme behavior than one would encounter or engage in while out in the real world.

Raise your hand if you're a little confused about cross-dressing. Is it an expression of gender fluidity, a form of theatrical play, a straight man's fetish for women's clothing? Vera Wylde (yes, a pseudonym), who performs regularly with Green Mountain Cabaret, is happy to address such questions in this personable, inclusive memoir and guide book. Wylde, who identifies as gender fluid, instructs readers in the nitty-gritty of cross-dressing ("Banishing Body Hair," "Sitting Like a Lady") while also offering cogent meditations on the larger issues involved. Her thoughts on how online culture encourages dressers to sexualize themselves should resonate with anyone who presents as female on the internet. If cross-dressing in pop culture still tends to function as "comedic effect or implied sexual deviancy," as Wylde puts it, this book offers a welcome corrective and a window into a diverse human reality.

— M.H.

The original print version of this article was headlined "Page 32: Short Takes on Five Vermont Books"