Country Towns of New York
by Bill Kauffman
Country Roads Press, 1994, 120 pp., illustrations by Victoria Sheridan
reviewed by Bill Treichler
Bill Kauffman is familiar to Crooked Lake Review readers. His first essay to appear here was Back to Batavia reprinted from The American Scholar. Next came New York vs. New York, then Henry and Louise in the Lair de Clune, Warren Hunting Smith: The Quintessential Genevan, and most recently, Walter Edmonds, Our Stalwart. Now he has a new book, just published, extolling twelve New York towns.
Country Towns of New York includes: Angelica, Canton, Cooperstown, East Aurora, Geneseo, Hammondsport, Hyde Park, Kinderhook, LeRoy, Palmyra, Seneca Falls, and Westfield. Not any of these will be hard to find because each chapter of the guide begins with simple highway directions on how to drive to that town. And at the end of each chapter is a list of the attractions the Kauffmans visited in that village with phone numbers so you can make sure those places you wish to see will be open on the day you plan to visit.
There are indexes at the back of the book with such titles as: Inns and Lodging; Festivals and Special Events; Historic Buildings and Sites; and Outdoor Recreation, Parks and Wildlife. There is a list of Cemeteries, Chapels and Churches, useful for genealogy questers; and one of Farms, Gardens and Markets, for fresh-food fanciers; and another of Galleries and Libraries, for inveterate browsers.
There is even a list of the well-known people mentioned in the text. The book is filled with accounts of the characters who energized these towns. People, Upstate New Yorkers especially, and, well, Martin Van Buren, fascinate Bill Kauffman. He has dedicated himself to reviving our interest in the personalities and writers of this region, and to resurrecting the small towns. In Country Towns of New York he writes about these towns and their glory days.
Bill, his wife Lucine, and baby daughter Gretel live in a pre-1845 house in Elba, New York. Let's hope next year he will write about Elba, and how it got such a name, along with more villages of New York in Country Towns of New York II, and then CTNY III, and on and on.