"Mann & Nature: A Collection of Essays." By Perry Mann. Kettle Moraine Publishing Co. 156 pages. $20. Paperback.
CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Hinton lawyer-thinker-farmer-writer-philosopher-teacher-father-veteran-iconoclast-rebel-reformer-progressive-curmudgeon Perry Mann is a unique West Virginian.He served a term in the Legislature, but dropped out, complaining, in effect, that the institution's intellectual level was too low.Now in his 90s, he writes weekly columns in The Nicholas Chronicle and occasional commentaries for The Charleston Gazette. His essays mostly fit two categories: (1) stinging rebukes of "unbridled capitalism" and "hatemonger preachers" and (2) hymns to the simple joy of living close to nature, steeped in the eternal rhythms of rural life.
Thirty of the latter are assembled in this charming paperback. They're poetic tributes to the quiet nobility of working the land, enjoying the forest, and feeling the serenity of it all. Chapter titles convey his message:"A Joint Venture With Nature." "The Miracle of Seeds to Meals." "Winter's Demise and Spring's Reprise." "Where Do Butterflies Sleep?" "A Walk in the Dead of Winter." "No-Mess, No-Miss Bread Recipe." "Digging Potatoes With My Grandson." "Faith in a Garden." And so forth.The book cover is a painting of Mann by artist Robert Shetterly, which was featured in a Dutton book and traveling art exhibit titled "Americans Who Tell the Truth."Mann was born in Charleston in 1921. His family split during the Depression and he grew up on his grandparents' Summers County farm. He served in the Army Air Corps in North Africa during World War II, then attended college on the GI Bill of Rights. He was a schoolteacher in Virginia, but was fired for writing letters against racial segregation. So he went on to law school.Now in his twilight years, Mann scoffs at hope of surviving death in a supernatural hereafter. He says he wants to be cremated and his ashes scattered to nourish nature in his beloved hills. The book features his comment:"No lobbyist can bribe nature. In the end, all politicians and everyone else must accept nature's mandates and the consequences of violating them. In that is my optimism."Reach James A. Haught at firstname.lastname@example.org or 304-348-1233.