Tonawanda News

Features

January 7, 2013

BOOK NOOK: Niagara County, seen through a very special lens

(Continued)

Tonawanda News — He also knows his memory. He can spin seven hundred or so words out of reading the side of a pencil. “Ticonderoga No. 2” is enough to get him started on elementary school days, and how pencils handed out by the teacher could reside in the tiny hands of the next Harriet Beecher Stowe or Jack London. “Probably not, but still,” the teacher says.

The reminiscences are relatively common; Baxter is not telling state secrets or tales of heroism here. Common stories uncommonly told have a virtue of their own, and the book offers regular examples of that sort of truism.

It could have used a wide-awake editor, though. “Niagara Digressions” could have been shorter, tighter, more of a pleasure to read than one observation after another with the reader waiting for one with some impact on his or her own life or thoughts.

It should be pointed out the book is no mere internal travelogue of Niagara County. The author recounts hitchhiking around the American South and points west, offers comments about friends from afar, the Hudson River and other things in and on his mind. While it brought on a certain monotony as I awaited something to which I could relate, the thought arose that anyone of sufficient age and experience could write a book such as this, but few do and fewer have the gift of observation and wordplay Baxter has.

The guy is a poet, after all, and while poetry is an undervalued art these days, any attempt to muse about one’s past, without a proficiency in word-slinging, is just someone’s boring stories about the old days. Baxter indeed has stories. Some are better than others, but boy, are there stories here.

* WHAT: "Niagara Digressions" * BY: E.R. Baxter III * GRADE: B

Ed Adamczyk is a Kenmore resident and can be contacted at EdinKenmore@gmail.com.

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