Simply divine. That would be the easy way to describe J.P. Devine’s wonderful new book, Will Write for Food, published by North Country Press. Patricia Newell, the Press’s publisher, does a superb job of finding and publishing great books by Maine authors and she’s hit another home run with J.P.’s book.
If you are a fan of J.P.’s columns in the Kennebec Journal and Morning Sentinel, as I am, then you are probably already headed out the door to find and purchase his book, Subtitled “True Stories, Half Truths, and 3 Lies.” Good luck figuring out which is which!
Linda and I attended JP’s book talk last Saturday at the Wayne library, and I was astonished at how entertaining he is. He told stories for two hours to a large and captivated audience.
The book is a collection of J.P.’s columns and features many memories of his days in the glittery acting business, where he knew many of our most famous and popular actors and actresses. In his opening, titled “Why are you reading this book?” he reports, “A little lady in line with me at the supermarket asked me if I made all of this up. Did I really have early morning chats with Fred Astaire and Groucho on Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills? Yes. Was it true that I had coffee with writer and friend Ray Bradbury, lunch with actor Jack Nicholson? Of course. Did then President Ronald Regan really read your column with his morning coffee? On occasion.”
Later in this opening I read, “Was I really twenty feet from Bobby Kennedy when he was shot down at the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles on June 5th. Sorry to say I was. That’s one of the columns in this book that isn’t funny. There are more than a few others like that to keep you awake.” J.P. says he never became famous because all of these famous people died in L.A. and he didn’t want to. So he left. Shortly after arriving in Maine, he started writing columns in the Morning Sentinel. So he had 30 years of columns to choose from. No wonder these are so good!
But it’s his columns about the everyday ordinary things that I most enjoy. J.P. has a wonderful way of taking the mundane – like taking down the Christmas tree – and turning it into a delightfully entertaining column. Consider the column, “Visits from Mickey.” He starts out with a story about rats in the palm trees in Los Angeles, then moves on to his “Mickey problem” in Maine. “It turned out that the little black droppings I found here and there weren’t really part of the bird seed I had spilled in the kitchen. They were Mickey’s and Minnie’s droplets,” he reports.
In a column titled, “Take One Squirrel,” J.P. recounts the terrible recession, predicts urban residents will be fleeing to the woods, and writes, “We cried to the heavens, ‘What’s for dinner?’ and the Lord saith, ‘Behold before you. I give you… the squirrel.” And yes, he includes a squirrel recipe. His includes a side dish of dandelion greens. When I saw J.P. and his wife Katherine at his book signing at the Railroad Square Cinema on Wednesday night, I forgot to ask Katherine if they’d enjoyed that squirrel dish lately.
Some of J.P.’s stories will trigger your own memories. “The New Goodbye: the Long Goodbye,” as he puts his daughters on the bus, reminded me of a story in my own book, A Life Lived Outdoors, titled “Letting go of Josh.” His column, “The Mother’s Day Box,” caused me to haul out some stories I wrote about my Mom, along with many many wonderful memories.
In a back cover quote, you’ll read, “I wish I had had J.P.’s way with words” – William Shakespeare, author of Hamlet and some sonnets. Indeed Mr. Shakespeare. Me too.