Monday, November 19, 2007

See You in a Hundred Years (Logan Ward)

It's no secret I'm a fan of the Reality TV, and I especially like the PBS brand of reality TV, one of the first being The 1900 House. Not only did they have a modern-day family live in a Victorian-era house, they were British. Even better! The show was fantastic and led to such spin-offs as The Frontier House,which, Jim was solemnly tell anyone who will listen, is what we were watching the evening of Randy Johnson's perfect game. For the record, this was before I knew what a strike zone was, so you can hardly blame me.

Well, apparently others also liked The 1900 House, including Logan Ward, author of See You in a Hundred Years: Four Seasons in Forgotten America. He liked it so much that he thought the idea was the perfect remedy for his modern life in New York City. Ward moved his family (his wife and young son) to rural Virginia, where they subsistence farmed using only the technologies that were available in 1900 for an entire year.

Ward was a recent presenter at Wisconsin Book Festival---I was able to attend his session as Rabbi Kushner was unable to attend his own earlier that day. Seeing Ward in person prepared me well for his book. He was thoughtful, polite, and a little subdued, well, he may not have seemed subdued if he had been paired with someone else besides A.J. Jacobs (whose latest book I have on hold at the library and will review as soon as I get it). I think any of us would have appeared subdued next to A.J. Jacobs.

Ward's book is very thoughtful and a good read. Sometimes the prose is little too lush for my likings, but overall I enjoyed it. What was most interesting to me was my own reaction to Ward's 1900 rules. I didn't get as angry at him as I did at the PBS family when he "broke" his own rules of 1900 living. Maybe it was because his rules were self-enforced, or that his version of breaking the rules did not seem to be as frivolous as the TV family. I also considered the character of people who would enter a project such as Ward's, for a book, not for TV. Think about it, with no producers to check in on you, would you follow self-made rules? Would you be able to make it through the whole project? I'm not sure I would.

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