June 28, 1999 12:00 PM

Edited by Michael Dregni

Hayrides and the sweet smell of newborn animals. Sunrise over a ready-to-harvest cornfield. Grandma basting a turkey roast in a cast-iron stove. Practically every idyllic image of farm life can be found in this anthology celebrating life in the North American heartland during the first half of this century. Though reality doesn’t get lost in the process, the emphasis in this lyrical tribute is surely not on the true hardships and the natural (and financial) disasters that were also part of life on the land.

Photographs, advertisements and paintings (several by American Gothic creator Grant Wood) portray verdant fields, sumptuous noon banquets and apple-cheeked children helping their parents. Many of the essays were written by authors who were raised as farm kids. Minnesota poet and novelist Jim Heynen recalls the night electricity arrived on his family’s farm: “It was as if the ceiling opened with light. A fluttering fluorescent angel of light. A splash, a woof, a clatter of light.” Other contributors include Garrison Keillor (on the wonders of the state fair), E.B. White of Charlotte’s Web fame (represented by his memorable essay “Death of a Pig”) and the imaginative Bill Holm (“And God Said: Let There Be Red”—an essay about barns). Their recollections are vivid enough to draw in the most citified of city slickers. (Voyageur, $29.95)

Bottom Line: Touching, nostalgic album of rural Americana

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