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Country Matters: The Pleasures and Tribulations of Moving from a Big City to an Old Country Farmhouse Paperback – May 14, 2002


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Harper Perennial; Reprint edition (May 14, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0060957484
  • ISBN-13: 978-0060957483
  • Product Dimensions: 5.3 x 0.7 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (31 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,065,126 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Despite the fact that Michael Korda was city born and bred (and, as editor in chief of Simon & Schuster and a bestselling author, part of Manhattan's elite), when he decided it was time to put down roots, he wanted land, trees, and a place in a community with history. The house he bought with his wife, Margaret, in Pleasant Valley, two hours north of New York City, was built when George Washington was president. It came with two barns, 20 acres, a backhoe, a bush hog, a York rake, a dozer blade, a bluff, and a slightly deaf old man named Harold Roe. Since Korda couldn't handle a hammer (plumbing and heating problems in his past merely involved calling the building super and keeping a 20-dollar bill handy), Harold became a permanent fixture, wielding large equipment, destroying the flowers, and showing the couple everything they needed to know about the real country.

Pleasant Valley, it turned out, was on the "wrong" side of the Taconic Parkway. It was "red and black plaid hats with earflaps and insulated bib-front overalls country," as opposed to Ralph Lauren estates country. Despite the blue-collar atmosphere (or rather because of it), the Kordas have been there for two decades. Becoming locals hasn't been easy, however. Korda relishes the moments that mark him as an insider--hanging out at the local diner, buying a Harley-Davidson, and most importantly, buying pigs. Pig watching in a place like Pleasant Valley is a truly bonding experience, which Korda describes with his characteristic dry wit:

Pig watching is not something anybody does in a hurry, as we came to learn. You have to shift your trousers down a bit, loosen up your belt a notch or so, give your belly a little breathing room, light a cigarette if you're a smoker, and look at the pigs for a good long time. Then you sigh, nod your head, and say, "Them's nice pigs, them pigs." Then you look at them some more.
You get the idea. A natural raconteur, Korda makes the quirks of living in an old house and the quest for local status in an insular community highly entertaining, and he proves once again that, while he may not be handy with tools, he certainly knows his way around the written word. --Lesley Reed --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly

This is the latest installment in Korda's series of autobiographical books, which include Charmed Lives, a look at his famous theatrical family's history; Man to Man, his frank book about surviving prostate cancer; and Another Life, his collection of reminiscences about his two decades as editor-in-chief of the publishing house Simon & Schuster. This chatty book describes how Korda and his wife bought a 200-year-old farm in a small town in Dutchess County, N.Y., about 90 miles north of Manhattan. Over the 20-odd years chronicled, the Kordas use a mixture of guile, hard work and perseverance to ingratiate themselves with the locals and truly make the place their own. Many of the episodes, often comedic, document the various renovations of the farmhouse and the mental and physical barriers the Kordas cross in exchanging a glamorous New York lifestyle for one filled with pigs, horses and grubs. Korda, who was born in England, brings a foreigner's eye to his surroundings and on more than one occasion draws distinctions between the genteel rural life of his forebears and those of the lower-middle-class Americans he is surrounded by. Only occasionally does Korda lapse into clich‚, drawing attention to pariahs such as Dunkin' Donuts and Americans' propensity to drive large, unwieldy vehicles. But the overall effect is charming and oftentimes witty, and in this sense his newest follows in the tradition of other bestsellers, like Peter Mayle's Provence, about dislocation to a place peopled with foreigners and strange ways. (Apr. 16)Forecast: Korda's celebrity and reputation as a literary gentleman will help propel sales among those in the know along the coasts and in the cities. Handselling from booksellers (especially in upstate New York and Connecticut) and national advertising will provide additional sales.

Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Customer Reviews

Did the editor not submit his work to an editor?
PTR
If you have read A Year In Provence or any other of the many books of this genre you already know what this book is about.
Janine
It also offers a glimpse into the personal lives of what appears to be a most interesting couple.
Joseph G. Wick

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

27 of 30 people found the following review helpful By Ellen J. Hewlett on May 18, 2001
Format: Hardcover
I found this book immensely entertaining. I am delighted that Mr. Korda found the people in the country as enigmatic as I am sure they found him over the years. Pigs as pets, a Porsche and a monstrosity of a building for the horses could only have had the locals in stitches down at Cady's Bar. Mr. Korba is to be commended for the way he adeptly sidesteps local gossip and remains focused on those who work for him, creating a tale of country cunning written by the very man signing the checks. That his humor fails in certain parts of the text is understandable given the differences between the people of the town and himself. His irritation seems to increase every time someone refers to his house as the "old Hewlett farm" or the "old Hubner place". This is common in small towns, but probably not familiar to Mr. Korda. One need only to ask directions from a local to find out they call roads by names on signs long ago taken down and designate turns by where so and so kept his cows a while back. In his irritation, the author confuses the story therefore; I will take the liberty of clarifying it. First, the house Mr. Korda bought was never part of the Hewlett farm. The Hewlett family now owns a much larger farm in Northwestern New York. There are no trailers. In Pleasant Valley the "old Hewlett" farmhouse is the house two doors down from the "old Hubner place", or if Mr. Korda insists the "Korda place". The book alternates between disdain for the people of the town and subsequently trying to impress them. The author fluctuates between fencing them out, and waiting for them enamored of him. They are a tough crowd. As a former local, born and raised in Pleasant Valley, but living closer to the city, I can agree without hesitation that it is no Walden pond. It is full of people. People who do not post their land, or drive Porsches without waving, or chat about themselves at length. Thoreau did not buy Walden pond; he left it, undisturbed. Loons, ants and all.
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22 of 25 people found the following review helpful By HannahR on February 19, 2002
Format: Hardcover
...who finished this book thinking that Korda was a pompus twit with more money than good manners. His condesending observations of his neighbors left me irritated time and time again, as well as the name dropping and implied superiority of himself vs. the "lowly" country folk.
If you discounted the snide comments, the first part of the book was pretty interesting. However, the last 4 chapters became rambling and could have been condensed into one chapter.
It was great reading the reviews from the Hewitts on this forum. It made me remember that there are ALWAYS two sides to every story, and that Mr. Korda took some literary license in his book.
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19 of 22 people found the following review helpful By G. Johnson on May 20, 2001
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
The New York Times sparked my interest in this age-old literary subject--city dweller finds renewal in the country, with all the highs and lows and informative or interesting tidbits of making the transition. My interest in this subject goes all they way back to Crazy-White-Man (Sha-ga-na-she Wa-du-kee) by Richard Morenus, published by Rand McNally and Co. in 1952. So, I am not a newcomer to the genre. In fact, my wife and I recently put the finishing touches on a 3-year restoration of a century-old lodge on an island in Maine. Therefore, I do not place a low rating on this book without careful thought and regret. Usually, one thinks that if the Times views a book as newsworthy, it will be a bit special. In this case, I think it is Korda's professional connections in the publishing industry (and not the merit of the piece) which earned the publicity, and possibly the initial printing. Korda would like the reader to believe that he is about to introduce them to the quaint, evolutionary transition of a (very, very sophisticated) city couple and a country estate from strangers to partners, each helped to reach the synergy by a cast of colorful local citizens with special skills and memorable characters. The book fails, however, to continue its early, promising pace, and eventually trails off into a series of random recollections, failing to develop the supporting characters in favor of repetitive, gratuitous references to Mrs. Korda's achievements as a horsewoman, and Mr. Korda's irrelevant pride in having read the classics. In the end, the country life which Mr. Korda portrays seems as shallow and trite as the city life he almost left behind. He is more often a disconnected observer than influential participant, and leaves the reader wondering whether, for the Kordas, the country really matters.
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23 of 29 people found the following review helpful By Kathy L. Hewlett on May 21, 2001
Format: Hardcover
My name is Kathy Hewlett, wife of a family member who use to live on "the old Hewlett farm". Mr. Korda must be mistaken. As I read page 22 of Mr. Korda's book I have to disagree with his reference to "but the Hewlett's had long since fallen on hard times, either through improvidence or bad farming, sold off their land in bits and pieces until there was nothing left, and now lived in trailers scattered all over the local country-side."
Some of the Hewlett's are alive and well in upstate NY living on a thriving dairy farm in Otego, NY. The farm was not sold off bit by bit, it was sold to purchase the upstate NY farm. The owners of "The Hewlett Farm" since then have sold it bit by bit.
I would be pleased to hear from Mr. Korda to learn more about where he researched his project.
Thank you.
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16 of 20 people found the following review helpful By Janine on April 18, 2001
Format: Hardcover
If you have read A Year In Provence or any other of the many books of this genre you already know what this book is about.
Instead of laughing at the locals and the countryisms I was laughing at the author's unbelievable name dropping and snobbery. His every extravagant expenditure is detailed in order for you to be sure of his status in the community. The other things he thinks will interest you are his showbiz friends, his English ancestry, his horsey activities, etc. In fact as I read the book I found myself betting when the next boastful statement would pop up. However, I would say it's a good read if only for those reasons.
The author can be happy now in the knowledge that all of neighbors now what a grand person they have in their midst.
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More About the Author

Michael Korda is the New York Times bestselling author of Horse People,
Country Matters, Ulysses S. Grant, Cat People, Journey to a Revolution, and Ike.
He lives with his wife, Margaret, in Dutchess County, New York.

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