‘Cornfield Chronicles’ opens a window on mid-20th century Iowa

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I.O.W.A. Book Signing Event

Marion Columbus Club — Saturday, July 21 at 10 a.m.

Illustration from ‘Cornfield Chronicles.’ — Blair Gauntt

To open up Cornfield Chronicles: Featuring Snowball: Pony from Hell by Myron Williams is to open a window onto the Iowa of half a century ago. This set of short stories and vignettes tells of the author’s experiences growing up as an Iowa farm boy in the mid-20th century. Delightfully illustrated by Cedar Rapids artist (and frequent Little Village contributor) Blair Gauntt, it meanders like the Iowa River, carrying the reader easily through memories of favorite animals, family disputes, farming procedures and the culture of the rural Midwest.

Its conversational style does not take anything away from the reading experience, but enhances it by speaking directly to the reader. It is not necessary to share the same background as the author in order to empathize with Williams’ childhood self. Williams is frank about all sides of his history, including things that are funny, touching and heartbreaking, and his wry humor keeps his youthful escapades in perspective.

Snowball the pony is only one of a diverse cast of animal characters with whom the reader becomes acquainted. Dogs and cats, hogs and cattle — even a great horned owl — all introduce themselves with an immediacy that comes from the author’s intimacy with both the positive and negative sides of nature. From his uproarious introduction to animal mating to the heartbreak of dead farm creatures, Williams’ depictions are real and often visceral.

‘Cornfield Chronicles: Featuring Snowball: Pony from Hell’ by Myron Williams, illustrated by Blair Gauntt; released Dec. 21, 2017, All Writes Reserve Publishing

The people in the stories are also clearly portrayed. Family members are described lovingly but honestly, and Williams does not spare himself when it comes to his own flaws. Neighbors range from powerful influences to close companions, with the occasional local annoyance thrown in.

The importance of neighbors in a rural community is clear; when people expect to live most of their lives in one location, they must all cooperate to help one another. This is certainly one of the lessons the author has taken from his upbringing, and he conveys it to the reader without needing to moralize.

Cornfield Chronicles has the fascination of a living slice of history. So, take a piece, put it on your plate, and sit down with the twentieth century. You might just find it well worth your time.

Williams is among the two dozen authors appearing at the Imagine Other Worlds with Authors (I.O.W.A.) signing event on Saturday, July 21 at 10 a.m. at the Marion Columbus Club (5650 Kacena Ave, Marion). The event is free and open to the public.

Editor’s note: This reviewer is also signing at Saturday’s event.

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