Vermont writer Bill Mares couldn’t believe anything could tear him apart as much as the open heart surgery he faced last fall.
Then Donald Trump was elected president on the Burlingtonian’s birthday.
“During the campaign, I had reread the Sinclair Lewis novel ‘It Can’t Happen Here,’ about a right-wing presidential victory,” Mares recalls. “Little did I expect that this book, written and set in Vermont in 1935, would be so prescient.”
Unable to march in protests while on the mend, the co-author of the state’s all-time best-selling humor book (1983’s “Real Vermonters Don’t Milk Goats”) commiserated with friend and syndicated political cartoonist Jeff Danziger.
“Why not write another book before dementia sets in?” suggested Danziger, who divides his time between New York City and Dummerston.
“I’ll only do it with you!” Mares replied.
“How about ‘The Full Vermonty: Vermont in the Age of Trump?’” Danziger said to seal the deal.
This week, the Brattleboro-based Green Writers Press is rolling out the title, for both a state that gave the businessman candidate a national-low 30 percent of its vote and for like-minded readers coast to coast.
“Vermont has a history of speaking truth to tyranny,” Mares writes in the preface. “We’re little but we’re loud.”
The 134-page paperback features 20 collaborators ranging from Weybridge writer Julia Alvarez and Brookfield artist Ed Koren to former Gov. Madeleine Kunin and Vermont Life editor emeritus Tom Slayton.
“As in most hostage situations — and this was the biggest one yet in the nation’s history — we needed backup,” Mares explains in the preface. “Our duet became a chorus.”
Former editor and executive Stephen Terry begins by contributing a foreword titled “Here’s What the Hell We Do Now.”
“The crucial question facing Vermonters and the world is: How do we survive the remainder of the Trump presidency?” Terry asks.
Subsequent essays offer suggestions.
Writes Bob Stannard, a retired Manchester legislator: “First, we can stop and marvel at the good fortune that will be bestowed on George W. Bush. No one in Vermont ever thought he’d ever shed the mantle of being the worst president ever.”
And Marialisa Calta, a Calais food writer who once interviewed Trump about an ad he made for Pizza Hut: “You might as well cut back on consumption of current events and spend your extra time in the garden. At the very least, join a CSA or support the local farmers’ market and food co-op.”
And Dr. Harry Chen, recently departed state health commissioner: “Be empathetic with dissenters but firm in our conclusions on issues: climate change is real, vaccinations work, smoking causes cancer and heart disease, addiction is a brain disease, and sugar-sweetened beverages cause obesity.”
And former Rutland Mayor Christopher Louras: “Out of today’s chaos we likely will see a weakening of federal primacy and a corresponding renewal of states’ rights and local control.”
Mares and Danziger will share the title at readings set for Thursday at Burlington’s Phoenix Books, Sept. 12 at Rutland’s Phoenix Books, Sept. 23 at St. Albans’ The Eloquent Page, Oct. 3 at Hardwick’s Galaxy Bookshop, Oct. 13 at Manchester’s Northshire Bookstore, Oct. 14 at the Brattleboro Literary Festival and Nov. 24 at Montpelier’s Bear Pond Books.
More information is available at “The Full Vermonty” Facebook page.
Mares partnered with Danziger after Frank Bryan, his collaborator on “Real Vermonters Don’t Milk Goats,” declined an invitation to write another humor book.
“I don’t think there’s anything funny about Trump,” Mares recalls Bryan saying.
Danziger, in one respect, agrees.
“For Vermont, a state that, per capita, voted against Trump more than any other state, the way forward is cloudy,” he writes in the book’s afterword. “If the Trump thugs cut money for schools, kill Obamacare, neglect the infrastructure, and insult Canada in the years to come, how do we react?”
His answer: by remembering what old-timers advise those who don’t like the weather.
“We’ll get through the next four years somehow,” Danziger writes, “with inventiveness, cooperation, care for one another, and the sure knowledge that someday it will end and be forgotten, like a storm, powerful but transient.”
(Editor’s note: Bill Mares is a board member of the Vermont Journalism Trust, and Jeff Danziger’s cartoons appear in VTDigger.)