Musings of Navigating The Finite remainder of life from Porchville, with the hope of a glimpse of The Infinite

Saturday, November 13, 2010

John Jerome

Blogging can take one in some different directions. I posted a couple chapters from a book that I tried to write, never finished, and never did anything with. Looking at those old chapters reminded me of one of the books that I had read 20 years ago that had inspired me to write, Stonework by John Jerome. It has been a long time since I read the book and I can't remember much of it, but it was an accounting of rebuilding old stone walls on his farm in New England, perhaps a Zen and the Art of Wall Building (minus the Greek philosophy BS). The labor of the wall was a framework around which Jerome built the remainder of the book which had little to do with walls and much to do with broad observations of life, the natural world, and a philosophy for making a better life through simplicity. Stonework was one of those books that inspired course corrections in the navigation of my life. If nothing else, it inspired within me a deep desire to write.

Looking at my old chapters, prompted me to have a look on Amazon for Jerome's books. I found immediately On Turning Sixty-Five, Notes From The Field. Although I have several years until I arrive at that age, my recent decision to retire from work and approaching the magic age of 62 seemed close enough. Since I made the choice to retire, which is about 89.33% finalized, I have been in something of a mental tizzy. I have not been able to sit and read a book or even finish a magazine article. My head seems a swirling mass of worries and concerns. Jerome had provided direction in my life once before, the midlife crises part of my life, perhaps he could do it again as I step across the threshold of the merely middle aged to the elderly.

I am not aging with grace. I despise what I have seen of old age from my parents and my entry into it is not promising. So I thought Jerome's book just may be the ticket. I have read the first few chapters and the magic of Jerome is definitely apparent. He has a clarity of thought and calls a spade a spade or a god damned shovel as the situation demands. Minor profanities pepper his writing as they do mine, we talk each other's language, although Jerome is far more grounded in reality and does not share my dreamy romantic bullshit.

So I have been enjoying Jerome's book, and this morning I decided to see if he has a web page or blog. I was shocked to find out that he had died of lung cancer in 2002, two years after On Turning Sixty-Five was published. I was not expecting that. John Jerome was into fitness, healthy living, and a healthy attitude. Although I have only read one of his books and a few chapters of a second, I felt that I lost a personal friend...eight years ago. Last night I read Jerome discussing his brother's death from cancer, and this morning I discover two years later he succumbed to it himself.

I, in some fashion, feel that emotion which Paul Olum said of Richard can he be dead? I seek solace from a man's words only to find out that he died two years after writing them. He was not supposed to have died. I was supposed to find a website and read some bit of stoney wisdom, not an obituary. There are times when I feel that death cheats us and John Jerome is such a loss.

To better understand John Jerome read the obituaries, especially Bruce McCall's touching piece here:

In Memory Of John Jerome

Jerome's Books At Amazon:


On Turning Sixty-Five

His other books can be found on Amazon's John Jerome page:

John Jerome At Amazon

Image Credit:

Random House, On Turning Sixty-Five

Edit 11-14-10: I found this quote from A Writer's Trade, a book Jerome published in the mid 90s about the craft of writing.
After hearing someone on the radio mention that every word is a metaphor Jerome writes:

[page 215] Not a terribly original observation, but it struck home: here we are with this capacity for language, the tool with which we've built this incredible civilization. And yet the capacity for language itself specifically freezes us at the symbolic level, permanently divorced from the experience of the real world. We are incurably afloat in a sea of words, of symbolic representation, and can't cut through to the thing itself. It is the Word that makes us so powerful, and that prevents us from seeing the actuality that the Word represents.
The above quote is from:

A Reader's Journal, By Bobby Matherne

You can read all of my retirement related posts at:


  1. Funny. I'm reading "On Turning Sixty-Five" right now. I too, was dismayed when I recently learned he died in 2002. It felt like losing an old friend.

    I discovered Jerome when I read "The Sweet Spot in Time" and "Staying Supple" in the early Nineties. His prose resonates with a deep understanding of the human condition. As I read his words, I find myself.

    Since learning of his death, I have found and purchased all of his books. I will savor them. Thank you for your stirring tribute. Rest peacefully, John Jerome.

  2. Rick,

    Thank you for your kind comment. John was indeed like a wise old friend. Also thank you for becoming a follower, I will be looking forward to seeing your comments.

  3. I discovered your blog spot while searching for other tidbits about john Jerome. Your posting and comments by RickT......"ditto for me"...
    I first discovered John Jerome when I ordered his book...." Truck ".. I am in the process of restoring an old 50's pick up and his book looked interesting. Well, one book leads to another and I felt Jerome was such a compelling read that I ordered...some of his other works...Stone Work; Blue Rooms, On Turning 65;The Writing Trade. I wanted to find out more about his life, what made him tick,...something autobiographical....but no one such book exists. The best you can do is read the above mentioned books and try and glean the small tidbits from them. I found that Blue Rooms is probably the most telling of Jerome's early life ( prior to his move out east ). However...doing a little more detective work leads us further into the Jerome Family History. John's older brother...Judson Jerome was a well respected poet...publishing nine volumes of poetry and four plays. Judson also wrote two memoirs... " Flight from Innocence " and " The Youthful Look ".. I ordered both books from Amazon I believe, ( as they are older out of print ). Read the first but haven't started the second. If you liked John Jerome...his brother is an equally interesting read. He talks about the very early Jerome years and the whole family history. Something John only scratched the surface on in his books.
    Jerome's book on aging..."On Turning 65"...held great interest for me...although I am close to 10 years away from 65.
    After reading your piece on Jerome...I started perusing some of your blog and especially your trepidation entering retirement ! As they say...Been there, done that, got the T shirt. I spent 27 years in public service and I have already made that leap into retirement, 3 years ago.
    For myself, it wasn't so much the work, but the people and co workers and the fun and the laughs we had that I miss the most. And as all retirement counsellors suggest...." if you think your friendships and camaraderie carry on after retirement.......THEY DON'T ! Whole new ball game.
    You have some very interesting and engaging writing. I too am now a follower. Don't let the ink in your pen go dry.

  4. Glen,

    Odd you should mention Truck, I have been reading it while I was in Georgia, have another 50 pages or so to read yet. I have enjoyed it immensely--classic Jerome. Another book you may find interesting on the restoration of old trucks is "Truck A Love Story", by Michael Perry. Amazon is almost giving it away in the US, although I don't know how that will play in Canada:

    Very similar, although Perry's book is a little less mechanical and he has a parallel love affair going with both a real woman and International Harvester's Betty Crocker...Irma Harding whom shares the corporate initials of IH. What I found interesting in both books is that these guys choose something of off beat trucks. One always thinks of old Fords, Chevys, or GMC for restoration but it is usually in the sense of hot rodding which neither of these guys had any interest in.

    Myself I am in love with two old trucks 56 Fords and any year Dodge Power Wagons (the true Power Wagons from 48 to 61...they all looked the same--not the late 70's early 80's Ram pickup with Power Wagon slapped on the hood). I must share a photo with you of my favorite...I feel a new post coming on. As far as restoring an old truck, I am too damned lazy!

    Thank you for your kind comments regarding my writing and the advice regarding retirement. Its not retirement I fear but old age, I have seen little to recommend about it. It is very odd though, I do find a certain attachment to the product and the facilities. Maybe something on the order of a love for old pickup trucks. But as I stood watching our product working down south, I did suffer some pangs of bittersweet nostalgia that I would never see this thing again or be in that place, and that place is a royal pain in the ass, yet I find an attachment to it.

    Thank you for the info on Blue Rooms and John's brother. I must check these out as well. Another place to find old books is Alibris. I have had good luck with them on one of Jerome's books and William Manchester's Death of a President.

    Again thank you for your kind comments and thanks for becoming a follower. I watch the hits on the site with a program called StatCounter. I have 20 to 50 people hitting the site a day from all over the world searching images, but readers are rarer than hens teeth! I noticed you hitting the Jerome post every now and again from when I first posted it(not that it IDs particular people, but there are not many hits from your neck of the woods & not many hits on the Jerome post--so you sort of stuck out like a diamond in a goat's ass as my father used to say--sounds very Jerome doesn't it. So I had a curiosity about you.) Thank you for reading and for commenting. I hope to hear more from you! Comments make this thing worth doing. I think it is time for a new post, Love for Old Trucks, inspired by you and John Jerome.

  5. If you click on my profile icon it takes you to my blogger profile, where I had started a blog on the International L110 series truck.....the one that I am slowly working on.. ( maybe you have already been there ). Still haven't got it running. And in my neck of the woods, the infamous Red River Valley, we are making preparations ( again), for another huge flood. All the way from Fargo North Dakota to where the Red River enters Lake Manitoba. So this means I will have to move said truck to higher ground via trailer until, oh, probably mid May or so. You see we also live along a small river, the La Salle River, which overflows its banks just about every spring and swamping everything in it's path,,sort of a mini tsunami.

  6. Wow! This is simply too cool. Read my latest post which I was writing while you were writing the comment.

    Sorry to hear about your flooding. I hope you don't suffer too much damage.

    The tsunami and its nuclear aftermath has been on my mind a good bit. I work in the industry and I don't like when bad things happen to nukes. But that is a minor concern compared to the devastation from the tsunami and then the complications caused by the nukes. My heart goes out to the Japanese.

    Well I hope your flood is minimal and your truck project goes well. Very cool!