Publisher: Scribner; Reprint edition (April 12, 2011)
Reviewed by Stephen Page
A successful freelance writer with a degree from Harvard lives on the trendy Upper East Side of New York (OK, so she lives in a walkup across the street form the Hells Angels main headquarters building—but the area is becoming popular for aging preppies, so rent and property prices are rising). She gets a hack job from a magazine editor to drive out to small plot of land just past the Big Apple’s suburbs to interview an educated neo-hippie who is running an organic farm. The man avoids her when he can, gives her errands to do when he can’t, and just generally bosses her around and treats her like trash for three days, until she finally stands her ground and corners him as he is running from one of his thousand daily chores to another of his thousand daily chores, and she demands as she points a finger at him, “Look, are you going to give me the interview or not?” He stops in his tracks, chuckles, looks deeply and respectfully into her eyes, and says “yes.” In the ensuing interview, while they are pulling the entrails out of a freshly slaughtered pig, she falls in love with him and he falls in love with her. For the next several years they build a life together while struggling to keep an organic farm viable.
In the memoir Dirty Life, Kristin Kimball shows the reader that “pastoral” and “bucolic” have different connotations—and that neither word is synonymous with “idyllic.” Yet, for Ms. Kimball and her fiancé, privilege is perspective. “Wealth” and “success” are subjective words which cannot be measured in meaning with a pop-culture ruler, but rather with how one lives life.
Once you get past the first page of romance-novel description, The Dirty Life is an outstandingly written book. If you are like me, when I am reading a book that I love, whether it be for its content, plot, voice, characters, or style (and in this case, all of the preceding), you don’t want to finish the book. When you find yourself arriving toward the end, perhaps the last fifth of the book, you procrastinate, continually finding excuses to not read more than a few pages at a time because you don’t want the beauty of the story or the magic of the story telling to end. This is one of those books.
Check out the book here:
About Kristin Kimball:
I was born in 1971, and grew up in central New York. I graduated from Harvard in 1994, then moved to New York City, where I worked at a literary agency, taught creative writing, and freelanced for magazines and travel guides. In 2002, I interviewed a wingnut farmer named Mark, and took more than a professional interest in both him and his vocation. We founded Essex Farm together in 2004 – the world’s first full-diet CSA, as far as we know – and I’ve been professionally dirty ever since. Mark and I have two daughters, and I have three great jobs: mother, farmer, and writer. I stink at returning email. Please contact Simon& Schuster Speakers Bureau
for information on talks and appearances.
Since the publication of The Dirty Life, I’ve written for O Magazine
about what it’s like to change your life completely; for Vogue on physical work, and for Gourmet Live on all sorts of farm and food related subjects (The Pigs Are Alright
, A Corny Story
, Tales of Terroir
, Three Things Every Ethical Eater Needs To Know
). Food & Wine featured us here
, the Burlington Free Press here, and for the francophones out there, Alix Girod de l’Ain Laffont wrote about us here, in French Elle.
was recently ranching and farming during a sabbatical from teaching world literature. He loved learning the cow-to-calf and the seed-to-harvest businesses even though he discovered first-hand that bucolic and pastoral are not synonymous with idyllic. He did however, after a long debate with the owner of the ranch, manage to keep a portion of the land fallow at all times as a moral obligation to the people of the world’s people and the Earth’s environment.