Monday, December 17, 2012

An Autobiography: Edward Livingston Trudeau

A recent “discovery” brought me great pleasure: a beautifully written book about a very popular Adirondack subject. The book was written more than a century ago (thus the quotation marks), and many are familiar with it. It was a discovery for me because I had never read it and had never seen it among the genres of history or medicine on area bookshelves. In fact, I only came across it as part of a new venture here at Bloated Toe Publishing.

We recently began producing our “Preserving History” collection―physical reprints of outstanding books that are part of the public domain (not copyright protected). As part of the process, I’m required to read through each one. That’s what led me to An Autobiography: Edward Livingston Trudeau.

An excellent perk of producing this collection is being “forced” to read great books that I otherwise might not find time to enjoy. It adds to all the busyness, but what a payoff! Trudeau’s own story is a gem.

We know much about his work through books of history and historical fiction, but it’s necessary to read Trudeau’s story in his own words to discover what a talented writer he was. His book is more about people than it is about disease, and it’s an emotional roller coaster, from the highs of discoveries and receiving financial support, to the depths of unfathomable loss.

He skillfully writes of life, employing subtlety to great effect. In describing extreme battles with the weather, it becomes apparent to those who have experienced such things that Trudeau avoided embellishing. He described the highlights, leaving the reader to imagine details that naturally accompanied such hardships. It works very well in every respect.

And unless your heart is of stone, his moving recollections of personal loss will leave you somewhere between a lump-in-the-throat and actual tears.

The book is, of course, packed with valuable history as well, and provides background on how Edward’s work on tuberculosis and the sanatorium system was funded. I’m often critical of the abuse of power by those with vast financial assets, but Trudeau provides fine examples of wealthy folks contributing to the good of all. It might leave even hardened skeptics a bit hopeful.

And above all, that was Trudeau’s message: optimism. As he worked his way through a remarkable life, it became his theme. A positive, can-do attitude lifted him from even the darkest of times and led to great success and achievements. Yet he remained humble through it all, offering a wonderfully grounded perspective on life.

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Lawrence Gooley, of Clinton County, is an award-winning author who has hiked, bushwhacked, climbed, bicycled, explored, and canoed in the Adirondack Mountains for 45 years. With a lifetime love of research, writing, and history, he has authored 22 books and more than 200 articles on the region's past, and in 2009 organized the North Country Authors in the Plattsburgh area.

His book Oliver’s War: An Adirondack Rebel Battles the Rockefeller Fortune won the Adirondack Literary Award for Best Book of Nonfiction in 2008. Another title, Terror in the Adirondacks: The True Story of Serial Killer Robert F. Garrow, was a regional best-seller for four years running.

With his partner, Jill Jones, Gooley founded Bloated Toe Enterprises in 2004, which has published 83 titles to date. They also offer editing/proofreading services, web design, and a range of PowerPoint presentations based on Gooley's books.

Bloated Toe’s unusual business model was featured in Publishers Weekly in April 2011. The company also operates an online store to support the work of other regional folks. The North Country Store features more than 100 book titles and 60 CDs and DVDs, along with a variety of other area products.

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