The Bucolic Plague

by Christopher Verleger
Friday Mar 25, 2011

Author and columnist Josh Kilmer-Purcell, who chronicled his colorful, crazy New York life as an alcoholic drag queen in I Am Not Myself These Days, returns as a more civilized but no less insane version of his former self with his equally hilarious second memoir, The Bucolic Plague: How Two Manhattanites Became Gentleman Farmers, in which he and his partner, Brent, try to escape the confines of the Big Apple at a centuries-old mansion in Sharon Springs, New York.

Josh, an executive in advertising, and Brent, a physician-turned-media vice president for Martha Stewart, routinely take weekend drives to unknown destinations among the hills and mountains of New York State whenever their downtown apartment feels cramped. During one such trip, they arrive in the town of Sharon Springs and stumble upon the Beekman, a mansion with as much charm and character as land space, and the couple falls in love at first sight. It turns out this grand house happens to be for sale, and so, their adventure begins.

Each weekend, the two trek from their tiny abode in the concrete jungle to their second home upon thousands of acres, where they try to learn to enjoy the quiet time and a simpler way of life. Despite Josh’s Wisconsin upbringing and Brent’s best intentions, they soon learn that life on a farm isn’t so easy, especially when Josh, without his partner’s permission and much to his chagrin, agrees to take in a small herd of goats and their master, John.

The goats turn out to be a blessing in disguise; Brent makes organic goat milk soap to give out at Christmas, so once it has Martha Stewart’s seal of approval, they decide to market it nationally. They work hard at their new business venture, as well as caring for the farm animals, maintaining a vast vegetable garden, and posting a daily blog.

Using his trademark wit and brutal honesty throughout the book, the author describes the duo’s trials and tribulations of adjusting to life outside the big city. Activities as seemingly mundane as planting seeds, plowing dirt, canning vegetables and swatting houseflies are cause for laughable hysteria and the intricate, graphic detail Josh dutifully shares when slaughtering his first Thanksgiving turkey is especially humorous.

Things turn a bit serious when the recession hits them hard, both personally and professionally, and the author’s voice takes on a somber tone. At this point, the story becomes more about their relationship and less about their Beekman adventure, but nonetheless, by this point the reader will have developed a genuine affection and concern for Josh and Brent’s well-being.

Like with everyone, the future is uncertain, but this couple’s ongoing story serves as a healthy reminder of what really matters most--time spent with loved ones, and the memories that remain.

- - -

The Bucolic Plague
Josh Kilmer-Purcell
Harper Perennial
ISBN 9780061997839

by Josh Kilmer-Purcell

Chris Verleger is an avid reader, aspiring novelist and self-professed theater geek from Providence. Email


Add New Comment

Comments on Facebook