L.L. Bean on Writing

I recently rediscovered the 1954 edition of Hunting-Fishing and Camping by L.L. Bean (the man himself, not his namesake company). It's a handsome little volume with a red leatherette cover and gold embossed letters superimposed upon a simple map of Maine. The book contains the potent distillate of Mr. Bean's considerable wood wisdom. Consider these selections from the table of contents: "How to Hang Up a Deer," "Camping—In an Old Lumber Camp," "Camp Cooking—Grub Lists."

The introduction also establishes Bean as a literary philosopher and champion of a militantly minimalist aesthetic. To wit:

The object of this book is not bore my readers with personal yarns and experiences but to give definite information in the fewest words possible on how to Hunt, Fish and Camp...

To make this book as brief as possible I am dealing only with major information. Minor details are easily learned with practice. The instructions are so condensed that the reading time of the whole book is only 85 minutes.

These words bring to mind an image of Mr. Bean reading his tome aloud while Mrs. Bean listened with a stopwatch. One pictures the author repeatedly chopping back the text, wielding his pen like a camp axe, until he had pruned away all the leafy yarns and twiggish details. Bringing the book in under the all-important 85-minute reading threshold was obviously a point of principal.

Hunting-Fishing and Camping also contains recipes for roast duck, roast leg of venison, and roast grouse. The secret ingredient for all three dishes is salt pork.

A different guide for a different time.