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Long Gone
By Richard Willis

Life in the 1930s and '40s on the small family farms in eastern Iowa was threadbare and tough. It was made endurable by the web of humanity spun by the men and women who built their lives there. The land itself seemed indifferent to its relentless exploitation and yet people, towns, farms and landscape endured in some fashion. The best parts of the farm stayed with Richard Willis when he left, while the rest is long gone.

" Richard Willis' Long Gone evokes, with an unsentimental and mordant voice, the less-than-idyllic, often brutal realities of Iowa farm life during the Great Depression. The language is spare and funny; the subject affecting. For anyone who has ever farmed, Long Gone rings true. And for any reader, Long Gone is a piercing, authentic memoir of American life."
Nicola Smith, Harvest: A Year in the Life of an Organic Farm

"Long Gone is a perfect title for this remarkable memoir that strips away any fantasy of an idyllic life "in the country" and shows the passions, backbreaking labor and violence of the hard won life lived on an American farm in the middle of the twentieth century. But "long gone " can also be applied to the writing of Richard Willis. The extraordinary scenes he paints and characters he evokes are indeed very rare to find in this century.”

Patty Dann, Mermaids, The Goldfish Went On Vacation, Sweet and Crazy.

'What Willis has done, though -- and with uncommon clarity of style -- is to give readers the minute details of day-to-day life at a time before mass mechanization changed the economic and physical landscape forever. This is the way things were before Archer Daniels Midland became synonymous with the grain belt and food became abundant.''
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''Few Americans remember what it was like to learn in a one-room schoolhouse. One who does is Richard Willis, an 80-year-old New York actor and retired theater professor who played Asa Buchanan's butler, Nigel, on the soap opera One Life to Live. He recalls the small white Aurora Schoolhouse in Long Gone (Greenpoint Press, 192 pp., $20, paperback), a new memoir of growing up on farm in Iowa.''

One Minute Book Reviews
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'Life on a farm in Marengo, Iowa, in the 1930s and '40s was just plain hard. Richard Willis recalls it without bitterness or nostalgia. He records it: what it looked like, sounded like, and felt like.''

The Boston Globe
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''An evocative new book, Long Gone, by Richard Willis, published by Greenpoint Press, puts to rest many of our 21st century notions about the idyllic family farm. In this beautifully crafted memoir, the author recounts his childhood days growing up on his family's farm in Eastern Iowa during the hardscrabble days of the Great Depression.''

Food and Things
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''Long Gone is not a story for the sentimental. There is sentiment in the story, but it is the kind that Wordsworth describes as lying ''too deep for tears.'' The underlying message is that the weak and sentimental couldn't (and didn't) survive small farm life in Iowa during what was the poorest American decade of the 20th century. There is much resentment in Willis' account of his years on the farm, but there is also appreciation for what his mother and father experienced, and there is a grudging sort of love for the little farm itself, its animals (horses especially) that quite literally kept the family alive by working the land, giving eggs, milk, fertilizer, and ultimately their lives.''

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''Marengo native Richard Willis traveled the world and graced the large and small screen, but the experience of growing up in rural Marengo during the Great Depression impressed Willis enough to memorialize his childhood in the 2007 book, Long Gone.''

Marengo-Pioneer Republican
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Interview with Richard Willis
'' Long Gone started as an impulse to revisit people and places from my past. Like Emily in Our Town, I wanted to see, visit with and talk with my friends and acquaintances from long ago.''
Click to Watch the Interview with Richard Willis

Richard Willis is a former professor of theater at Northwestern University and Lewis and Clark College; and he is an actor who has appeared in numerous regional theater productions, movies, including Drugstore Cowboy and Cops and Robbers, and in soap operas, including All My Children and Another World. His work has appeared in Red Wheelbarrow, New Author’s Journal, and Words of Wisdom.


Long Gone by Richard Willis

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