University of Vermont

Vermont Quarterly

Just Released

Running through the past

Running Ransom Road book

The Green / Just Released

Running through the past

It’s unlikely you’ll find a photo of Caleb Daniloff ’94—smiling with self-assurance, backpack casually slung over one shoulder—in a UVM student recruitment brochure circa 1992. 

Alcohol and addiction had been part of the adolescent’s life from his years living in Moscow, where his father, Nicholas Daniloff, was a journalist, to his study at Northfield Mount Hermon School. The freedom of college took it to a new level, part of a personal tale that Daniloff tells with admirable honesty in his first book, Running Ransom Road (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt), released in October.

In the second chapter of Ransom Road, Daniloff describes the atmosphere as “electric” during his first year on campus. “Students took over the president’s office demanding diversity, protest shanties choked the main campus, a ragtag jam band named Phish was filling bar crowds with the spirit, and Burlington’s mayor was a Brooklyn-bred socialist named Bernie Sanders. Long streets poured down from campus like asphalt tributaries into the black sparkle of Lake Champlain. It was a great place to get lost.”

Fifteen years after his graduation, Daniloff—a sober man, husband, father, athlete—returned to Burlington to compete in the 2009 Vermont City Marathon. Running through what he terms “former sinning grounds,” the interplay of a dramatically different past and present in Daniloff’s life gives Ransom Road its structure. Other chapters take him on the roads of Boston, Moscow, New York, and Middlebury, among other locales. While some passages might make readers wince at what was, ultimately it’s a story rooted in hope and the power to change.

Daniloff says there were “lights in the darkness” of his UVM years; Toby Fulwiler, professor emeritus of English, was a primary influence. “Toby was the first person who validated my work and made me think I could be halfway decent at writing,” Daniloff says. “It wasn’t until years later that he told me that he basically completely saw himself in me sitting there in the back row.” Fulwiler also led him toward Jean Kiedaisch, then head of the writing center at Living/Learning, where he would work as a writing tutor.

From pitching the book concept to publication has been a three-and-a half- year process, the writing accomplished through early mornings, late nights, and weekends, and a short leave from his job as a writer at Boston University. “It did have that marathon, endless miles quality to it,” Daniloff says with a bit of a smile.

Now that the work is in bookstores, Daniloff reflects on his hope for Running Ransom Road: “I want people to recognize that you’re never at an end point where it’s just over and you can’t go any further. Nothing is static. Sobriety itself is a whole bizarre adventure and you need tools to navigate that terrain, which can be complicated. For me, it’s been running and marathoning. Recovery is a constant state of evolution. If I can help embed that feeling inside others, then that would be a success.”                

—Thomas Weaver

Read full interview with Caleb Daniloff

[Briefs]

Adventures In Two Worlds: Vietnam General and Vermont Professor
Xlibris, Corp; Douglas Kinnard
Douglas Kinnard graduated from West Point on D-Day, 1944, and served in World War II, the Korean War, and two tours in Vietnam. In 1970, he retired from the U.S. Army as a brigadier general and pursued a doctorate from Princeton, which brought him to the political science faculty at the University of Vermont. His latest book, his eighth, recounts his experiences in those two worlds: as chief of operations analysis for General Westmoreland during the 1966-67 phase of the Vietnam War and then, upon his return, as an academic at work on campuses enlivened by anti-war sentiment.

Summer Friends
Vineyard Stories, Sarah French ’77
With handmade papers and collage, alumna and artist Sarah French tells the story of Minnie the mutt and Stanley the seal, two unlikely friends whose attempts to play together are the subject of her new children’s book, Summer Friends. The rich colors and textured landscapes of the collage art give dimension to the beach scene backdrops. An original piece of art for display is included. Learn more about French on her website: sarahfrenchartandillustration.com.


Public Meltdown: The Story of the Vermont Yankee Nuclear Power Plant
White River Press, Richard Watts
Richard Watts, assistant research professor in Community Development and Applied Economics, watched Vermont Yankee go through a metaphorical meltdown­—a meltdown in its public perception that turned the facility politically toxic. Watts, an expert on media discourse and energy, studied government documents, analyzed 1,400 newspaper articles, and interviewed dozens of observers and experts to trace the story of what happened from the time the power plant was sold to Entergy Corporation in 2002 until the Vermont Senate voted to shut the plant in 2010.

Creating a Sustainable Organization: Approaches for Enhancing Corporate Value Through Sustainability
Financial Times Press, Peter Soyka '80

In his new book, alumnus Peter Soyka, founder and president of Soyka & Company, an environmental and sustainability management consulting business in Washington, D.C., examines why sustainability matters in the corporate world. While many corporations might believe that sustainable practices will add to their overhead, Soyka shows how corporate social responsibility can improve a company's bottom line, with new revenue streams and decreased costs, liability, and risk, among other benefits. More than just a sound ethical decision, sustainability, he argues, can be a sound business decision, as well.

Clayton in the Moonlight
Peapod Press, Jessi Trotta McQuilkin '97
"As a special educator and a mother of two," alumna Jessi Trotta McQuilkin writes, "I felt compelled to write a story for children that paints a more realistic portrait of what it feels like to be different and how to embrace your own strengths." Clayton the calf, the main character in her children's book, illustrated by fine art sculptor Peggy Kauffman, teaches us about our similarities: we all have dreams, and we all need a strong support system.

A Cold War Turning Point: Nixon and China, 1969-1972
LSU Press, Chris Tudda '87
Using recently declassified sources, Chris Tudda '87, a historian in the Declassification and Publishing Division of the Department of State, explores the interactions of the Nixon administration and the Chinese government in the years leading up to Nixon's historic trip to Beijing in February 1972. Revealing details of a fledgling relationship that ultimately altered the course of the Cold War, the book is the first to use the Nixon tapes and Kissinger telephone conversations to illustrate the complexity of early Sino-U.S. relations—relations that reveal Nixon's desire, Tudda argues, to establish a partnership with China.

Goblin Secrets
Margaret K. McElderry Books. William Alexander G’06
From alumnus William Alexander, whose short stories have been nominated for the Pushcart Prize, comes a fantasy set in the city of Zombay, where theatre is outlawed, masks have power, and an acting troupe of goblins agree to help young Rownie find his missing older brother. "Goblin Secrets is a knockout," says Peter S. Beagle, author of The Last Unicorn. "It's an original, owing absolutely nothing to Tolkien, or to any of his descendants, disciples or imitators."

Defiant Diplomat George Platt Waller: American Consul in Nazi- Occupied Luxembourg, 1939-1941
University of Delaware Press, Willard A. Fletcher '49 and Jean Fletcher' 48

Edited by alumni couple Willard and Jean Fletcher, this memoir chronicles American diplomat George Platt Waller's years in Luxembourg at the outbreak of World War II. Waller, who condemned the Nazis, their racial laws, and their attempts to annex the country, used his respected position in the diplomatic community to aid the Luxembourg people and seek asylum in the United States for refugees. The Fletchers round out Waller's narrative with biographical details of his life before and after those years as well as annotations and photographs that accompany the text.

Best Book
Joe Roman, a conservation biologist on the UVM faculty, received the 2011/2012 Rachel Carson Award from the Society for Environmental Journalists for best environmental book. Roman’s 

 Listed: Dispatches from America’s Endangered Species Act “shows persuasively that protecting endangered species and their habitats can be a win for communities and economies, as well as for nature, and in so doing, suggests a path towards greater protection for all species, not just those that make the list,” the SEJ judges wrote.

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