Homespun life sparkled with humor; Aunt Arie - A Foxfire Portrait, edited by Linda Page and Eliot Wigginton. New York: E.P. Dutton/A Foxfire Press Book. 215 pp. $15.95 in hard cover, $9.95 in paperback.
Everyone should get to know ''Aunt Arie.'' And, for that matter, many people already do. Arie Carpenter is familiar to thousands of readers of the original ''Foxfire Book.'' She was also immortalized in the recent play ''Foxfire,'' which starred Jessica Tandy as Annie Nations, a character based partly on Arie Carpenter's recollections as told to high school students in the original Foxfire learning experiment.
Students who visited Aunt Arie's home were amazed by her simple life and practical skills. The youngsters were taken in by her charm, wit, her trust in God, generosity, and capacity to love. They went to learn, share, help in the garden, bring in firewood, make life easier for her, but they always went away with so much more.
Often they helped prepare a meal, making bread from scratch, opening jars of homemade sausage balls, setting the hand-hewn table, or asking the blessing.
Every minute they were there, Aunt Arie talked with them, spewing out tidbits of folklore - riddles, songs, and wisdom, sprinkled with laughter - passing it on in the same way she had received it. Each winter visit culminated in the country ritual of parching (popping) corn in a ''capper'' (a covered pan fastened to an old broomstick), while the teen-agers huddled around the fireplace until after dark, reluctant to leave the special friend they had come to respect and love.
''She is the only person we ever wrote about whose personality was so strong and whose face was so compelling that she literally walked off the pages of 'The Foxfire Book' and into the lives of millions who read it,'' writes Eliot Wigginton, the originator of the Foxfire program and co-editor of this new documentary on Aunt Arie.
The opening scene of the Broadway version of ''Foxfire,'' as well as several others, draws on incidents from Arie's recollections. The characters are composites of several people interviewed as part of the Foxfire project, in which students in Rabun County, Ga., talked with older citizens and wrote about them. The program began in 1967 with Wigginton's 11th- and 12th-grade English classes.
The late Arie Cabe Carpenter was born Dec. 29, 1885, in Macon County, N.C., close to the Georgia border. She passed on in 1978. She never traveled more than 35 miles from home. She married at age 38 after caring for her invalid mother and the family home from the time she was a little girl. Aunt Arie loved children but never had any of her own.