Thursday, June 25, 2009

William Lloyd Garrison, always getting people in trouble

This Sunday at 5 pm, Susan Lenoe and Lani Petersen from Andover perform "The Grimké Sisters, Turning the World Upside Down" at the Rocky Hill Meeting House on Portsmouth Street in Amesbury (map; a freewill offering to benefit local food pantries will be taken, according to the Newburyport Daily News).

The sisters, Angelina and Sarah, grew up in a wealthy South Carolina slave-owning family, but fought against it from an early age. Sarah often told the story that she was so upset at age five at seeing a family slave whipped that she tried to run away to a place where slavery didn't exist.

From the Newburyport Daily News:

Angelina herself was thrust into the spotlight of the abolitionist movement by William Lloyd Garrison who, as publisher of The Liberator in Newburyport, mistakenly published a letter from Angelina that was meant to be private correspondence.

In her letter, she urged the passionate newspaperman Garrison to continue his fight against slavery, stating, "The ground upon which you stand is holy ground. Never, never surrender it ... if you surrender it, the hope of the slave is extinguished."

While the letter resulted in the sisters' being driven from their communities, it also thrust them into the national spotlight, prompting their trip to the North and setting the course of their destinies.

The two ended up in Massachusetts, with Angelina being the first woman to address the state legislature and skillfully debating slavery supporters in Amesbury.

Angelina and Sarah's connection to the NSLT extends beyond Garrison. Their nephew Francis Grimké eventually married Salem's Charlotte Forten, who was the first black woman to teach white children at the integrated Epps Grammar School in the 1860s and who wrote extensively about her experiences teaching the Gullah-speaking children of freed slaves on St. Helena Island, South Carolina.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

NSLT links

  • Bonnie Hurd Smith on Salem's many self-guided walking trails, including ones about Nathaniel Bowditch and Nathaniel Hawthorne, as well as women's history and African-American history. Many of these tours are available to download for free from places like the Salem Maritime National Historic Site.
  • North Shore Art Throb posts a review of Ralph Maud’s new biography, Charles Olson at the Harbor.
  • The Boston Globe on the symbiotic marketing of Brunonia Barry's The Lace Reader and Salem tourism. (This is from last summer, but just turned up in RSS feeds today and is still an interesting tidbit.)

The Pioneer in Women's Rights Who Was on the Wrong Side of History

George Mason University's History News Network has an article about Gloucester's Judith Sargent Murray by Sheila Skemp, author of a new biography of the early agitator for women's equality: First Lady of Letters: Judith Sargent Murray and the Struggle for Female Independence.

Skemp makes the case that Sargent Murray's class bias is a large part of why she remains less known than someone like Mary Wollstonecraft, whose essay "A Vindication of the Rights of Women" receives more credit as an early feminist text than Murray's own earlier essays in The Gleaner. From Skemp's article:
It is no wonder, then, that virtually every historian familiar with her work sees Murray as a modern woman whose failure to achieve the recognition she deserved can be explained by the “fact” that her view of women’s rights was so far ahead of its time. A careful analysis of Murray’s conception of gender and class, however, reveals that her attitudes rested on a distinctly old fashioned intellectual foundation, and were already becoming obsolete. In some ways, she was not a forward-looking character at all—she was someone whom history would soon pass by.
Related: Gloucester's Sargent House Museum

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Whittier events at Amesbury Days

The 110th annual Amesbury Days celebrations begin tomorrow. The first event is a guided tour of the Whittier Home, where the poet lived with his mother, aunt, and sister for much of his adult life.

It starts at 2 pm, at 86 Friend Street, and the Amesbury Days kick-off block party starts just a little later at 5:30 at the Huntington Square gazebo (which no one seems to provide an address for, although I'm sure if you're from Amesbury you know it. I think it's on Main Street not far from the Whittier Home.)

Wicked Local Amesbury has the full schedule of events.

Later, on Saturday, June 27 from 2 to 3 pm, the Whittier home hosts one of their monthly teas in the garden. From the Whittier Home website:
Whittier’s love of nature was clearly exhibited in his garden. Today, the descendents of the purple gentian, monarda, and grapevines he wrote about still bloom. Enjoy an elegant tea in the beautiful historic gardens of the John Greenleaf Whittier Home in Amesbury, MA. 2p.m. in the garden. 86 Friend St. $15. Purchase tickets online by clicking our Gift Shop link above, or call 978-38-1337 for reservations.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Whittier sites

Some of Jeff's photos from our tour of Whittier sites last spring. Pantry and barn at the Whittier Homestead in Haverhill, the Whittier Home in Amesbury, and Whittier's gravesite in Amesbury.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Alan Pearsall book signing

Photo (c) Jeff Steward
Artist Alan Pearsall is signing his recent book American Town: The History of Ipswich, Massachusetts next weekend. It's the companion to his Ipswich history mural on the wall of Ebsco Publishing along the city's Riverwalk (which he graciously allowed me to reproduce photos of it in the NSLT) and is chock-full of illustrations and photographs.

June 14, 2–4 pm
Ipswich Historical Society

June 19, 3–7 pm
First National Bank of Ipswich

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Physick Book out today!

The much hyped, eagerly awaited debut novel by Marblehead's Katherine Howe, The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane, came out today and shot directly to the top of Barnes & Noble's best-seller list. (Seriously, reviews aplenty. One calls it a cross between Harry Potter and The DaVinci Code, which sounds like a recipe for summer book list domination.)

It's known as The Lost Book of Salem overseas... Anyone want to put bets on what the movie will be called, because if the rights aren't sold already they will be by next week.

Recent mentions in the Boston Globe, cover of Indie Bound's Next List for this month, and Kate will be on Good Morning America tomorrow morning.

Catch her first local reading tomorrow at Marblehead's Abbott Library at 6:30 pm.

Goooooo Kate! Congratulations!

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Today at the North Shore Barnes & Noble

Yikes! Glad I called ahead to confirm... apparently today's event at Barnes & Noble is a talk and then a signing, not just a signing. So get there at 1 pm for some stories about folks like John Greenleaf Whittier, Jones Very, and Lucy Larcom.

Barnes & Noble (map)
North Shore Mall at the junction of Highways 114 and 128 and adjacent to Shaws Supermarket
Saturday, June 6, 1–3 pm

Friday, June 5, 2009

Uncle Tom's Cabin

A nice overview at the always interesting Mass Moments blog.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Catching up with my RSS feeds

  • Forgot to add this to my recent post about literary-themed movies: Kill Your Darlings is about the 1944 murder of David Kammerer by Lucien Carr, which this article says "helped spawn the Beat generation." Chris Evans will star as Lowell native Jack Kerouac. It's set to come out next year.

  • Maine senator Olympia Snowe is promoting legislation that could lead to the Harriet Beecher Stowe House in Brunswick becoming part of the National Parks system. The house, where Stowe wrote Uncle Tom's Cabin just before moving to Andover, is currently on the National Register of Historic Places, but it's owned by Bowdoin College and was a dormitory at least as recently as 2003. (Andover's Stowe house is also a dorm for Phillips Academy.)

  • This article traces the origins of the North Shore Children's Hospital. Lydia Pinkham's daughter Aroline Gove was a supporter of what was then called the North Shore Babies' Hospital, as was the Salem journalist Kate Tannant Woods. Gove also founded the Lydia E. Pinkham Memorial Clinic, still in operation as a women's clinic at 250 Derby Street in Salem.

  • Happened across D. H. Lawrence's description of Nathaniel Hawthorne as a romanticist, in Studies in Classic American Literature: "And what’s a romance? Usually, a nice little tale where you have everything As You Like It, where rain never wets your jacket and gnats never bite your nose and it’s always daisy-time… Hawthorne obviously isn’t this kind of romanticist." (via Bookslut)

  • A sonnet by mystical, Shakespeare-obsessed, "divinely inspired" poet Jones Very: "To the Canary Bird"

  • A brief round-up of excerpts from sailor's journals, including Salem's Nathaniel Bowditch, whose book The American Practical Navigator was written in 1802 and is still standard issue aboard all Naval vessels.

  • In his blog about Lowell culture and politics, Richard Howe points to a NYT review of Elinor Lipman's novel The Family Man and mentions that Lipman is a member of the Lowell High School Alumni Hall of Fame.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

poetry tour of Gloucester

Looking for a nearby day-trip itinerary? If you have a web-enabled phone, Carl Carlsen's Poetry of Places in Essex County has a mini tour of some Gloucester sites that have inspired poets past and present. Driving directions here.

Poetry of Places in Essex County focuses on the Lynn poets and Gloucester right now, but an update about Nahant—where Longfellow spent many summers with his family—is coming soon.

Prof. Carlsen also recommends contemporary Lynn poet Diane Kendig's latest chapbook, The Places We Find Ourselves, to be published by Finishing Line in July. Kendig was the North Shore Community College's poet in residence in 2007, and her current volume includes Lynn's Egg Rock as one of its many settings.

(Photo of Gloucester's Hammond Castle from herzogbr on Flickr)

Friday, May 29, 2009

Andre Dubus speaking in Lexington

According to Wicked Local Lexington, Andre Dubus III will speak about The Garden of Last Days at Cary Memorial Library on Friday, June 5 from 7 to 9 p.m. Call 781-862-6288 Ext. 324 or e-mail to reserve a seat.

Newsweek has an excerpt from the book.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Whittier's "In School Days" reading

From the Eagle-Tribune:

HAVERHILL — The most romantic poem by John Greenleaf Whittier will be recited by a complete school class tomorrow at 10 a.m. in a cemetery over a grave.

The poem, "In School Days," tells of a spelling bee in which a girl outspells the boy she loves and tells him about her feelings at the end of the day.

The fifth-grade class of teacher Renee Murphy of Bradford Elementary School has memorized the poem and will recite it in unison in the Walnut Cemetery at the grave of Lydia Ayer, the neighbor girl accepted as the heroine of the poem, with Whittier as the boy.

In previous years the poem was recited at the grave on Valentine's Day, usually in cold weather. Augustus Reusch, who retired as a teacher at the Bradford school and is now curator at the birthplace, was instrumental in promoting the poem and assisting with the trip to the grave.

The public will be welcome at the recitation of the poem.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

New England literary road trip

The blog North American Travel Examiner has mapped out an itinerary that connects major literary sites from Twain's Hartford to Frost's farm in Derry, NH. It hits only the highlights and biggest literary names, but looks like a great place to start planning a literary road trip on a long weekend.

View Literary New England road trip in a larger map

Friday, May 22, 2009

North Shore writers on film, sort of

I posted a while ago that ABC is adapting John Updike's Witches of Eastwick as a TV series.

Earlier this spring news was released that Hawthorne's The Scarlet Letter is being adapted into a teen comedy called Easy A starring Emma Stone as a
high school student who pretends to be the school slut, hoping to benefit from the publicity. Which is sort of, but actually not really at all, like the ordeal endured by Hawthorne’s heroine, Nester Prynne. (Empire Movie News; Nester is their typo, or maybe the artistic license of the screenwriters?)
Sounds terrible, but other literary classics have inspired a few good movies in that genre, if you're the kind of person who thinks any teen movie could be good. Clueless drew on Austen's Emma, Ten Things I Hate about You was a re-working of Taming of the Shrew, and She's All That was based on Pygmalion. So who knows? Easy A is shooting now.

This morning I caught a story about summer movies, and one called Fireflies in the Garden starring Julia Roberts and Willem Dafoe, named after the Robert Frost poem. Some articles describe the movie, about a dysfunctional family dealing with unexpected tragedy, as being based on or an adaptation of the poem. The Internet Movie Database even gives Frost a writing credit. Here's the 1928 poem in its entirety.
Here come real stars to fill the upper skies,
And here on earth come emulating flies,
That though they never equal stars in size,
(And they were never really stars at heart)
Achieve at times a very star-like start.
Only, of course, they can't sustain the part.
Hard to hang a 2-hour film on that, but it's an evocative jumping-off point. Fireflies in the Garden is scheduled to be released in the U.S. on June 26.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Andover Bookstore tonight and a review in the Gloucester Daily Times

Last night's talk at Cornerstone in Salem went well—thanks to everyone who came out. Lots of good questions and ideas to add to my "updates for the next edition" list.

Tonight I'll be at the Andover Bookstore at 7 pm. I'm brushing up on my dates and timeline for Harriet Beecher Stowe and the Elizabeth Stuart Phelpses, all of whom lived within walking distance of where the bookshop is now.

And, there's also a review in today's Gloucester Daily Times. It points out that I overlooked T. S. Eliot, who spent summers in Gloucester and wrote about it in his Four Quartets. I've been meaning to write a post about Eliot and a few other "missed" authors here. He, like Sylvia Plath, spent time on the North Shore and included some landmarks in their work. (In The Bell Jar, Esther swims out to Lynn's Egg Rock in one scene.)

I have no bulletproof logic for why someone like Lydia Pinkham—a patent medicine marketer—made it into the book and some of our country's most prominent poets didn't; just that I was looking for more of the lesser known, people who deserve to be rediscovered, people for whom buildings and streets are named but whose contributions are forgotten, and quite simply, stories that piqued my interest.

There's a lot that can be added to my literary trail, and the more I dig into the each of these authors and their towns the more little tidbits I uncover. If only books didn't have drop-dead printing dates!

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Tomorrow: Cornerstone Books in Salem

See you in Salem tomorrow? Details here.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Rebecca and Ed Emberley

School Library Journal has a cute interview with father-and-daughter illustrators and children's book authors Ed (an Ipswich native) and Rebecca Emberley (now living in Maine) about their latest book, and first collaboration, Chicken Little.

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Burton and Sargent events on May 1

From the Gloucester Daily Times

Celebrating Burton

The Cape Ann Museum will present "The Art and Legacy of Virginia Lee Burton," a lecture by Elleman, this Saturday at 3 p.m. Elleman will talk about the artistry and power of Burton's illustrations, looking at specific images that demonstrate why her books were so popular when they were published and why they continue to be acclaimed today. She will also draw parallels between Burton's picture books and her Folly Cove Designs. Elleman is a writer, critic, educator and editor.

A published author, Elleman wrote "Tomie dePaola, His Art and His Stories" (Putnam, 1999); "Holiday House: Its First 65 Years" (Holiday House, 2000); and "Virginia Lee Burton: A Life in Art" (Houghton, 2002).

Admission is free for museum members and $10 for non-members. Please call 978-283-0455, x11 to make a reservation. The museum, 27 Pleasant St. in Gloucester, offers free admission on Saturdays from 10 a.m. to noon through the end of May. For details, call 978-283-0455.

Sargent Museum to host birthday party

The Sargent House Museum will host an evening birthday celebration tomorrow at 7 for Judith Sargent Murray, a Gloucester native and 18th century writer and early advocate of women's equality. Murray, born in 1751, would be 258 years old if she were alive today. The celebration will feature a keynote address by Roz Barnett, an author and researcher on women's work and family lives. There will be a cake and champagne celebration and a short dramatic reading of a selection from Murray's life-long collection of letters. Gloucester Mayor Carolyn Kirk recently declared May 1, 2009, "Judith Sargent Murray Day" in honor of this pioneering American woman writer and thinker.

Call (978)281-2432 for information or tickets.

On Saturday, the museum will offer free admission to visitors who bring birthday cards for Judith Sargent Murray. The organizers encourage families to bring daughters and others to the museum to help celebrate Sargent Murray's birthday.

Barnett is a senior scientist at the Women's Studies Research Center at Brandeis University and executive director of its Community, Families & Work Program.

The Rev. Sarah Clark, a Unitarian Universalist minister and Rockport native who has an extensive background in theater arts, will present the dramatic reading of Sargent Murray's letters in the museum.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Bonnie Hurd Smith on Judith Sargent Murray

Manchester Public Library
Friday, May 1, 11 am
Local author Bonnie Hurd Smith will discuss her book “Judith Sargent and John Murray, an Eighteenth-century Love Story,” which chronicles the poignant love story between Judith Sargent Stevens Murray, America’s most prominent female essayist of the 18th century, and the Rev. John Murray, the founder of organized Universalism in America, told through Judith Sargent Murray’s private letters, many never before published.

I worked with Bonnie a few years ago when she organized and wrote much of the content for the Escapes North site, part of which is what morphed into the Literary Trail. She's been researching Judith Sargent Murray for years and transcribing her copious journals. This should be an interesting talk, and you can say you knew all about the Murray's love story before Hollywood options the movie rights.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Newburyport Literary Festival—tomorrow!

Thursday's event at the Spirit of '76 was just lovely. Turns out I wasn't speaking, but was just there to meet and say hi to the throngs of people who came in to buy the book—all six of them, including one who I didn't already know. No one is busting down doors to meet lil' ol' me yet, but I was pleased.

But, TOMORROW, I'm speaking at the Book Rack in Newburyport at 10 am as part of the Newburyport Literary Festival.

Also looking forward to Bethany Groff and Beth Welch's talk about Newbury/Newburyport history (1 pm, Old South Church) and Eve Laplante reading from Salem Witch Judge: The Life and Repentance of Samuel Sewall (2:30 pm, Jabberwocky).

Jones Very, the band

This is really a post about punk rock, but did you know that after Articles of Faith broke up, Vic Bondi taught history at UMass and had a band called Jones Very, after the mystic poet from Salem who thought he was the second coming of Christ?

Jones Very the political punk band released some records on Hawker/Roadrunner and Jade Tree (same Jade Tree as Jets to Brazil and Joan of Arc and all that Tim Kinsella stuff). You can get the Words and Days LP from this guy for $6. This blogger (who is almost incomprehensible even though I recognize the proper nouns in the post) says it has:
a lot of late Hüsker Dü and Mission Of Burma influences. The calmer songs really anticipate a style that will become famous for Sub Pop, Chicago bands, Caulfield etc.
Huh! Sounds good to me.

We just tracked down the grave of the 19th-century Jones Very in Peabody a couple of weekends ago. Some photos from that outing coming soon.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Updike 2.0

"By the time a partnership dissolves, it has dissolved."

"Inspiration arrives as a packet of material to be delivered."

Can't get enough mid-century masculine angst and out-of-context offhand wisdom? For just 99 cents, you can download an app that streams random John Updike quotes to your iPhone.

The vendor claims it offers the "best John Updike quotes application in the store." I would hope so. If there are competing Updike iPhone applications I'd prefer not to know about it.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

book talk at the Spirit of '76 in Marblehead tomorrow

My first book talk! I'll be speaking briefly and signing copies of the book at 6:30 tomorrow evening at the Spirit of '76 in Marblehead. Please come by and ask me some questions.

(Scroll down on their events page—my friend Kate is speaking in June about her soon-to-be published debut novel, The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane. I'm pretty excited about the NSLT, but she's hitting the stores with an audiobook already recorded. Very cool.)

RIP Jonathan Bayliss

With a literary ambition that rivaled James Joyce or David Foster Wallace, Jonathan Bayliss of Gloucester took on the big book, not once, but four times.

The first three of his quartet of novels about Gloucester add up to more than 2,300 pages, and he was putting the finishing touches on the fourth in recent months. That page count, however, may substantially exceed the number of readers who have attempted, let alone finished, his books of unconventional fiction.

The Boston Globe has a long obituary. Bayliss's Gloucester tetralogy can be found here—interesting to dip into, but a daunting task to think of tackling end to end.

Robert Frost Foundation poetry contest winners

The adult and youth winners of the Eagle-Tribune/Robert Frost Foundation poetry contest were recently announced.

Getting ready for upcoming talks, I've been looking for strong passages by North Shore writers that are very much about North Shore places, and not having luck finding exactly what I have in mind. The poetry contest's theme was "ideal retreats," and it was nice to see that a few winning poems conjured specific locations, not just idealized nature: Streeter Pond (Franconia, NH), Ward Reservation (Andover), Salisbury Beach.

Miscellaneous trivia, Streeter Pond is mentioned in the 1889 story by Annie Trumbull Slosson, "Fishin' Jimmy" which is the name of one of my favorite sections of White Mountain hiking trails.

Friday, April 17, 2009

The 185-year-old mill girl

Lucy Larcom died 117 years ago today, and Mass Moments has a great summary of her life and work. She's still often referred to as a Lowell mill girl, and her descriptions of replacing bobbins on massive machines as an 11-year-old are important social history. But in her memoir A New England Girlhood, I'm more drawn to her deep nostalgia for her earliest years in Beverly.
But there is something in the place where we were born that holds us always by the heartstrings. A town that still has a great deal of the country in it, one that is rich in beautiful scenery and ancestral associations, is almost like a living being, with a body and a soul. We speak of such a town, if our birthplace, as of a mother, and think of ourselves as her sons and daughters.
Her chapter on Old New England is worth a read for any visitor to Salem, to temper the manufactured Witch City with the history of its having been a hub of 19th century foreign trade.

That's Lucy on the cover of The North Shore Literary Trail, too.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Essex County poets

In a nod to National Poetry Month, Jim McAllister's recent column for the Salem News touches on many of the well-known poets who lived and worked in Essex County: Bradstreet, Larcom, Whittier, etc. But the poet who gets the most mention is someone whose name you don't expect to see alongside Olson and Updike: George Parker, of Parker Brothers board game fame. Who knew?

Read the article (and a charmingly baffling comment afterward, par for the course with the Salem News web community) online here.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Polis Is This on YouTube

If you missed the WGBH broadcast last week like I did, Polis Is This is available in its entirety on YouTube.

Friday, April 3, 2009

Polis Is This on WGBH

Via GoodMorningGloucester (a blog that is very friendly to my other major pursuit in life), WGBH will be screening Henry Ferrini and Ken Riaf's film Polis Is This: Charles Olson and the Persistence of Place on Sunday, April 5 at 7 pm. reviewed the film today.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Pinsky reading Bradstreet

Robert Pinsky reads Anne Bradstreet's "To My Dear and Loving Husband" at Poetry Out Loud. He writes, "This kind of plainness and directness demand great skill, and Bradstreet knows what she is doing."

More recitations every day throughout April, in honor of National Poetry Month.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Ipswich Poets or Poems about Ipswich

April is National Poetry Month, and as part of Ipswich's 375 anniversary celebration historian Chris Wright reads and discusses Ipswich poets.

Monday, April 6, 2009 at noon, $5
Ipswich Historical Society, Heard House Museum
54 South Main Street, Ipswich, 978-356-2811

(It was also 45 years ago today that Updike was elected to the National Institute of Arts and Letters.)

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Newburyport Literary Festival

It's confirmed—my first ever book event will be at the Newburyport Literary Festival. I'll be speaking at the Book Rack on State Street on Saturday, April 25, at 10 am. Check me out on the festival's Authors et al. page, where my bio pales in comparison to everyone else's. I could stand a few more notches in my "real writer" belt, but I'm sure I can take on any of them in roller derby.

Friday, March 20, 2009

It's printed!

Just received my copies of The North Shore Literary Trail today and they look fantastic. It's available for pre-order on Amazon (to be released March 30) and I'll have Paypal ordering info posted here soon. Yay! I need to re-read it myself to refresh my brain...

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Charlotte Forten: On this day... 1855, Charlotte Forten passed the entrance examination for the Salem Normal School, one of four colleges recently established in Massachusetts to train teachers. She was the school's first black student. Eighteen months later, she would be its first black graduate.

Read on at Mass Moments, which features a Massachusetts-related bite sized history lesson every day.

Friday, March 13, 2009

March 14-15: Judith Sargent Murray symposium

From the Gloucester Daily Times. Lots of background here.

On March 14 and 15, Sargent House Museum will host a weekend-long symposium on Judith Sargent Murray, noted 18th century philosopher, writer and early advocate of women's equality. On Saturday, March 14, 3 p.m., at the Sawyer Free Library, noted scholars Therese Dykeman, Sharon Harris and Sheila Skemp will explore such questions as: Who was Judith Sargent Murray? What did freedom and justice mean to her? Why does her work resonate with us today? The event is free and open to the public. On Sunday, March 15, 2 p.m., in the Kyrouz Auditorium, City Hall, author Sheila Skemp will present a lecture on her new biography, "First Lady of Letters: Judith Sargent Murray and the Struggle for Female Independence." Signed copies of her book will be available for purchase. Admission is $15 per person, $5 for students with a valid ID. All proceeds benefit the Sargent House Museum.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Newly published Kerouac novel on the horizon

HarperCollins recently announced that they'll be publishing Jack Kerouac's "lost" 1942 novel, The Sea is My Brother. (Penguin published the Kerouac and William Burroughs collaboration And the Hippos Were Boiled in Their Tanks for the first time in 2008.) It is about, in Kerouac's words, "man's simple revolt from society as it is, with the inequalities, frustration, and self-inflicted agonies." Oh, right, That Guy.

Jessa Crispin of Bookslut writes, with no little sarcasm, "If it's taken this long to publish Kerouac's first book, you know it has to be good." I have to agree with the skepticism, but then I've always been put off by the amount of uncritical adoration Kerouac gets from some corners. Looking forward to Jack Kerouac: The Annotated Shopping Lists.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Charles Olson reads

Still frequently discussed by the internet literati, Charles Olson tidbits turn up on blogs and websites often. Since I have yet to do more than casually dip into his massive body of work, here are a few YouTube clips of Olson and others reading his work that have turned up recently.

As a teenager, I went to many an open mic night at the coffee shop downtown and loved the Nuyorican poets, but most of the time the slam poetry cadence sounds like a silly affectation to me now—easy to parody, hard to make it feel like it is The Right Way to perform a piece. It's nice to hear a poet read his work without feeling shouted at, or jerked along from comma to comma waiting for the punchline to drop.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Those Telling Lines: The Art of Virginia Lee Burton

The excellent Eric Carle Museum of Picture Book Art in Amherst, MA, is featuring an exhibition on the art and design of Gloucester's Virginia Lee Burton this March 24–June 21, 2009. It includes not just her picture book art, but also designs she produced with the Folly Cove Artists.

The Carle Museum is a really nice, bite-sized museum—not surprisingly it's super kid friendly, but the child-free won't feel weird or talked down to.

Related events include a talk by the composer of the recent Katy and the Big Snow symphony and a screening of the performance. Not that I want to think about any more Big Snows this year.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Poetry workshop with Rhina Espaillat today

Newburyport poet Rhina Espaillat—founder of the Powow River Poets and winner of the 1998 T. S. Eliot prize for her volume Where Horizons Go—leads a free poetry workshop tonight at the Hamilton-Wenham Public Library.

Wednesday, March 4, 7-9 pm
14 Union Street
South Hamilton, MA 01982
978-468-5577 (pre-registration is required)

March 8 is John Updike Day

March 8, 2009 was unanimously declared John Updike Day in Ipswich, the writer's home for more than 20 years before moving to Beverly Farms in 1982.
On Sunday, March 8 at 2 p.m. at the Ipswich Performing Arts Center, Ipswich students and residents will present a dramatic reading of John Updike's pageant, "Three Texts from Early Ipswich."

Written in 1968 for that year's 17th Century Day, Updike's work draws upon the work of Ipswich historians Thomas Franklin Waters and Joseph B. Felt and the early literary works of residents Nathaniel Ward and Anne Bradstreet.
More talks, a remembrance of Updike, and a patriotic sing-along are all also on the bill in what is the first of several events celebrating of Ipswich's 375th anniversary. Tickets are available at

PS: Did you know that ABC is developing a pilot based on the Witches of Eastwick?

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Word of the day: resistentialism

Essayist Gail Hamilton (née Mary Abigail Dodge, 1833–1896) is largely unknown today and has probably never come up before in my RSS feeds for news about North Shore authors. So I was surprised to see her referenced in a recent post on Words, Words, Words (and Phrases) about the word resistentialism.
Resistentialism is a jocular theory in which inanimate objects display hostile desires towards human beings. —Wikipedia

Unfortunately, as far as I can tell Hamilton only used "the total depravity of inanimate things" as an epigram (I can only find it as a Wikiquote, no mention of what book) after reading the essay of the same name by Katherine Kent Child Walker in the September 1864 issue of the Atlantic Monthly. Walker writes:
I believe in the total depravity of inanimate things... the elusiveness of soap, the knottiness of strings, the transitory nature of buttons, the inclination of suspenders to twist and of hooks to forsake their lawful eyes, and cleave only unto the hairs of their hapless owner's head.
L. M. Montgomery uses the phrase again fifty years later in Anne of the Island from 1915.
"It is when my umbrella turns inside out that I am convinced of the total depravity of inanimate things," she said gaily.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Lunch break reading: Nathaniel Hawthorne

Another gothic short story, this week by Nathaniel Hawthorne. Rappaccini's Daughter (full text on a single page) was written in 1844 when the Hawthorne family was living in Concord. It was published in the 1846 volume Mosses from an Old Manse.

A mad botanist, his poisonous hothouse flower of a daughter, and her smitten suitor do battle in this tale set in Padua, Italy, in some distant past. As he wrote in the preface to his 1860 novel The Marble Faun, also set in Italy, "actualities would not be so insisted on, as they are, and must needs be, in America." The romantic and only somewhat authentic setting freed him from the confines of realism.

For similar themes, try the political drama The Mudra-Rakshasa (The Minister's Signet) by ninth-century Indian poet Vishakadatta or the 1622 philosophical text The Anatomy of Melancholy by Robert Burton. Poet Octavio Paz translated Hawthorne's story as La Hija de Rappaccini in his only play, first produced in 1956; Mexican composer Daniel Catán transformed Paz's work into an opera in 1994.

Less highbrow homages include the recent Marvel Comics villian Monica Rappaccini, who studied biochemistry at the University of Padua before becoming an environmental terrorist who uses her own poison-suffused daughter as a biological weapon. Monica first appeared in a 2005 issue of Amazing Fantasy.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Elaine Showalter's "A Jury of Her Peers"

A few North Shore literary figures show up in Elaine Showalter's recent history of American women of letters, A Jury of Her Peers: American Women Writers from Anne Bradstreet to Annie Proulx.

This L.A. Times review by Susan Salter Reynolds mentions Bradstreet:
"The Tenth Muse Lately Sprung Up in America" is a collection of poems describing the difficulties and joys of being a settler, wife and mother. It was published in London and required no fewer than 11 testimonials by male friends, family and critics to convince the publisher that it was indeed written by a woman and worthy of publication.
Harriet Beecher Stowe is quoted:
Nothing but deadly determination enables me to ever write—it is rowing against wind and tide.
As is Nathaniel Hawthorne (whose least flattering anecdotes make him sound like a prickly chauvinist):
Ink-stained women are, without a single exception, detestable.
The book comes out in late February. Looking forward to it.

Friday, February 13, 2009

“Dearest Dove: The Courtship of Nathaniel and Sophia Hawthorne”

Literary lovers can celebrate Valentine's Day at the House of the Seven Gables with theater, a cappella, and a string quartet. Marblehead's Anne Lucas performs her specially commissioned piece, “Dearest Dove: The Courtship of Nathaniel and Sophia Hawthorne,” based on the couple's love letters. A cappella group The Noteworthies from St. Andrew’s Episcopal Church and Salem High School's string ensemble The Quintessential Quartet follow.

Saturday, February 14, 5-7 pm
House of the Seven Gables, Derby Street, Salem
Tickets $15 members, $20 nonmembers
Call Heidi Webb at 978-744-0991, ext. 104, for tickets.
More details at the Salem Gazette's event calendar

Sophia's portrait from the House of the Seven Gables.
Nathaniel's portrait from the Peabody Essex Museum.

Powow River Poets moving to Jabberwocky

Not even published and already the book needs an update... The Newburyport Daily News reports that the Powow River Poets are moving from Wednesday nights at the Newburyport Art Association to Saturday mornings at the Jabberwocky Bookshop.
The readings will go from monthly to bimonthly at Jabberwocky, with the first one planned for Saturday, March 14, at 3 p.m. and featuring a national magazine editor as one of the readers.

But before that, the Powow River Poets say goodbye to the art association with the help of featured readers Jennifer Rose and David Davis on Wednesday, Feb. 18. The reading starts at 7:30 p.m. in the art association's galleries at 65 Water St. in downtown Newburyport.
More info about the February 18 reading at the Newburyport Art Association. No info about the March 14 reading yet at Jabberwocky's site.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Katherine Howe on BBC World Service

Marblehead's Katherine Howe, author of the forthcoming The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane (as well as frequent dinner companion and excellent party hostess), discussed Salem witchcraft on BBC's The Strand yesterday.

From an advance reviewer's appraisal of the book, which will be published by Hyperion imprint Voice in June 2009:
Connie Goodwin, a PhD candidate at Harvard, has her dissertation research derailed by an odd request from her eccentric mother. At her mother’s behest she spends the summer in Marblehead, Mass., attempting to resuscitate her grandmother’s vacant home into salable condition. In doing so she uncovers a new line of inquiry into a dark chapter of the colony’s history, the hysteria which produced the Salem witch trials. An antique key leads her on a path of discovery, unlocking the secrets of the true nature of witchcraft, which may not have been eradicated by the trials after all. In the first chapter Connie survives her own trial by fire: her oral exam for admittance to the PhD program. By the book’s end she faces another sort of trial, and her acceptance into an even more exclusive apprenticeship depends upon her survival. As Howe’s proxy discovers more about the mysterious practice of witchcraft it becomes apparent that Howe knows a thing or two about the practice of wordcraft.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Updike remembered and re-evaluated

Since John Updike's death on January 27, tributes and reflections have come from every corner. Garrison Keillor in Salon muses,
The giants fall and we leave them behind but who is left to bless us? Nobody. As long as John was in the world, you could imagine him calling up one morning and saying, "That was good. I liked that." And now the phone is dead.
The L.A. Times looks back on Updike's divisive literary reputation. (And quotes Salman Rushdie: "He should stay in his parochial neighborhood and write about wife-swapping, because it's what he can do.")

Gawker, in typical fashion, followed up a brief and straightforward obit with juicier gossip, excerpts from author Roger Warner's recap of the funeral and the ex-lovers in attendance.
In Essex County, MA, some women in their 70s pretend they weren’t part of the Couples scene, while others who weren’t part of it wished they had been, because their lives have been so uneventful.
(My favorite part of Warner's article is the generalizing about the North Shore that follows in the comments. And the grammar lesson hidden in this insight: "He sure wrote good books but it’s sad how he runt his marriage." Runt, pronounced roont, the past tense of ruin.)

Even my hometown newspaper, The Morning Call, where high school football scores and crotchety "get off my lawn" editorials weigh heavier than cultural matters, gets in on the action. Now that both writers are gone, they've started the debate on who captured regional Pennsylvania more accurately, Updike, who fictionalized his native Reading and Shillington, or John O'Hara, who set some of his work in Pottsville and Schuylkill County. As of Tuesday, the reader's poll had Updike winning the authenticity race at 75% of a whopping 4 votes.

Updike was on the Charlie Rose show about thirty-eight times, if YouTube's collection is any evidence. Here's a two-minute clip from a 1997 show where Updike talks about killing off his canonical character, Rabbit Angstrom, in the final book of the Rabbit series, 1996's Rabbit at Rest.

There are a number of other clips on the Charlie Rose site.

Rose has dedicated two episodes to appreciations of Updike's life and work since he died. Sam Tanenhaus, David Remnick, and Judith Jones appeared on January 29. And Adam Gopnik (author of Paris to the Moon, among others) appeared on Feburary 4.

If you haven't read any of Updike's work (and honestly—I'm in my early 30s, not many of my peers have read him if he wasn't on a syllabus), Amazon has used copies of most of his novels, or try Bookmooch if you want to trade in your O'Hara for the Rabbit tetralogy.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

William Lloyd Garrison cabinet photo

In the market for William Lloyd Garrison's autograph? Lot 209 at Live Auctioneers is a 1867 cabinet photo of the Newburyport abolitionist. Starting bid is $150—the hammer drops at 10 am on February 28.

Lunch break reading: Harriet Prescott Spofford

The Moonstone Mass (PDF) by Harriet Prescott Spofford, via Horror Masters (a definite nod to Spofford's reputation as a master of the gothic and the ghost story).

Originally published in Harper's Magazine in October 1868, "The Moonstone Mass" is the tale of a man who sets sail for the Northwest Passage but is shipwrecked on the Arctic ice. A miserly uncle, a waiting fiancée, and cache of jewels are among the cast of characters. The story is also in the 1989 collection The Amber Gods and Other Stories, edited by Alfred Bendixen.

The story was written at the same time that artists and explorers were beginning to bring tales of the Arctic back to eager audiences. The chill of Spofford's story goes well with To the Ends of the Earth, Painting the Polar Landscape, on view until March 1 at Salem's Peabody Essex Museum. Spofford may have been influenced by some of these very views as she imagined the icy landscape in which her protagonist is stranded.

Aurora Borealis, 1865, Frederic Edwin Church, 56 x 83½ inches, oil on canvas,
Smithsonian American Art Museum, gift of Eleanor Blodgett

Monday, February 9, 2009

Podcast: The Garden of Last Days

From last summer, here's a 25-minute podcast of Andre Dubus III reading from and discussing The Garden of Last Daysat Denver's The Tattered Cover bookstore.
(Photo by Christine McGarry)

Friday, February 6, 2009

Ashely Bowen tabletop design

Phyllis Tracy and Susan Newberg, proprietors of the decoupage-plate-making studio NEptune-1, debut a series of ceramics decorated with images by 18th-century Marblehead seafarer Ashely Bowen, the first American sailor to write an autobiography.

The Seagull Gift Shop will be the first space to introduce the Ashley Bowen journal series of images taken from Bowen’s sketches made in pen and colored ink. Bowen sketched the first image of Marblehead Harbor, according to Tracy and Newberg, who plan to incorporate Bowen’s scripture on the glass plates.

“His illustrations are beautiful, but are sitting in the Museum’s archives,” says Tracy. “They [the Museum] can’t have people touching and feeling them, or they’ll disintegrate.”

The Seagull is hosting an open house on Sunday, February 8, from 4 to 7 pm.

Read more about NEptune-1 (the name is taken from Marblehead's old telephone exchange) and their Jeremiah Lee Mansion series at the Milford Daily News.

Read more about Ashely Bowen in his recently published journals, edited by Daniel Vickers.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Art and antiques at the Beverly Farms Branch Library

Photographer (and occasional colleague) Glenn Scott and mixed-media artist Sheila Boss-Concannon have work on display at the Conrad Lecture Hall on the lower level of the Beverly Farms Branch Library.

While you're there, check out Oliver Wendell Holmes Sr.'s roll-top desk and chair, upstairs in the library's original wing. The Holmes family had a summer home nearby at 868 Hale Street, pictured here in a photograph from the Beverly Postcard Collection, and the poet's son, the famed Supreme Court Justice, donated the desk in his father's honor.

The summer home of Dr. Oliver Wendell Holmes, and Associate Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr., 868 Hale Street, Beverly Farms. Mocking Manchester residents who referred to their town as "Manchester-by-the-Sea," Holmes had his stationary printed with the return address "Beverly-by-the-Depot." The home is now privately owned.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

RIP John Updike

New York Times obit. I'm sure there will be many more.

Surely all of the big name papers will be respectful in their analysis of Updike's oeuvre (I wonder how many of the obits were pre-written and published without additional flourish?), so for counterpoint, here's the late David Foster Wallace's scathing 1997 takedown of Updike, from his essay collection Consider the Lobster: And Other Essays.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

"Now 76, John Updike likes writing too much to retire"

"Maybe each novel might be the last — but no, I’m not quite ready yet. There’s still the illusion that I’m still learning this curious trade, for which there’s very little coherent instruction."
The Buffalo News profiles John Updike, with a focus on the 2008 novel The Witches of Eastwick.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Katy and the Big Snow set to music

The Cape Ann Symphony's musical retelling of Gloucester children's author Virginia Lee Burton's Katy and the Big Snowcommemorates Burton's centennial year, and this winter's weather is certainly cooperating with the theme.

The Gloucester Lyceum presents a talk about the process of transforming the picture book into a musical piece on Thursday, January 15, at the Sawyer Free Library. The library also owns much of the original artwork for Katy and other books by Burton.

The performance itself—presented by local composer Robert J. Bradshaw—is scheduled for Saturday, January 24, at 2 pm, Gloucester's Fuller Auditorium. Details and tickets are available at the Cape Ann Symphony's site.

"North Shore residents black and white paved the way for integration"

As Martin Luther King Jr. Day approaches, the Salem News pays tribute to local abolitionists, including William Lloyd Garrison and Charlotte Forten Grimké—both of whom made their mark on North Shore literature with their essays and reporting.

Essex County Chronicles: North Shore residents black and white paved the way for integration

Thursday, January 8, 2009

"Gloucester's 'Polis' moving forward"

Michael David Rubin reflected on James Cook's recent lecture about Charles Olson's "The Maximus Poems" in yesterday's Gloucester Times.

Gloucester's 'Polis' moving forward
I learned little, Saturday, about Olson or "The Maximus Poems;" However, I saw and heard a community-within-a-community, of people who know and care about poetry; many of whom had met and valued Charles Olson, a large and large-hearted thinker who once dwelt among us. It showed me the diverse, multileveled character of our city, and why I love being a part of this place. Imagine — how wonderful is it? — to have fishermen, and poets, painters, playwrights, craftsmen, and history, architecture, woodlands, and the whole damn ocean: what a place!
The character Maximus embodied Olson's own fear about the encroachment of sameness in Gloucester. Rubin
articulates well his regret that Olson chose poetry—often difficult, hard to parse, sometimes easy to become dated or seem irrelevant—over direct prose... even though some surely disagree with this literary criticism.
My own wish is that he had kept to that strong talent, and committed his deep fears about loss of Gloucester's character — loss of our authentic culture — to the form of direct essays, to convey clearly his great heart and generous convictions. It would have provided for both his talent and his ethical concerns a well-delineated voice, easier to protect from critics' smothering, modernity's homogenizing, or, worse, being ignored by us.