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Wednesday, January 8, 2020

A Reader Question for the Community: What is your favorite literature that is set in New England?


A reader question for the community:
Nudged by a not-so-recent e-mail advertising QUODDY’S dorm boot (“Good night you princes of Maine, you kings of New England”), I find myself back on the hunt for literature set in New England. Any community favorites would interest me greatly. 
Thank you for my daily dose of NE, 
An addict


54 comments:

  1. Moby Dick, The Scarlet Letter, Little Women

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  2. The Secret History by Donna Tartt and pretty much anything by John Irving

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  3. I can't recommend Nancy Hale's 1963 NEW ENGLAND DISCOVERY anthology highly enough. Long out of print, you can find it from second-hand book dealers like ABE. Even by today's standards, Hale's anthology is a stunning "taster menu" of some of the best New England writing, from the 17th century onward. There is a marvellous excerpt from one author (Marquand, perhaps...?) about "low heeler" Brahmin Boston women and their habits. I can still quote some of it from memory. I found the book in a secondhand bookstore in Shelburn Falls, MA in the late-90s, and it's one of my prized possessions. Well worth checking out.

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  4. Ethan Frome is a classic read, especially on a cold winter's night.

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    1. Your comment hadn't yet posted when I left mine. I agree that it's best read in the winter.

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    2. Just "re-read" during a holiday this past Autumn in the Berkshires. Edith Wharton is really one of the best.

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  5. Emerson’s essays. Hawthorne’s fabulous tales. James’s hilarious The Bostonians.

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  6. There are just SO many! Across all genres...some (fairly) contemporary authors I love: Ann Leary, Dennis Lehane, Elizabeth Strout, J. Courtney Sullivan, Dorothy West, John Cheever, Anita Shreve, Nathaniel Philbrick, Sebastian Junger, Alice Hoffman, John Updike......

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  7. Do not miss reading Crossing To Safety -- a luminous novel by Wallace Stegner, about marriage, enduring friendship, and inevitable loss. Much of the story takes place in Vermont. The title is taken from a poem by Robert Frost.

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  8. I read The Scarlet Letter once a decade.

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  9. Perhaps The New Yorker Stories, by Anne Beattie.

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  10. For coastal Maine, it's Sarah Orne Jewett, in particular The Country of the Pointed Firs.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sarah_Orne_Jewett
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Country_of_the_Pointed_Firs

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  11. The Big House: A Century in the Life of an American Summer Home
    by George Howe Colt

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  12. Northwest Passage, by Kenneth Roberts

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  13. Little Women...still have the copy I inherited from my mom over 30 years ago...she had inherited it from her mom as well!

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  14. I recently discovered the writings of Hal Borlund who retired to a farm in northwestern Connecticut and wrote movingly about the ever-changing seasons there. My all time favorite is Henry Beston's The Outermost House, a chronicle of a year on the Great Beach of Cape Cod. It's worth rereading every few years just to savor the beauty of his prose. I also loved his Northern Farm, an account of rural life near Damariscotta, as well books by his wife, Elizabeth Coatsworh. For a little low brow fun, I have been thoroughly enjoying the recent mysteries by Lea Wait whose amateur sleuth, Angie Curtis, enlivens life in a fishing village in mid-coast Maine.

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  15. What I consider one of the best books of fiction ever written, A Prayer for Owen Meany, by John Irving.

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    1. The #1 on my list as well-love Irving. Also love Stephen King for Maine and Little Women. House of the Seven Gables and The Crucible are fabulous.

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  16. Anything by Sanford Phippen, a truly authentic voice of Maine. People Trying to be Good & The Police Know Everything are short story collections. Kitchen Boy is a memoir. All are readable, entertaining, and will give you a contrasting (although not necessarily contradictory) viewpoint about the coastal Maine that Muffy posts abot.

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  17. Gladys Taber’s Stillmeadow books.
    Louise Dickinson Rich, We Took to the Woods.
    The Coast of Maine.

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    1. Totally forgot Rich. Have two of her books, the other being "My Neck of the Woods." I even met someone who knew her son.

      I've never read a single word of Emily Dickinson, but I visited her house when I had a summer job in Amherst in 1964.

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  18. The Crucible should not be neglected.

    One of the best things I've ever done for myself was to read many of the New England classics -- Walden, Mosses from an Old Manse, House of the Seven Gables, Little Women -- then go visit Concord, Salem and Boston areas. So much history. It really speaks to where we all come from (regardless from where we came) and the radical aspirations of those forging a new republic.

    Aiken

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    1. Truly! I can see the House of Seven Gables from my house and yet only went fairly recently. Not growing up there, I missed it on the school trip circuit.

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  19. 1) Billy Watson's Croker Sack, by Franklin Burroughs - nature writing fron Maine ( and SC); 2) The Rector of Justin, by Louis Auchincloss - Boarding school life during the heyday of Protestantism in the US.

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  20. A Separate Peace. Devon (Exeter); a bike ride to the seacoast; the original New England theme of sin and redemption. Unconsciously, reverentially old school.

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  21. Anyone read Francis Parkinson Keys novels set in New Hampshire, Washington and some in the south.

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  22. Though I'm from Minnesota, these have shaped my understanding of New England outdoorsmen: Grouse Feathers and More Grouse Feathers, hunting stories by Burton Spiller, Lower Forty stories by Corey Ford. More conventionally, I have greatly enjoyed John Cheever as well as A Separate Peace.

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  23. All Kenneth Robert's, but particularly Arundel and Rabble in Arms

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  24. Though I'm from the midwest and not much familiar with New England, two that I have enjoyed and that have shaped by impression of NE sportsmen are the Lower Forty stories by Corey Ford and Grouse Feathers and More Grouse Feathers by Burton Spiller. The best of these stories describe characters that hunters and fishermen should aspire to. And I have enjoyed Cheever and A Separate Peace. Read Scarlet Letter in high school and more much recently saw The Crucible at the Guthrie Theatre in Minneapolis. Fine literature but very dark, I'm glad I don't have to identify with them. I guess I don't really think of Moby Dick as NE lit.

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  25. Has anyone read New Hampshire Neighbors ((1937) and The Heart of New Hampshire (1942) by Cornelius Weygandt? I'm asking, because I've read his books about New Jersey and his memoir. He summered in New Hampshire and these two books are about this. He was a writer of prose that was almost like poetry. Both books are long out of print.

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  26. On the one hand, Robert B. Parker's Spenser, Jesse Stone and Sunny Randall series. On the other, Louise Dickinson Rich's "The Peninsula" and Gerald Warner Brace's "Between Wind and Water". "Country of The Pointed Firs" makes me cry at the tender humanity of it.

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  27. Most anything by John Updike

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  28. Just about anything by Howard Frank Mosher, chronicler of Vermont’s Northeast Kingdom.

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  29. Replies
    1. I never thought I'd see that masterpiece on this blog, but am thrilled!
      - A kindred spirit

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  30. The Wapshot Chronicle, John Cheever's story of Leander Wapshot and his eccentric New England family. Or The Jewels of the Cabots, in my opinion the best (or at least most evocative) short story ever written about New England. I also second John P. Marquand.

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  31. Oh this is terrible but... H. P. Lovecraft!

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  32. I have signed first editions of Arundel, The Lively Lady, Rabble in Arms, Northwest Passage, Lidia Bailey and Oliver Wiswell that had belonged to my grandfather, a friend of Kenneth Roberts. They sat on a bookshelf, unread for decades, until one rainy Sunday I picked up Lidia Baily and couldn't put it down. Subsequently, I made my way through the others, all page turners, and came to appreciate Roberts as one of the finest writers of historical fiction ever to come out of New England. For those unfamiliar with his work, treat yourself someday. Pick any one, and while you're at it, include Marquand's The Late George Apley. If you can, purchase in an actual bookstore while the still exist, for the act of browsing in such an atmosphere I find integral to the pleasure of reading. Lastly, there are many great choices listed in this post; you can't go wrong following the advice of a community of true readers.

    MGC

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    1. When I got married, my father gave my stepson a copy of Oliver Wiswell as a welcome to the family gift.

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  33. I adore posts like this! I'm going to begin re-reading "Little Women." Thanks to everyone for their suggestions.

    Jacqueline

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  34. Donald Hall's poetry and his essays about childhood summers spent on his grandparents' New Hampshire farm.

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  35. Also, Tom Ryan's 'Following Atticus' - New England, nature, and a dog.

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  36. Just a few of many:
    Oliver Wendell Holmes- The Guardian Angel
    Jack Kerouac’s stories from the Duluoz legend about growing up in Lowell:
    Visions of Gerard, Doctor Sax, Maggie Cassidy the ones closest to Lowell
    Currently reading The Flowering of New England 1815-1865-Van Wyck Brooks

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