Monday, August 24th, 2009
Here in Scituate, MA we are staying at our friends' Deedee and Paul's beautiful house -- they are vacationing in Maine this week and lent us their place. This is the best way to travel, I think -- for cheapskate-related reasons and personal comfort, I would much rather be in a house and making our own meals...
In addition to having a lovely house, Deedee and Paul have a great library, full of books that I'm not expecting -- I did not bring along any reading material for the week, just browsing through their shelves. Two wonderful finds so far: Brooklyn Is: Southwest of the Island, by James Agee; and In the American Grain by W.C. Williams.
Brooklyn Is is an essay about the borough that Agee wrote for Fortune magazine in 1939 -- they would not publish it and it was not printed until 1968. I love the descriptions of physical Brooklyn -- I can recognize much of it 70 years on -- and there are some hilarious notes about the people Agee meets in different neighborhoods. I'm reading Fordham U. Press's edition of the essay from 2005, which has a worthwhile introduction by Jonathan Lethem.
In the American Grain is completely unexpected -- I do not really know much of anything about Williams besides some of his poetry, he was apparently also a deeply perceptive amateur historian. This book (published in 1925) consists of short prose pieces that examine figures in American history and the history of European colonization of the Americas -- in his foreword Williams says he has "sought to re-name the things seen, now lost in chaos of borrowed titles, many of them inappropriate, under which the true character lies hid." Some fantastic prose -- it presupposes familiarity with some source texts which I am lacking -- making me wish he had included a bibliography!