22 December 2011

Kristin Bierfelt: The North Shore Literary Trail (2007)

Kristin Bierfelt's title The North Shore Literary Trail: From Bradstreet's Andover to Hawthorne's Salem only gives the briefest indication of the contents of this fascinating book, and although it only covers a small geographical area, it contains a large number of writers who have lived in this part of Massachusetts.

Over fifty writers are mentioned in eighteen towns or villages, and a number of posts I've made this year relate to graves, statues, houses, etc, discovered solely as a result of reading this book. Not only was I led to features of which I was previously unaware concerning famous writers, but I was also informed of writers of whom I hadn't heard, such as Alonzo Lewis, Vincent Ferrini, Harriet Prescott Spofford, John Marquand, Lucy Larcom, etc.

Although the subject of the book is literature, it's fortunate that the author stretches the term to a large extent at times because I don't know where else I'd have heard of Roger Babson's eccentric boulder carvings in Dogtown near Gloucester (except perhaps in Anita Diamant's novel The Last Days of Dogtown (2005)), or the fact that the The Scaffold's song 'Lily the Pink' alludes to Lynn resident Lydia Estes Pinkham's Vegetable Compound ('Medicinal Compound' in the song): a strongly alcoholic concoction said to have worked wonders for menstrual pains and menopausal problems that sold very well during the Prohibition years.*

This book is a must for anyone traveling in north-east Massachusetts who is even remotely interested in literature.

*There is a Lydia Pinkham Memorial Clinic in Salem, built by Pinkham's daughter in 1922, almost forty years after her mother's death.

No comments: