Saturday, February 25, 2006


Homeward Hardbound

Over at the Guardian, Jay Parini muses over his visits to the houses of long-departed writers:

As a biographer of Robert Frost, I made a point of visiting his many houses. Several summers in a row I lived for a period at the Homer Nobel Farm in Ripton, Vermont - Frost's main residence from 1938 until his death in 1963. I loved soaking in the claw-footed tub in that old farmhouse, and could easily imagine Frost in the same bath, listening to the wind in the bushy hemlocks outside the bathroom window. Once, while sitting on the porch with my youngest son in early evening, a couple from New Jersey wandered up to the steps. "Wasn't this the home of a famous writer?" asked the woman. "Yes," said my seven-year-old son, "Stephen King used to live here."
Although the article doesn't mention it, there's a small but longstanding genre of such accounts. It begins at least back in the 1850s with Homes of American Authors:

The idea (and material) was borrowed in the 1890s with Elbert Hubbard's anthology Little Journeys to the Homes of Great American Authors. (Hubbard had a whole series of such Little Journeys books for artists, musicians, etc. They seem to have been popular -- they turn up all the time in used bookstore stacks). I haven't read it yet, but more recently J.D. McClatchy's American Writers at Home revisited the genre.

Hmm. When, I wonder, will the NY Times Magazine issue its Domains column in book form?

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