A Skeptic's Guide to Writers' Housesby Anne Trubek
Pub. Date: 10/04/2010
Publisher: University of Pennsylvania Press, Inc.
There are many ways to show our devotion to an author besides reading his or her works. Graves make for popular pilgrimage sites, but far more popular are writers' house museums. What is it we hope to accomplish by trekking to the home of a dead author? We may go in search of the point of inspiration, eager to stand on the very spot where our favorite literary… See more details below
There are many ways to show our devotion to an author besides reading his or her works. Graves make for popular pilgrimage sites, but far more popular are writers' house museums. What is it we hope to accomplish by trekking to the home of a dead author? We may go in search of the point of inspiration, eager to stand on the very spot where our favorite literary characters first came to life—and find ourselves instead in the house where the author himself was conceived, or where she drew her last breath. Perhaps it is a place through which our writer passed only briefly, or maybe it really was a longtime home—now thoroughly remade as a decorator's show-house.
In A Skeptic's Guide to Writers' Houses Anne Trubek takes a vexed, often funny, and always thoughtful tour of a goodly number of house museums across the nation. In Key West she visits the shamelessly ersatz shrine to a hard-living Ernest Hemingway, while meditating on his lost Cuban farm and the sterile Idaho house in which he committed suicide. In Hannibal, Missouri, she walks the fuzzy line between fact and fiction, as she visits the home of the young Samuel Clemens—and the purported haunts of Tom Sawyer, Becky Thatcher, and Injun' Joe. She hits literary pay-dirt in Concord, Massachusetts, the nineteenth-century mecca that gave home to Hawthorne, Emerson, and Thoreau—and yet could not accommodate a surprisingly complex Louisa May Alcott. She takes us along the trail of residences that Edgar Allan Poe left behind in the wake of his many failures and to the burned-out shell of a California house with which Jack London staked his claim on posterity. In Dayton, Ohio, a charismatic guide brings Paul Laurence Dunbar to compelling life for those few visitors willing to listen; in Cleveland, Trubek finds a moving remembrance of Charles Chesnutt in a house that no longer stands.
Why is it that we visit writers' houses? Although admittedly skeptical about the stories these buildings tell us about their former inhabitants, Anne Trubek carries us along as she falls at least a little bit in love with each stop on her itinerary and finds in each some truth about literature, history, and contemporary America.
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Table of Contents
1 The Irrational Allure of Writers' Houses 1
2 Trying to Find Whitman in Camden 15
3 Never the Twain Shall Meet 27
4 The Concord Pilgrimage 43
5 Hemingway's Breadcrumb Trail 67
6 Not That Tom Wolfe 89
7 Best-Laid Plans at Jack London State Historic Park 103
8 The Compensation of Paul Laurence Dunbar 113
9 Poe Houses and Arrested Decay 125
10 At Home with Charles Chesnutt and Langston Hughes 137
American Writers' Houses Open to the Public 149
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
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Well, the title is surely a warning - a skeptic's guide. The tone of the book is very depressed, very cynical. The American writers are not so much honored as mocked. And we learn more about the people hanging around the homes than the famous writer who lived there. Do we need to emphasize that Poe was poor, that Hemingway was restless, that Emerson was generous, that Alcott liked privacy? Nope. So nothing new added, just a long, drawn out critique of the people who lead tours of the houses and try to maintain them. After being so nasty about the houses, and questioning why anyone goes there, why then offer a list of famous American writer homes at the end, as if to say, hey, it's not something I enjoyed, but here's some places to be miserable too. So I'm not sure why this book was written or published, it fails big time to really help the reader. Don't bother with it, just use other sources and the Internet to research writer's homes.