Time and the Town: A Provincetown Chronicle

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Time and the Town was the last of Mary Heaton Vorse's books. It is about many things--a town and its people, the author, a certain kind of idyllic life. As much as anything else, it is the biography of the house Vorse bought in 1907 and lived in, off and on, for the next thirty-six years. The moods of the house mirrored her own. "Our houses," she wrote, "are our biographies, the stories of our defeats and victories."

Tinged with nostalgia and disenchantment, the book describes a Provincetown that has changed, a place on the verge of modernity. It is no longer a major fishing port. It has become a place whose business is tourism. Contrasting the old and the new, Vorse celebrates the enduring character of the town itself. She tells stories that are engaging and charming, droll and fabulous. The wrinkled Mrs. Mary Mooncusser who, though drunk and stark naked, conducts herself with great decorum when Vorse pays her a call, might have stepped out of the pages of Sherwood Anderson or Eudora Welty. In another anecdote, the townspeople scour the beaches for cases of booze dumped into the sea by rumrunners and are briefly inflated with the spirit of ancestral smugglers and buccaneers.

Vorse herself remained something of an outsider in Provincetown, despite her evident affection for the place and its inhabitants. They surely regarded her as simply another of those artist-intellectuals--many of whom appear in the pages of this book. The "off-Cape" outsiders put the town in the national limelight but took no interest in local matters. Vorse here ponders local matters exclusively, almost, one suspects, as a way of forgetting the more complex matters that occupied her--her agonies of parental guilt, her resentment of domestic obligations, her third marriage, her depressions and breakdowns. The town is in that sense beyond time.

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Product Details

Table of Contents

Foreword 1
Part I Age of Innocence [1907-1911]
I. Provincetown 9
II. The Cook Saga 15
III. Kibbe Cook's House 28
IV. Age of Innocence 35
V. Old Customs and New 45
VI. The Coast Guard 52
VII. History 62
Part II The Onion [1912-1916]
VIII. The Onion 74
IX. Provincetown Houses 87
X. Our House Grows 94
XI. Clan Avellar 104
XII. Old Wharves 110
XIII. The Provincetown Players 116
Part III Wartime [1917-1921]
XIV. Wartime in Provincetown 127
XV. Other Ports and Other Harbors 138
XVI. Provincetown Harbor 147
XVII. Postwar Years 154
XVIII. The Portuguese of Provincetown 160
XIX. The Fresh Fishermen 167
XX. Great Fishing Captains 175
Part IV Days of the Locust [1922-1926]
XXI. Days of the Locust 182
XXII. The Back Country 189
XXIII. The Two Theaters 197
XXIV. The Painters of Provincetown 204
XXV. Unsettled Days 213
XXVI. Tired to Death 219
Part V Depression [1927-1931]
XXVII. The S-4 226
XXVIII. Eating the Arequipa 235
XXIX. Dragging the Weirs 242
XXX. The Firebug 249
XXXI. Likker Ashore 263
XXXII. More Likker Ashore 272
XXXIII. The Eclipse 281
Part VI New Deal [1932-1936]
XXXIV. Bank Holiday and Relief in Provincetown 286
XXXV. The Changed Town 293
XXXVI. How to Get to Provincetown 300
XXXVII. The Changed Neighborhood 304
XXXVIII. Beam Trawlers and Dorymen 311
XXXIX. Wonders of the Deep 317
XL. The Outside Shore 324
Part VII A World Ends [1937-1941]
XLI. The Hurricane 329
XLII. A Provincetown Winter 336
XLIII. Fish on Shore 343
XLIV. The Beach, Garbage and Cesspools 351
XLV. Summer Folk 358
XLVI. A World Ends 366
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