Friday, February 02, 2007
Touching Down Near American Bloomsbury
I'm in Boston and Cambridge this weekend. As some of you know, I like to tailor my reading to my location when I travel. So for this trip I brought along Susan Cheever's American Bloomsbury - Louisa May Alcott, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Margaret Fuller, Nathaniel Hawthorne, and Henry David Thoreau: Their Lives, Their Loves, Their Work. I made a good start on it on the airplane, and it's proving to be every bit as ambitious a group biography as that voluminous subtitle would lead you to expect.
I already knew about the Concord connection between Alcott, Emerson, and Thoreau. But it was something of a surprise to me to see Nathaniel Hawthorne and Edgar Allen Poe listed among their friends and contemporaries. I'm afraid that I'm not very well versed in American literature. I know a lot about some U.S. authors and nothing at all about many, many others. I have no sense of the overall sweep of history and was under the impression that Hawthorne and Poe were from an earlier period than Alcott, Emerson, and Thoreau. If you shared my ignorance of the relevant dates, would you have arrived at that impression based on the writing of these authors?
I'm off to browse at the marvellous Harvard Bookstore, one of my favourite Cambridge activities. Perhaps I ought to search out a couple of tomes on American literary history while I'm there...