In our Reading New England challenge, I’m focusing this month on the lovely Green Mountain State, Vermont. This is the least populous of the six states, the only one with under a million people, in spite of being larger in area than either Rhode Island or New Hampshire.
In early American fiction, Vermont is often treated as a backwoods, middle-of-nowhere sort of place that characters either emerge from or retreat to in contrast to the “real life” of Boston or New York. In Arrowsmith by Sinclair Lewis, the title character is a doctor who ends up abandoning his high-powered career to hide out in the Vermont woods and pursue independent research. And in The Rise of Silas Lapham by William Dean Howells, Lapham’s rise involves leaving a Vermont farm behind to move to the fashionable Back Bay neighborhood as he grows a successful business.
But in spite of this inauspicious literary beginning, over the years Vermont has produced, been home to, or temporarily hosted some pretty amazing authors, including Shirley Jackson (Life Among the Savages), Karen Hesse (Witness), Robert Newton Peck (A Day No Pigs Would Die), Chris Bohjalian (Midwives), Bill McKibben (Wandering Home), and Donna Tartt (The Secret History). Vermont may lack a major urban hub, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t have many fascinating stories to tell.
As this challenge progresses, I feel I’m getting so behind in my reading list that I hesitate to add more to it! But as well as being interested in all of the books mentioned above, I’d really like to read First Person Rural by Noel Perrin. I enjoyed his books-about-books, A Reader’s Delight and A Child’s Delight, and I’d like to hear about his adventures going from life in New York City to a farm in Vermont.
I also want to finally read the much-maligned children’s classic Pollyanna by Eleanor Porter. Is it really as sappy as its reputation would suggest? And I would like to delve more into the works of Dorothy Canfield Fisher, who is now best known for her children’s novel Understood Betsy, but who was a prolific writer of adult novels, short stories, nonfiction, and criticism as well.
And I’m looking forward to sharing an interview with Dede Cummings of Green Writers Press, an exciting new venture that brings together the cultural and environmental passions that run so strong in Vermont. I’ve already reviewed one of their books, Galvanized by poet Leland Kinsey, and I’ll be reviewing the novel Hidden View this month as well. We can be grateful for all that this small-but-mighty state has given us, past and present.