Next Hopper Talk: Randolph, Vermont

On Thusday, November 29, I’ll be talking about Edward Hopper at First Light Studios in  Randolph, thanks to the kind invitation of Bob and Kathy Eddy. This beautifully renovated space is where the Eddys engage in their own creative pursuits–Kathy, composing music, and Bob, painting and photography. And their excitement in learning about Edward Hopper’s Vermont works is surpassed only by my own!

It’s Bob who took the terrific photos for his book review–“Edward Hopper’s Vermont was the White River Valley”–in last week’s Randolph Herald (and yes, he’s an excellent writer as well).  I’m hoping that on November 29 he’ll add his commentary on Hopper to mine. As an artist and photographer, Bob has much to say about how Hopper translated landscape into paint and paper. It was fascinating to hear his “take” on this when he toured Hopper’s sites with Mike and me a couple of weeks ago.

Come join the discussion, at 7:00 p.m. on November 29, at 34A Pleasant Street in Randolph.

The Herald: Week in Photos 11/08/2012 &emdash; Mike and me at the site where Hopper painted Rain on River (bottom plate) in 1938.
Photo by Bob Eddy for the Randolph Herald.

Hopper Talks in South Royalton and Woodstock, Vermont

This week and next I’m talking about Edward Hopper in Vermont in two locations, moving closer each time to the places Hopper painted in 1937 and ’38.

On Saturday, November 10th, at 2:00 p.m., I’ll be at the Norman Williams Public Library, on The Green in Woodstock, Vermont. Edward Hopper might have chosen this beautiful, classic New England town as a place to stay and paint, as other artists in this time period certainly did.  But in 1937 Hopper avoided any place that came close to being an artists’ colony.  Instead, he settled in about 20 miles farther to the north, in the lovely, more rural town of South Royalton.

On Thursday, November 15th, at 5:30 p.m., I’ll be there–in downtown SoRo, at the Vermont Law School’s Barrister’s Bookshop on Chelsea Street.This is just a mile south of the location of the Slaters’ farm, Wagon Wheels, where Edward and Jo Hopper boarded in the summers of 1937 and ’38.

EDWARD HOPPER SLEPT HERE!

The Slaters’ farmhouse is still there, on Rte 110 just past Ducker Road. Hopper painted First Branch of the White River, the watercolor on the cover of my book, from the perspective of the  steep hillside next to the farmhouse. Later, asked about the circumstances of making the painting, Hopper wrote that “aside from…the curiosity of the cows, the occasion was not momentous.”

The farmhouse was long ago converted to apartments, which now are usually occupied by VLS students. Perhaps the book will inspire them to make a plaque: “Edward Hopper Slept Here.” The occasion may not have been momentous, but it is nevertheless notable that one of America’s most famous and beloved artists found our corner of Vermont to be a beautiful, peaceful place to linger for a while–and to paint.

Thanks to Shiretown Books for co-sponsoring the Woodstock talk, and to the Royalton Historical Society and the White River Partnership for co-sponsoring the SoRo talk.

An Ode to Real Live Bookstores

Last night I gave my first “book talk” ever (this is, after all, my first book), for Phoenix Books in Burlington, Vermont, with Mike there as wingman and PowerPoint point person. We had a great time, and the audience seemed to enjoy the evening as well. They were wonderfully attentive, laughed at my quips—and many of them bought copies of Edward Hopper in Vermont.  I even got to sit on the author’s side of the table (on the other side was a line of people, all holding books…be still my heart!), signing copies and chatting with my “fans.” One person took a photo of me signing a book for her daughter, who loves Hopper and used to live in South Royalton. Some of my Facebook and LinkedIn contacts came up and introduced themselves, virtual friends now become real. Pinch me, please!  Is all of this really happening?

Yes, it is indeed, and another piece of good news is that this was more than a one-night stand for books in Burlington. The owners and staff of Phoenix Books have created a warm and welcoming oasis for authors and readers in the heart of the city.  The store is attractive, spacious, and well-stocked. The staff are friendly and savvy, and they seem to genuinely like books and the people who buy them.  And the store stays open until 10 p.m. on weekends!

When I first visited Phoenix Books a few weeks ago I was reminded of Borders in its heyday. In the mid-1990s, when Borders opened a three-story bookstore on Rittenhouse Square in Philadelphia, I practically lived there.  John Ciardi was still alive and talking about words and poetry on NPR’s Morning Edition; if he read something I liked, I could pop into Borders on the way to work and buy a volume of poems to read on the bus.  Browsing in Phoenix brought back the pleasure of simply being among Real Books—physically surrounded by them, not just scrolling through lists of titles—something I’d eschewed while being immersed in writing one of my own, lured by the time-saving convenience of shopping online while still in my pajamas.

I bought two books at Phoenix that day, one that I’d been wanting to read and another that simply caught my eye as I took a leisurely walk among the shelves—a luscious read that I never would have found other than serendipitously, in a Real Live Bookstore.  At home, taking my purchases out of their sack, I re-discovered that irreplaceable, indescribable New Book Smell.  It whets my appetite to read, read, read.  And I think it disappears, somehow, from books stored in the warehouses of Amazon.com, traveling to us in the trucks of USPS, UPS, or FedEx.

Hence my Ode to Real Live Bookstores everywhere.  Interestingly, while thinking about writing this paean, I found the Borders employees’ “Ode to a bookstore death” posted online in September. It’s an angry, disillustioned rant about customers, a sad testament to what Borders had become. What a happy contrast to see stores like Phoenix celebrating what bookstores are really ‘sposed to be about: Real Books, made of paper and cloth, and the people who read them.