American Writers at Home, J.D. McClatchy & Erica Lennard, 2004
This is a big, beautiful, and fascinating expedition through the homes of 21 American writers from Washington Irving through Eudora Welty. Lennard’s artful and touching photographs of the homes where writers plied their craft and raised their families are accompanied by McClatchy’s superb prose. These are mini-biographies filled with fascinating details as well as the basics, and this Yale poet’s writing skills are on fine display. The only off-putting aspect of the book was the decision to present the authors in alphabetical order rather than chronological or by region—a confusing choice that leads one to jump back and forth across American history. Among the 21, I’ve visited Wharton’s The Mount, Longfellow’s Craigie House, Frost’s Cambridge and Ripton homes though not the Derry Farm, and Hemingway’s Havana not Key West home, and have driven past the Concord homes of Hawthorne, Emerson, and Alcott as well as Dickinson’s Amherst homestead, Irving’s Sunnyside, and Melville’s Arrowhead—-all are now on the ‘to be visited’ list. Most interesting of all were the chapters on two California houses which I ‘d never heard of—Robinson Jeffers’ Tor House in Carmel, and Eugene O’Neill’s Tao House in Danville, CA. This is a coffee table sized book worth owning.