Logos Bookstore’s Recommendations
American Bloomsbury: Louisa May Alcott,
Ralph Waldo Emerson, Margaret Fuller,
Nathaniel Hawthorne, and Henry David Thoreau: Their Lives, Their Loves, Their Work
by Susan Cheever
Simon & Schuster, $26
Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry David Thoreau, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Louisa May Alcott, Herman Melville and Margaret Fuller bring to mind an academic course on 19th Century American Literature and the established writers of that time. Actually these people come across as real flesh and blood and very unconventional characters, and anything but established writers in 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.
Impressionable Louisa May Alcott has a crush on her childhood tutor, Henry David Thoreau who is competing with his brother, John, for Ellen Sewall, a clergyman’s daughter and the sister of a pupil of Henry David Thoreau’s, Edmund Sewall. Louisa May Alcott also hero-worships Ralph Waldo Emerson for his library, his intelligence and his community building. Emerson is a big financial supporter of Louisa May’s dreamer father, Bronson Alcott who gives out free apples in exchange for long discourses on his philosophy. He runs a school, but cannot keep it solvent. However, an English school modeled after Alcott’s does well and its backer, Charles Lane finances a community called Fruitlands in the U.S.A. with him and Bronson Alcott as leaders. Yet the community does not work out, because no one really pays attention to the crops at harvest time.
Meanwhile Nathaniel Hawthorne, from his graduation from Bowdoin in 1825 until the publication of Twice-told Tales in 1837, lives as a recluse in his sister’s house. He emerges from this seclusion, marries Sophie Peabody and moves to Concord where he gets along with Henry David Thoreau with whom he takes nature walks, Thoreau talking to him about the Indians and Hawthorne discussing the Puritans. However, Hawthorne does not get along well with Emerson, part of the reason being their attraction to Margaret Fuller who is more exciting and challenging to them than their wives. It is during his first stay in Concord that Hawthorne writes much of The Scarlet Letter loosely basing Hester Prynne on Margaret Fuller. Later Hawthorne influences Melville, already a popular novelist and more popular than Hawthorne at the time of their first meeting, in the writing of Moby Dick.
Susan Cheever’s great achievement is to bring alive these historical figures and to get the modern day reader to read the great works of these writers. After learning about Henry David Thoreau’s edgy character and his travails in writing Walden and getting it published, one wants to read Walden (KYTV Reading Group will discuss Walden on Wednesday, March 7, 2007 at 7 P.M.) Finding out about Hawthorne’s background gives poignancy to The Scarlet Letter, a most exciting novel for me when I read it for the first time at the age of thirteen.
Yes these nineteenth century writers are worth knowing about and their writings worth reading in the twenty-first century. Cheever’s book and the works of these authors are available at Logos Bookstore. So are wonderful St. Patrick’s Day cards, books about the Celts, books by Irish writers and books for the Lenten season. So come into Logos Bookstore.
Upcoming Events At Logos Bookstore
Tuesday, March 6, 2007 at 7 P.M., Sit Knit with Lori Adkins (212) 517-7292. Also Tuesday, March 20, 2007 at 7 P.M. This latest activity consists of bringing your knitting projects and becoming part of the newest knitting circle in town.
Wednesday, March 7, 2007 at 7P.M., KYTV Reading Group will discuss Walden by Henry David Thoreau.
Wednesday, April 4, 2007 at 7 P.M., KYTV Reading Group will discuss The Inheritance Of Loss by Kiran Desai, winner of the 2006 Man Booker Prize.
Transit: 4,5,6 Subways to Lexington Ave and 86th St., M86 Bus(86th St.), M79 Bus (79th St.), M31 Bus (York Ave.), M15 Bus (1st and 2nd Aves)