As new book documents, Monterey writers and poets
among Berkshire’s literary luminaries
Local historian Bernard A. Drew will talk about his new book, Literary Luminaries of the Berkshires: From Herman Melville to Patricia Highsmith, at the Monterey Library on Monday, August 17, at 7:30 p.m. The public is invited to the free event.
The Massachusetts Berkshires has long appealed to talented writers, from Henry Wadsworth Longfellow and Edith Wharton to Sinclair Lewis and Joan Ackermann. The Green River in Great Barrington inspired William Cullen Bryant's poetry. Patricia Highsmith, during an interlude in Lenox, quizzed her undertaker-landlord for information she might use in The Talented Mr. Ripley. In Monterey, native Norwegian author Sigrid Undset found refuge during wartime. Mystery writer Hugh C. Wheeler during the eight months a year he was in Monterey could write 60 to 70 pages a day. Future president James A. Garfield was inspired to write a 45-line verse after visiting the town.
Drew, who lives in Great Barrington, has collected information about local fiction writers and poets for more than 30 years. In this, his latest book, he chronicles some 250 wordsmiths who took inspiration from these hills and valleys. "Don't expect encyclopedia entries," the author said. "This is written from a local historian's point of view, looking closely at the relationship of these writers to the landscape and culture of the Berkshires."
In Literary Luminaries of the Berkshires, Drew reveals an unexpected early influence on writers here; examines a different aspect of the famed 1850 Herman Melville and Nathaniel Hawthorne climb up Monument Mountain; and identifies the six hardest-to-find novels by Berkshire writers, including one outstanding clinker.