Summer lends itself to reading and vacations, so why not combine the two into a literary trip?
The homes and studies where many great writers toiled over their prose have been preserved. See original manuscripts, often in the author's own handwriting. Walk about the communities where they strode, often so preoccupied with their plots and characters that they didn't even speak to the neighbors they met. Travelers can do that and more on a trip to the places where ideas became literature.
Printers Row Journal presents six trips for literature lovers of all genres.
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Several 19th century American literary giants made their homes in Massachusetts, including Louisa May Alcott, Emily Dickinson, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Herman Melville and Henry David Thoreau.
Concord, Mass., was home to Alcott, Emerson and Thoreau, and is a 45-minute car ride from Boston, making it an easy day trip from the city. The first stop for many literary travelers is Walden Pond; much of its land was saved from development, and visitors can walk the same woods that inspired Thoreau's "Walden." The Thoreau Institute at Walden Woods contains not only manuscripts and other documents related to the writer, but many other special collections, including that of the Ralph Waldo Emerson Society. A replica of Thoreau's home is also on the property.
From Walden Woods, take the Emerson-Thoreau Amble trail to Emerson's home and see where Emerson wrote most of his important works. Guided tours take visitors through the house, which is much as it was when he lived there. While the furniture in the study is a replica, the original furnishings are in the Concord Museum across the street.
Emerson hosted many meetings on Transcendentalism, and Alcott often joined the discussions. Known for "Little Women," Alcott's home is where she wrote and set her story of the March family, based on her own kin. The house itself dates back to 1690.
For those with more time, a trip to Dickinson's home in Amherst and Melville's farmstead in Pittsfield is worth it. Docents lead guided tours of both Dickinson's residence and her brother's family's home, with the focus on her life, family, and other influences on her writing. Most of the houses are open to tours, including her bedroom, and the "Emily Room" at her brother's home.
West of Amherst and located in the Berkshires is Arrowhead, the 45-acre farmstead where Melville wrote "Moby-Dick" and spent his most productive years. Several parts of the house are open to visit, including Melville's study, piazza and the barn where he and Nathaniel Hawthorne would discuss their work.
Suggested reading: "Walden" by Thoreau, "Nature" by Emerson, "Little Women" by Alcott, "The Poems of Emily Dickinson" edited by R. W. Franklin and "Moby-Dick," by Melville.
Oxford and Jackson, Miss.
No writer captures a town like William Faulkner. The author lived and died in Oxford, Miss., and his fictitious Yoknapatawpha County is a stand-in for Oxford and the surrounding area. Faulkner lived at Rowan Oak for more than 40 years and did most of his writing here. The home is now owned and maintained by the University of Mississippi, which allows self-guided tours of the property. A favorite room of visitors in Rowan Oak is his study, where on the walls he wrote out the draft of "A Fable." He's buried in St. Peter's Cemetery where visitors still leave him bottles of whiskey. But Oxford is more than just Faulkner. The J.D. Williams Library at Ole Miss has a treasure trove of archival material of not only Faulkner, but other famous Mississippi writers as well as an extensive blues music archive. Stop in one of three locations of Square Books and you might see other Oxford-based writers, such as Richard Ford and John Grisham.
Eudora Welty's home in Jackson was preserved exactly as it was when she lived there, with nearly every wall (and some tables and couches) lined with books. Some of the docents who run the tours knew Welty personally, which adds richness to the experience. Visitors can hold original documents of Welty's work and get an insight into her process. Her extensive and cherished garden is part of the visit, and a house next door is a museum dedicated to her work and her life story. Its collection contains the prizes she won, including her Pulitzer Prize and French Legion of Honor.
Suggested reading: A good introduction to Faulkner is the Malcolm Cowley-edited "The Portable Faulkner." Welty's "Losing Battles" is considered one of her best.
The Harlem Renaissance from the 1920s to about the 1930s created one of the most important African-American cultural movements in New York City, producing writers such as Langston Hughes, James Baldwin and Zora Neale Hurston among others.
Harlem celebrates its literary side in July with the 16th annual Harlem Book Fair, a three-day event starting July 10, which attracts 30,000 visitors. Max Rodriguez, Harlem Book Fair founder, said this year will feature a retrospective on James Baldwin, who would have been 90 this year. There will be more than 200 exhibitors, plus readings, panel discussions and other events. Harlem Heritage Tours, which offers a weekly Harlem Renaissance tour, has created a special tour in conjunction with Harlem Book Fair tour.
For visitors who want to create their own walking tour, consider the Academy of American Poets' "Walking Tour: Langston Hughes' Harlem of 1926," a self-guided tour available on the organization's website. The tour points out sites of interest, such as Hughes' home, the Harlem YMCA where several authors lived and where the Harlem nightclubs stood. One of the stops on the walking tour is the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture in Harlem, a research library that is part of the New York Public Library. The center hosts exhibitions and public programs, most of which are free.
Free Harlem walking tour: poets.org/viewmedia.php/prmMID/19208
Harlem Book Fair: qbr.com
Harlem Heritage Tours: harlemheritage.com
Schomburg Center: nypl.org/locations/schomburg
Suggested reading: Harlem Renaissance writer Countee Cullen was Baldwin's poetry teacher. "Countee Cullen: Collected Poems" was recently published, and "Go Tell It on the Mountain," Baldwin's first book, remains his best known.
The "Hoosier poet" James Whitcomb Riley was one of Indianapolis' most famous residents when he lived there during the turn of the last century. While Riley's name is less familiar now, his children's poems were influential: "Little Orphant Annie" inspired the Little Orphan Annie character, and "The Raggedy Man" inspired the "Raggedy Ann" dolls. The Victorian mansion where he lived as the guest of the owners for much of his adult life holds a collection of the original works of Riley. Included are full-sized illustrations that accompanied some poems, handwritten manuscripts and other personal effects. Docents tailor the guided tours to fans of Victorian America homes as well as Riley readers.
While in Indianapolis, the newly opened Kurt Vonnegut Memorial Library is worth a visit. The library is small, but its docents are passionate and knowledgeable of Vonnegut's work and life. Highlights include the Smith-Corona typewriter where Vonnegut wrote works such as "Slapstick," digitized manuscripts (originals are housed at Indiana University) showing the author's edits and rejection letters he saved. A corner of the library recreates his study. Visitors are welcome to use a typewriter like Vonnegut's; sometimes the library tweets what visitors write.
Suggested reading: "Little Orphant Annie and Other Poems" by Riley includes a number of his best known poems and highlights rural life and language in Indiana. Vonnegut's classic "Slaughterhouse-Five" is considered one of the most banned books in the United States.
Stepping into the town of Hannibal, Mo., is like stepping into Mark Twain's novels. The boyhood home of Samuel Clemens, aka the Mark Twain Boyhood Home & Museum, focuses on how Clemens' formative years influenced the writer he would become. Clemens lived in Hannibal until he was 17.
Visitors can easily spend a long weekend in Hannibal scouting out the sites Twain made famous in "The Adventures of Tom Sawyer" and "Adventures of Huckleberry Finn." This literary trip is family-friendly as it not only has museums, but other areas to explore in and around the city.
The Mark Twain Boyhood Home & Museum owns nine properties, including Twain's home, considered the setting of "Tom Sawyer"; the home of Tom Blankenship, who inspired "Huckleberry Finn"; and the home of Laura Hawkins, who inspired the Becky Thatcher character. The museum gallery holds Twain-related artifacts, original Norman Rockwell paintings and interactive exhibits.
Areas in and around the city play up their Twain connections. Hannibal is set on a bluff overlooking the Mississippi River, and a riverboat there, named Mark Twain, offers waterway cruises. The boat passes Jackson's Island, where Huck Finn spends three days and eventually finds Jim, the runaway slave. Just outside of Hannibal are the Mark Twain caves, featured in "Tom Sawyer," and tours range from a simple walk around the cave to a one-man show on Twain's life.
From July 3-5, Hannibal hosts National Tom Sawyer Days, which include fence-painting contests and a frog-jumping contest.
Suggested reading: If you're already familiar with Tom and Huck, the setting for "Pudd'nhead Wilson" is also modeled after pre-Civil War Hannibal.
Sonoma County and Napa Valley, Calif.
Although best known for wine, Napa Valley and Sonoma County are home to three literary artists: Robert Louis Stevenson, Jack London and Charles Schulz.
Napa Valley's St. Helena is home to the Robert Louis Stevenson Silverado Museum, a small museum that contains a large collection of Stevenson's work. The Scottish author honeymooned in 1880 near Mount St. Helena, and in 1969, a passionate Stevenson collector started the museum. Among the now-9,000 items included are original letters, journals, photographs and other memorabilia. Standout pieces include manuscript notes on "The Master of Ballantree" and the desk where he wrote "Treasure Island."
Jack London State Historic Park in Glen Ellen is 39 acres and contains the ruins of a home London built (but never lived in), his grave site and a cottage where he did much of his later writing. Docents lead tours of the ruin and the outdoor property and talk about the life and work of London, including his writing, socialism, farming and his travels.
The cottage where he lived is open for visitors, and docents there explain the relationship between London's wife, Charmian, who managed his writings, and his stepsister, Eliza, who ran his ranch. London's paintings, sketches and photographs are all on display.
Fans of Snoopy and Charlie Brown can visit the Charles M. Schulz Museum in Santa Rosa, which contains not only original "Peanuts" artwork, but also non-"Peanuts" cartoons and drawings as well as personal items, "Peanuts" products and tributes to Schulz. The museum recreated his studio, including the drawing board he used for much of his career.
Museum volunteers are available to discuss Schulz's life and art, and some volunteers who knew him share their own stories. A theater also shows "Peanuts" cartoons and interviews, among other films.
Suggested readings: "Burning Daylight" was London's best-selling book during his lifetime and was written at the house. "The Silverado Squatters" is Stevenson's account of his stay in St. Helena. "They Called Him Sparky," By David Liverett, is a collection of letters from friends and remembrances of Schulz. "The Complete Peanuts," an anthology of Schulz's iconic comic strip, is also available from Fantagraphics.Copyright © 2015, CT Now