Journals or memoirs (a kind of rolling journal?) are my current favorite form of reading. For instance, I loved learning about the Middle East from William Dalrymple’s From the Holy Mountain, Rory Stewart’s The Places In Between, or Carl Raswan’s Black Tents of Arabia (My Life Among the Bedouins) because each walked the terrain, albeit at different times, in different areas, and for different reasons, but I knew everything each author noted was verifiable. Given their specificity, maybe these works are journals rather than memoirs, and probably I like journals more; but books of this kind are hard to find. All of these examples were shelved under Travel at the bookstore when first I checked.
Then we have today’s memoir-ugliness. James Frey embellished his memoir of addiction and recovery and the woman who lives in Oregon invented her memoir of living on the mean streets of Los Angeles. Memory is always an iffy thing and mostly depends on whose remembering, but why lie? Why not call the work fiction and admit to the sources of inspiration in the acknowledgements, especially if no backup journals exist? Humph, I say.
Fortunately, Roseledge Books has some fine Maine journal/memoir reads. My favorites (in no particular order) include:
James Balano’s The Log of the Skipper’s Wife (actually Dorothea Moulton Balano’s “log” of her time sailing with Captain Fred Balano in the early 1900’s; the Balanos lived in Port Clyde)
Celia Thaxter’s An Island Garden (with wonderful paintings by Maurice Pendergast; garden is currently being recreated)
Elizabeth Coatsworth’s Personal Geography
Jim Sturba’s Frankie’s Place (Midwesterner joins many-generationed “rusticator” on Mt. Desert)
May Sarton’s The House by the Sea: A Journal (her first journal after moving to Maine)
Clearly, Maine draws writers. And Roseledge Books hopes readers, too.
The fun of blurred journal lines is deciding how much of a novel is actually a journal with new names. Consider, for example, Sarah Orne Jewett’s The Country of the Pointed Firs. She visited Tenants Harbor and rented a room and a schoolhouse in Martinsville. She knew the area, so how much of the work is her experience or local lore?
If the webcam is working, I take full credit.