In reaction to the burgeoning industrial blight of late 19th century America, the author flees from the big city with a scheme to write a book. It is to be about idyllic life on a small island off the coast of Eastern Connecticut. He finagles a tiny piece of land surrounded by water and hires a local hotel keeper/carpenter to construct a small two-story cabin. To transport him back and forth from the fishing shipbuilding village of Noank, he finds a local rigger to knock together a little sailing skiff. The potential for this Thoreauvian plan begins to fray, however, when he invites two women. Neither is the wife or daughter he has left back in the Midwest. All seems well until arrives another guest and his wife and maid. The restless man whom he here calls Tom is in reality nonetheless than the future great of American letters, Theodore Dreiser. To add to the mix Arthur Henry imports three Noank cats.
The original text, published in 1902 as part of a lifestyle trilogy, is entertaining enough in its own right, but this Flat Hammock Press edition adds Stephen Jones' in-the-footsteps, back-story narrative of what happened before, after and even more surprisingly, during the summer of 1900. Arthur Henry's granddaughter and biographer, Maggie Walker provides an introduction. To flesh out the real story, this new volume also includes three short non-fiction pieces by Dreiser based on his awkward forays away from the island. A gallery of dozens of period photographs from 1900 Noank enhances a book which transcends local history to become a permanent part of Americana.
Published 11/1/2010 Flat Hammock Press
368 pages, Paperback ISBN 9780981896014