Dawn Reader

Dawn Reader
from Open Door Coffee Co.; Hudson, OH; Oct. 26, 2016

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Frankenstein Sundae, 96

—Arna Bontemps (birthplace in Alexandria, Louisiana; home and grave in Nashville)
—Willa Cather (birthplace and sites in Back Creek Valley, near Winchester, West Virginia; sites in and around Red Cloud, Nebraska; Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, where she taught; Grand Manan Island, Nova Scotia, where she had a summer cottage; her grave and other sites in Jaffrey, New Hampshire)—
            —Checking place names for Cather, I find online a story about her birthplace being up for sale; the story originally appeared on 9 March 2010, coincidentally my father’s birthday—he would have been 97. I printed the story, copied the photograph, posted the item on Facebook—
—And so many others: Kate Chopin (home in Cloutierville, Louisiana; relevant streets of New Orleans; Grand Isle, Louisiana (a principal setting of The Awakening), grave in St. Louis and other sites there); Stephen Crane (many sites around Port Jervis, New York, where he grew up; Asbury Park, New Jersey, where he lived with his family; his grave in Hillside, New Jersey); Emily Dickinson (home and grave in Amherst, Massachusetts; her grandfather Samuel once worked at Western Reserve College—now Academy—where I taught; he died here in Hudson, Ohio, in 1838); Ralph Ellison (all his youthful residences in Oklahoma City are gone, but we saw his grave in Trinity Church Cemetery and Mausoleum near Riverside Park in New York City); Ralph Waldo Emerson (home and grave in Concord, Massachusetts; also Concord Bridge, where his poem “Concord Hymn”—with its famous line “the shot heard round the world”—lives on a stone marker)—
            —My students were always moved by the story of Emerson’s despair over the early death of his first wife, Ellen, in 1831, how he walked four miles, each way, to her grave every morning, how, finally, more than a year later, he asked the cemetery caretaker to open her grave; only when he saw her corpse, he believed, could he finally accept her death. “29 March [1832]. I visited Ellen’s tomb & opened the coffin,” he wrote in his journal.[1] It was all he could say—
— William Faulkner (home and grave and sites in and around Oxford, Mississippi; we drove and photographed the route described in As I Lay Dying, a book I regularly taught late in my career); F. Scott Fitzgerald (sites in Mobile, Alabama, Zelda’s home; sites in Chicago and Lake Forest, Illinois, his girlfriend’s houses; sites in St. Paul, Minnesota, where he grew up; Buffalo and Rochester, New York; his grave in Rockville, Maryland); Robert Frost (homes in New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts; grave at Old Bennington Cemetery in Vermont, one of the few cemeteries we visited where signposts point toward the author’s grave); Henry Louis Gates, Jr. (sites in his hometown of Piedmont, West Virginia, which we visited a photographed when I was teaching his memoir, Colored People); Nathaniel Hawthorne (Salem, Lenox, and Concord, Massachusetts; Raymond, Maine; grave in Concord’s Sleepy Hollow Cemetery); Ernest Hemingway (sites around boyhood home in Oak Park, Illinois; setting of “The Killers” in Summit, Illinois; sites around their summer cottage, “Windemere,” on Walloon Lake in Michigan; sites in Key West, Florida; his home and grave and other sites in Ketchum, Idaho)—

[1] Library of America edition, 191.

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