StoryLines New England

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Selected Titles & Broadcast Schedule

New England literature brings to mind many classic works: Nathaniel Hawthorne's dark morality tales, Herman Melville's epic sea adventure, Puritan sermons about the power of faith, Thoreau's essays on nature, stories about community and claustrophobia in small town life, tales of idyllic American childhoods. These kinds of books are familiar to all of us. And they've lasted because they have appeal that reaches beyond the region that gave birth to them. They are the bedrocks of a literary tradition that continues to nurture new authors, new perspectives, and new classics for contemporary American audiences.

Join us as StoryLines America uses newer classics about New England by authors like John Irving, Annie Proulx, Stephen King and Dorothy West to talk about America now--what binds us, what separates us, and how much we have in common. We'll talk about friendship, faith, family, loyalty, the land--the same themes that gave life to the older classics--and about how New England writers have helped us shape our ideas of what it is to be American.

Program List

October 3: Jane Brox.
Five Thousand Days Like This One: An American Family History

StoryLines begins with a new classic of New England literature--a beautifully written book that tells an ages-old American immigrant story. After her father's death, Brox becomes caretaker of the family apple farm near the Massachusetts/New Hampshire border--on land once walked by Henry David Thoreau. She lyrically recounts a struggle that echoes across rural America--to keep the land alive and to honor her Lebanese/Italian ancestors' traditions and memory. Listeners will recall how their own family traditions have fared in a world that seems to spurn the past.

October 10: Robert Frost.
A Boy's Will and North of Boston, and
After Frost: An Anthology of Poetry from New England, edited by Henry Lyman

His poems create evocative pictures of New England characters and scenes, but through them, Robert Frost speaks to all Americans about enduring traditions of individualism, democracy, and love of nature. In the anthology, contemporary New England poets such as Richard Wilbur, Sandra Oliver, Louise Gluck and Galway Kinnell eloquently offer their visions of the landscape, the individual, and the community. The program will feature contemporary poets and Frost experts.

October 17: Mark Twain.
A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court

This classic and well-loved tale follows a time-traveling New Englander's reformist impulse to impose American-style democracy on other cultures even if becomes a form of dictatorship. Twain's concerns about how military might and superior communications technology might undermine American freedoms are sure to evoke passionate discussion.

October 24: Michael Patrick MacDonald.
All Souls: A Family Story from Southie

A highly praised account of MacDonald's family's tragedies and triumphs in the Irish Catholic projects of south Boston exposes universal truths about urban America and its problems--crime, drug abuse, and racial, ethnic and class conflicts. The city's busing crisis of the 1970s and its aftermath explode off the pages of this savage indictment of official and personal corruption. This book will resonate in cities throughout New England and all of America.

October 31: Stephen King.
Salem's Lot

For the Halloween show, Storylines calls upon a contemporary master of horror whose work evokes the Gothic tales of Nathaniel Hawthorne and stories of New England's Puritan witch-hunters. One of the best vampire tales ever written, this skillfully crafted classic about blood-sucking antique dealers in a small Maine town has shocked and terrified readers for nearly three decades and has lost none of its power to frighten.

November 7: Edith Wharton.

Wharton called Summer her "hot Ethan Frome," and this tale of sexuality, class conflict, and loss of innocence set in a poor New England town in the early 1900s recalls the earlier classic,
The Scarlet Letter. Eighteen-year-old Charity Royall risks public scorn and scandal for the love of a man above her class. How far have we come from a society that disapproves, judges, and punishes such a woman? A lively on-air discussion is certain.

November 14: Grace Metalious.
Peyton Place

Skip ahead to the 1960s and to more small town New England intrigues and scandals. Many of us remember the television series that became an American obsession. The best-seller it was based on shocked and titillated the country, putting an end to the Norman Rockwell image of small towns. Metalious's treatment of class and ethnic conflicts still entertains, and offers a way to reconsider the effects of the sexual revolution and feminism on American life.

November 21: Annie Proulx.
Heart Songs and Other Stories

These down-to-earth Vermont stories illuminate just what connects people to place and the deep love Americans have for their homes. In the vein of other contemporary New England classics by Ernest Hebert, Howard Frank Mosher, and Russell Banks, Proulx's stories confront the conflicts between old-timers and newcomers, natives and "flatlanders," haves and have-nots, that play out across the country as urban sprawl and the decline of rural life threaten communities

November 28: William Apess.
A Son of the Forest and Other Writings and Mary White Rowlandson,
The Sovereignty and Goodness of God...

For its Thanksgiving show, StoryLines goes back to 17th and 18th century New England to consider the life and ideas of Apess--a Pequot who was the first Native American to publish an autobiography--and the captivity of Rowlandson, who wrote a page-turning best-seller about her 10-week ordeal during the Indian War of 1675-76 (King Philip's War). Apess gives voice to Native American strength and endurance in a stirring autobiography that has inspired generations of Native writers. Rowlandson's gripping tale spawned a host of captivity narratives--and Hollywood distortions of them.

December 5: Dorothy West.
The Living Is Easy

A prominent member of the Harlem Renaissance, West wrote in this novel about Black Yankees and African Americans newly arrived from the south struggling for social and economic survival in early 20th-century Boston. Cleo Judson, the strong-willed daughter of southern sharecroppers, tries through marriage to gain membership for her and her sisters' families in Boston's Black upper class. The personal costs of "passing" and the destructive effects of upward social mobility on individual lives reveal much about the long and complex history of race in America.

December 12: E. B. White.
Charlotte's Web

New England is in many ways the region of America's childhood--think of snowy sleigh rides, looking for blueberries, building a tree house, tapping a tree for maple syrup, scratching out ABCs on a slate chalkboard. Many prominent children's authors have come from the area and it continues to be a center for children's publishing.
Charlotte's Web, a much beloved tale of friendship and family, represents the richness and the enduring qualities that have made children's literature from New England so appealing to all Americans.

December 19: John Casey.

New England and the sea is a classic theme in a long list of books, from
Moby Dick to
The Perfect Storm. In
Spartina--winner of the 1989 National Book Award for Fiction--a troubled fisherman's adversaries are also infidelity, drugs and "summer folk" in Rhode Island's Narragansett Bay. This compassionate portrait raises questions about how men--wherever they live, whose identities are forged from a knowledge of traditional skills and nature, can survive in a world that no longer values their work.

December 26: John Irving.
A Prayer for Owen Meany

StoryLines America ends with a book that many have said changed their lives--a fitting selection for a holiday season that emphasizes the place of the spiritual in modern life and questions materialism. Since the Puritan Era, faith and the life of the spirit have been important themes in New England literature. John Irving's funny, thoughtful, and heartbreaking book about modern-day miracles, the search for personal and national redemption from the horrors of the Vietnam War, destiny, and sacrifice will speak to seekers everywhere who thirst for more meaning in their lives.