Thursday, August 17, 2006

A literary guide to Martha's Vineyard

There are no famous novels about Martha's Vineyard despite the many famous novelists who have summered there, observes Nicole Galland in Salon's literary guide to the community.

The memoir and its ilk represent the best the island has to offer. The most extraordinary sampling, a tribute to a passing generation of indomitable Yankees, can be found in the two-volume Vineyard Voices, by Linsey Lee. Here--along with dozens of gorgeous photographic portraits--are oral histories taken in recent years of largely working-class fisherman, seafarers, farmers, lighthouse keepers, civic leaders, Wampanoag tribal members, and a peppery island legend named Craig Kingsbury whose entry is dubiously titled "I Didn't Bring Any Skunks to the Island." (His supposed guilt on this topic generated more speculative gossip over the years than did Ted Kennedy's driving skills.)
Of course, we the Unwashed know Martha's Vineyard best from a certain movie that scared us out of the water and on to the beaches.
[The Vineyard] inspired and hosted the filming of one of the biggest blockbusters of all times -- and was forever changed from that experience, as you can read in Edith Blake's intimate, photo-filled On Location..... On Martha's Vineyard (The Making of the Movie Jaws). Written after production wrapped but before the movie was a hit, this is a breezy, behind-the-scenes depiction by one of the many islanders who worked on the film.

And, of course, the Vineyard has one of the most pristine and diverse shorelines on the East Coast; the 100-square-mile island boasts a range of beaches from sandy dunes to salt marshes to rocky cliffs to deeply sheltered harbors. Nobody can describe it like Paul Schneider. In The Enduring Shore (2000) he weaves an ingenious narrative of human and natural history from a most original vantage point: a kayak, with which he circumnavigated not only Martha's Vineyard, but neighboring Nantucket and Cape Cod.
Galland offers a few more titles about The Vineyard: click here to read her essay.

Nicole Galland's first novel is The Fool's Tale. Her second novel, Revenge of the Rose, is out this month.

Click here to read about Salon's literary guide to Brooklyn and here for its literary guide to Miami. Click here for a literary guide to Togo. Click here for a literary guide to West Texas.

--Marshal Zeringue