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Edith Wharton The Mount

Looking up the back stairs toward the terrace at The Mount, Edith Wharton’s estate in the Berkshire Mountains. Photo©NovelDestinations

Summer is an exciting time in the literary travel world. Some author houses are only open seasonally during the warm weather, while at others, gardens are in bloom and special events abound. Here are some of the storied happenings taking place in the coming months.

Parlez-vous français?
Enjoy a morning chat with other French speakers at Edith Wharton’s estate, The Mount, in Lenox, Massachusetts. The conversation sessions, which honor her love for France, where she lived for many years, take place on the terrace overlooking the gardens. Attendance is $15, and spots must be reserved at least 24 hours in advance. Thursdays at 9 a.m. from July 4 through August 29.

Tales and Tails
Live readings and guest lectures take place on Sunday afternoons in the Enchanted Garden at the Poe Museum in Richmond, Virginia. Tales on the schedule include “The Masque of the Red Death” (July 14), “The Black Cat” (July 21), and “The Tell-Tale Heart” (August 4). Keep an eye out for resident felines Edgar and Pluto, the latter named after a four-legged character in “The Black Cat.” Included with museum admission; no registration necessary. Sunday Reading events begin at 12:30 p.m. and are live-streamed on the museum’s Facebook page.

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Historic author houses are among the best places to get a fix of nostalgic holiday cheer. Here are some literary sites where you can enjoy the seasonal festivities:

The Enchanted Garden at the Poe Museum in Richmond, Virginia, comes alive with thousands of lights during “Poe’s Christmas Illumination” on December 1 from 5-9 p.m. Along with free admission, enjoy mulled wine and take a holiday-themed tour with the museum’s curator.

A visit to Louisa May Alcott’s home, Orchard House, in Concord, Massachusetts, is like stepping into the pages of Little Women. It’s only fitting then that this year’s December theme is “A Little Women Christmas” since the novel opens during the holiday season. Meet Louisa and other costumed figures and participate in Victorian-era activities and caroling. The program takes place on weekends in December, and advance reservations are strongly recommended.

The Pearl S. Buck House in Perkasie, Pennsylvania, hosts the annual “Festival of Trees,” with 29 artists, organizations, and community groups decorating the author’s home. Not only is the holiday finery lush and imaginative, some of it conveys a message, too, carrying on Buck’s legacy as a social activist. Through December 30.

Step back in time at the Mark Twain House in Hartford, Connecticut, which is adorned in the style of a late-19th-century Christmas. The author’s abode is one of several sites participating in the “Friends of the Mark Twain House & Museum’s Holiday House Tour” on December 3.

In Monterey, California, 22 historic homes are open to visitors during “Christmas in the Adobes,” including rare access to the Lara-Soto Adobe once owned by John Steinbeck. At the Robert Louis Stevenson House—now a museum devoted to the Scottish scribe, who lived for a time in the seaside city—shortbread will be served and bagpipes will be playing. December 8 and 9.

The Emily Dickinson Museum in Amherst, Massachusetts, is celebrating the poet’s birthday on December 9 from 1-4 p.m. with homemade coconut made from Dickinson’s own recipe. Admission is free during the event, and a special guided tour, “Christmas with the Dickinsons,” is on offer.

The Longfellow House-Washington’s Headquarters National Historic Site in Cambridge, Massachusetts, is hosting a Holiday Open House on December 15 and Holiday House Tours on December 16. Along with touring the poet’s lovely home (previously General George Washington’s headquarters during the Revolutionary War), take a stroll through the illuminated gardens and listen to Christmas carols.

In a nod to his debut novel Look Homeward, Angel, the Thomas Wolfe Memorial in Asheville, North Carolina, is putting on “An Angel Christmas” on December 16. Festivities include an exhibition of angel wreaths on the doors and angel figurines displayed throughout the historic 29-room home, where Wolfe’s mother once ran a boardinghouse.

In Salem, Massachusetts, the House of the Seven Gables (Nathaniel Hawthorne’s inspiration for his gothic novel), is presenting “Four Centuries of Christmas Tours.” Walks the halls of the seaside mansion that has stood since 1668, as guides share the history of Christmas in New England. Through December 31.

[Photos © Pearl S. Buck International, Poe Museum, and Orchard House.]

 

Our friend Jennifer Hart at www.BookClubGirl.com wrote earlier this week about a fundraiser taking place on September 23rd to benefit the Mark Twain House & Museum, which is in danger of closing. The extravaganza, “Writers Reading for Twain,” features authors Sara Gruen, Tasha Alexander, David Gates, Phillip Lopate, Tom Perrotta, Arthur Phillips, Stewart O’Nan, Amy MacKinnon, Kristy Kiernan, Robert Hicks, Andy Carroll, Philip Beard, and Jon Clinch (whose novel Finn reimagines the life of Huckleberry Finn’s father). Admission is $40 for the reading/signing and $100 to attend a reception along with the reading/signing. Click here for more information about the event.

Jennifer has an excellent suggestion for book club members looking for a way to help support the Mark Twain House, as well as Edith Wharton’s estate, The Mount, in the Berkshires, which is also facing financial troubles: select a Twain or Wharton work to read in your book club and have each member bring $10-20 to donate to the respective author house. If you’re feeling especially generous, do it for both! My book club recently read The House of Mirth, and in our twelve years of meeting we all agreed that it inspired one of our best discussions ever. 

And for further proof that classic literary scribes never go out of style (see Tuesday’s post about Edgar Allan Poe making headlines), there is more Mark Twain news. HarperStudio, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers, just announced plans to publish Who is Mark Twain? — a collection of 22 previously unpublished short pieces written by Twain — on April 21, 2009, the 99th anniversary of the writer’s death. –Shannon McKenna Schmidt 

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#WanderlustWednesday A conversation earlier this week with @shapedbystoriesdiane about our literary travel bucket lists has my wanderlust going wild. As much as I dream of making it to a far-flung locale like Guernsey for a tour of Victor Hugo’s house or to Samoa to see Robert Louis Stevenson’s last abode, this year my exploring will be closer to home. A day trip to revisit Washington Irving’s lovely estate, Sunnyside, overlooking the Hudson River in Tarryrown, NY, and hopefully a weekend excursion to the intriguing Emily Dickinson Museum in Amherst, MA (finally!). And perhaps a trip to Chicago for the American Writers Museum and Hemingway’s birthplace in nearby Oak Park. What literary locales will you be exploring this year? And if not in person then on the page. #noveldestinations #literarytravel #booksandtravel #travelguide #travelguides #bookstagram #wanderlust #instabooks #igreads #travel @emilydickinson.museum @washingtonirvingsunnyside @americanwritersmuseum #guidebook #travelguidebook #travelgram #passport #booksbooksbooks
Seeing the terrific new movie adaptation of LITTLE WOMEN has me thinking about a road trip to revisit sites related to the story. Surprisingly, this is the first screen version of Louisa May Alcott’s tale to use Massachusetts, her lifelong home, as a primary filming location. “To shoot in Concord, in Massachusetts, in this area, in this environment, was really essential in how I wanted to build this movie,” explained director Greta Gerwig in an interview. “It’s significant. The place matters as much as anything.” ... The Alcott family home and also the most significant locale in the lives of the March sisters, Orchard House, was temporarily recreated on a property in Concord. Louisa May Alcott drew so heavily on real-life details, like the trunk of costumes the March sisters used to stage their plays, that visiting the actual abode is a true delight for fans. Of all the literary locales I’ve visited, this is the place where I most felt like I had stepped into a novel. ... #noveldestinations #travelguide #littlewomen #littlewomenmovie #louisamayalcott #orchardhouse #literarytravel #literarylandmarks #classicliterature #concordma #bookstagram
If I had selected a 7th top title of 2019, it would have been this one. Which surprises me. I didn’t feel as if I completely connected with the story while reading it, but it’s one that I think about a lot—what draws us to romantic partners and friends, especially ones who seemingly are vastly different from us, and how our backgrounds influence the adults we become. I found particularly interesting the aspect of the storyline that deals with autism and the early days of diagnosis and treatment. Plus it’s primarily set in New York City, which is always a plus for me. #thedearlybeloved #booksofig #bookstagram #greatreads #igreads #booksandcocktails

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