Boston Tea Party Ships & Museum acquires first-edition copy of Phillis Wheatley’s poetry collection
Two hundred fifty years ago this week, a ship called the Dartmouth set anchor in Boston. One of the three Boston Tea Party ships, it carried heaps of East India Tea, and another special crate tucked between the fragrant boxes of tea leaves: a shipment of Phillis Wheatley’s poetry collection, “Poems on Various Subjects, Religious and Moral.” Wheatley had written her first poem in 1765, and her collection was published six years later, in 1773, the same year she was emancipated from slavery in Boston. The Boston Tea Party Ships & Museum recently acquired a first-edition copy of that collection that arrived on the Dartmouth, and it serves as a focal point for its 250th anniversary celebrations taking place this year, with a live re-enactment of the Tea Party being held on Dec. 16. A brief pop-up exhibit running through Dec. 5 showcases the book alongside images of Wheatley at various stages in her brief life. Wheatley was captured in West Africa when she was around 7 years old and enslaved by the Wheatley family in Boston. She learned to read and write, studied Greek and Latin, and became the first woman of African descent and the first formerly enslaved person to have a book published, and the third woman in the United States to have a book of poetry published. She died in Boston at age 31. “Students, to you ‘tis giv’n to scan the heights/ Above, to traverse the ethereal space,/ And mark the systems of revolving worlds,” she wrote.
New book offers complex portrait of Henry David Thoreau
Henry David Thoreau’s one night in jail and two years perched by a pond “have acquired a mystique more durable than Lord Byron’s philandering, Alexander Pushkin’s duel, or the hunting exploits of Ernest Hemingway,” writes Lawrence Buell in his engaging new book “Henry David Thoreau: Thinking Disobediently” (Oxford). Buell, the Powell M. Cabot Professor of American Literature Emeritus at Harvard and a Thoreau scholar, presents Thoreau in all his idiosyncratic depths, and shows how those idiosyncrasies have led to controversy in how he’s understood. Thoreau wrote with a “mix of vehemence and whimsy,” Buell writes, highlighting the grave importance of the quest (however localized it might be — there’s much to be found in the 10 square miles around the place one lives!), and the difficulty of approaching that same quest with constant reverence and solemnity. Buell explores the historical moment and the literary one in which Thoreau was living, and his exploration of Concord itself, its landscape and the alchemy of that particular time in that small town west of Boston, is especially compelling. This portrait of Thoreau adds to our understanding not just of the man himself, but in how we’ve responded to him. And it’s playful in moments, too: “Homeric aspiration morphs into Homeric hijinks, in a freakish blowup of sleepless camper beset by noxious insect.” Lively and thought-provoking, Buell detangles the historical Thoreau with the figure that his writing presents.
Rumspringa Books opens in Springfield
A new independent bookstore is popping up in Springfield. Rumspringa Books, run by married team Kate Kreider and Brett Albert, will be slinging books beside the pastries and pies at Granny’s Baking Table through Christmas. They’ll be selling books Tuesdays through Saturdays each week through the holiday season, focusing on recent bestsellers and a curated selection of titles they love. “All About Love” by bell hooks is there, as well as Viet Thanh Nguyen’s “The Sympathizer,” Dostoevsky’s “The Brothers Karamazov,” and works by David Foster Wallace, H. P. Lovecraft, Jane Austen, Neil Gaiman, Naomi Alderman, and Stephen King, among others. Once the bookstore’s website is running, local customers can place book orders, to be hand-delivered by the owners. Rumspringa Books is located at 309 Bridge St. in Springfield.
“Welcome Home, Stranger” by Kate Christensen (Harper)
“Flores and Miss Paula” by Melissa Rivero (Ecco)
“Yours for the Taking” by Gabrielle Korn (St. Martin’s)
Pick of the Week
Charlee Bianchini at the Bookstore of Gloucester recommends “Pleasure Activism: The Politics of Feeling Good” by adrienne maree brown (AK): “adrienne maree brown brings together a wonderful group of feminist thinkers and activists to cover a range of topics in these collected essays.”