The Word on the Street

Mount Katahdin as seen by artists over two centuries

“Mount Katahdin, Autumn No. 1,” 1939-40, by Marsden Hartley.
Courtesy of Sheldon Museum of Art
“Mount Katahdin, Autumn No. 1,” 1939-40, by Marsden Hartley.

A towering muse through centuries

Maine’s Mount Katahdin, the northern terminus of the Appalachian Trail, is “not one, but many mountains,” outdoorsman Myron Avery once wrote. Rising to a height of about 5,267 feet from relatively flat surroundings, it can be seen from a great distance. Avery understood the impulse of artists eager to paint the mountain’s many sides. “From each cardinal direction,” he wrote, “Katahdin’s aspect is utterly different.”

Maine artist David Little has long been in the mountain’s thrall. He has climbed it, painted it, worked on its trails, and curated an exhibit of art inspired by it. In recent years, he has been on a journey through time, gathering paintings and other images of the mountain and researching its history as an artistic subject. The end result is “Art of Katahdin: The Mountain, the Range, the Region” (Down East), a lushly illustrated coffee-table book that celebrates the diverse portrayals of the mountain created over the the past 200 years.

Because the mountain has a long approach and is a demanding climb, many artists have sought to capture what they experienced firsthand: the sunsets and sunrises, the storms, the stars. Among the well-known artists in “Art of Katahdin” are Maine native Marsden Hartley, who turned his attention to the mountain at the age of 62 in hopes of reinvigorating his career, and Frederic Edwin Church, who painted Katahdin for 40 years, taking a number of camping trips and enduring punishing attacks of black flies. Church is closely associated with the Hudson River School of landscape painters. It has been suggested that Maine’s greatest mountain has a tradition and a school of painters all its own, a view for which Little’s book could be Exhibit A.

Global tribute to books


On Tuesday, which is World Book Night, about a half-million books are expected to be given away in 6,000 communities across the country. Now in its second year in the United States, World Book Night enlists volunteers to give books to adults and teens who don’t read much. April 23 also happens to be World Book and Copyright Day, a celebration organized by UNESCO, as well as the day that William Shakespeare died.

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Cambridge Public Library will host a kick-off celebration on Monday at 7 p.m. Neil Gaiman, Vanessa Diffenbaugh, and Lisa Genova , three authors whose books are on the list of 30 for this year’s giveaway, will talk.

Battle of the poets

Toni Bee will bring her special brand of poetry-music mashups to a gathering that will feature readings by the two finalists vying to succeed her as Cambridge’s poet populist. The poetry jam takes place from 7 to 9 p.m. Wednesday at the Middle East Corner, 480 Mass. Ave. in Central Square. Poets Lo Gallucio and Tom Yuill are vying to serve as Cambridge’s next ambassador for poetry. Cambridge residents can cast their ballots until the end of the month; the winner will be announced in May. The goal of the poet populist, a two-year office that was established in 2007, is to promote an appreciation for poetry.

Coming out

 “Darwin Deleted: Imagining a World Without Darwin”by Peter J. Bowler (University of Chicago)

 “Fishing Stories”edited by Henry Hughes (Everyman’s Library)


 “The Virtues of Poetry”by James Longenbach (Graywolf)

Pick of the week

Susan Morgan of the Yankee Bookshop in Woodstock, Vt., recommends “Alif the Unseen” by G. Willow Wilson (Grove): “Alif is a computer hacker who provides systems security to protect against government censors. Set in an unnamed Arab emirate, this cyber-thriller combines enigmatic characters, fantasy, romance, and spirituality in a thoughtful and page-turning read.”

Jan Gardner can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @JanLGardner.

Correction: An earlier version of the caption accompanying the image with this story was incorrect. The image is “Mount Katahdin, Autumn No. 1” by Marsden Hartley, and it was given to the Globe courtesy of the Sheldon Museum of Art.