Markham Starr/Markham Starr

Photographic elegy

The closing of Stinson Seafood, the last sardine cannery in America, marked the end of an era. The factory in Gouldsboro, Maine, was emblematic of what America once was: a place where a great number of workers made products you could put your hands on.

The plant, which once employed 1,200 workers, closed in April 2010. Bumble Bee Foods, which owned the cannery, allowed Markham Starr to photograph inside the plant during its last days. "End of the Line: Closing the Last Sardine Cannery in America" (Wesleyan University) is his visual ode to the way things were.

In the early years, fish were processed only from spring to late fall when herring were migrating along the Maine coast. The fish were cut by hand, a step that increasingly gave way to automation. (By the way, the fish known as herring are called sardines after they are processed.)


As fishermen worked in deeper, rougher waters, the herring season expanded. When fishing quotas were imposed about 10 years ago, the cannery started supplementing the fresh catch with frozen fish from New Jersey and Massachusetts.

When Bumble Bee closed the Maine factory, it shipped the cannery machinery to New Brunswick, Canada.

Pioneer in Jewish humor

Years before "Weird Al'' Yankovic began mining comic gold in his parodies of songs by the likes of Michael Jackson, the Police, and Lady Gaga, Allan Sherman delighted millions of Americans with his sendup of a miserable young boy's summer-camp letters home sung to the tune of Amilcare Ponchielli's "Dance of the Hours."

Now 50 years after the release of "Hello Muddah, Hello Fadduh," Sherman's Grammy Award-winning 1963 hit, writer Mark Cohen has published "Overweight Sensation: The Life and Comedy of Allan Sherman'' (Brandeis University), the first biography of the song parodist who produced three gold records in the early 1960s but died in relative obscurity at age 48 in 1973.


The book follows Sherman from his chaotic childhood, through his work in television, and his musical career. Cohen, who has written books on Beat writer Seymour Krim and a community of Sephardic Jews in an area that is now part of modern-day Macedonia, paints a portrait of a talented but troubled man who would eventually be consumed by his own appetites.

Cohen said in an interview in Women's Wear Daily that he was drawn to the project because he had been a childhood fan and when Sherman "appeared on the scene in 1962, I thought it was pretty early for really out-there Jewish humor, and when I learned more about his personal life, I thought that the story was a fascinating one."

Cohen will discuss his biography Wednesday at 7 p.m. at Brookline Booksmith in Coolidge Corner.

The language of verse

In collaboration with the Brookline-based Zephyr Press, Brookline Booksmith will showcase the art of poetry in translation at 7 p.m. on Friday . Translators Eleanor Goodman, J. Kates and Elizabeth Oehlkers Wright will read from the works of Chinese poet Wang Xiaoni, Russian poets Mikhail Aizenberg and Tatiana Shcherbina, and German poet Zafer Senocak.

Coming out

 “Eating on the Wild Side: The Missing Link to Optimum Health” by Jo Robinson (Little, Brown)

 “Boys in the Boat: Nine Americans and Their Epic Quest for Gold at the 1936 Berlin Olympics” by Daniel James Brown (Viking)

 “The Kill Room” by Jeffery Deaver (Grand Central)

Pick of the Week

Rita Moran of Apple Valley Books in Winthrop, Maine, recommends "Red Sparrow" by Jason Matthews (Scribner): "Retired from the CIA, Matthews tells a great tale of espionage in the Putin era, with strong characters and plot twists that will leave you wanting even more — which the author then gives you in the form of story-related recipes at the end of each chapter."


Jan Gardner can be reached at JanLGardner@yahoo.com.