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new england literary news | NINA MACLAUGHLIN

Mixing painting, stories; BPL’s community playwright; and immigrant views

Linden Frederick’s painting “Save-a-Lot,” the inspiration for one of the stories in a collection based on the artist’s work.Handout

Inspiration in his art

Linden Frederick’s paintings speak to small-town evenings. They’re atmospheric scenes of dusky quiet — streetlit driveways, a single light golden glowing in a dark house, a crescent moon taking shape over a convenience store. They bring to mind the work of Andrew Wyeth and Edward Hopper for their seething sense of mood. Absent from his paintings are people, but present is a definitive sense of story, of what’s just unfolded, or is about to.

Frederick, who has lived in Belfast, Maine, for nearly 30 years, wondered what would happen if he collaborated with a group of writers, each of whom chose one of his paintings as inspiration for a story.


So Frederick teamed up with Maine author and Pulitzer Prize-winner Richard Russo who assembled some big names for the project. The resulting exhibit, “Night Stories,’’ opens Aug. 18 and runs through Nov. 5 at the Center for Maine Contemporary Art. The accompanying book will be available at the center and on Amazon in October. It includes original stories by Anthony Doerr, Louise Erdrich, Andre Dubus III, Lois Lowry, Dennis Lehane, Ann Patchett, Elizabeth Strout, Joshua Ferris, Russo, and others.

Doerr’s story, inspired by a painting called “Save-a-Lot,’’ features a woman named Bunny, an old man named Alfred, a girl named Hanako, drugs, rescues, and a raccoon. Dubus chose a painting called “Ice,’’ a scene of stale snow ploughed into uneven ridges in front of an old corner store, dark save for an illuminated front entrance and a lit ceiling fixture visible through the windows of an apartment above. “Somewhere along the way, her husband has gotten scared of the world, then mean,” he writes. Linden’s paintings proved provocative fodder for these writers.

Brainstorming his play

As the Boston Public Library’s first playwright in residence, John J. King is taking his role as a public artist seriously.


For starters King (pictured), who was recently selected for the BPL by Boston’s Fresh Ink Theatre, writes out in the open in the library’s McKim Courtyard. Using the BPL’s collections, branches, and resources King will create a new play to be unveiled in the spring of 2018.

As part of the process, he is planning visits to various branches and expects to hold public workshops and readings to get community response.

The new work, “Martha’s (b)Rainstorm,’’ will be told in a choose-your-own-adventure format and focus on Boston in the year 2052 amid a year-long drought as a scientist named Martha tries to make it rain

King aims to inject the play with “hilarity, theatricality, and playfulness in the midst of exploring the potentially very dark subject” of a warming earth. And he hopes the project will serve “as a campfire around which the community can gather and share a variety of perspectives’’ on environmental and other issues.

Award for debut

Grace Talusan’s essay collection, “The Body Papers,’’ which examines her life as a Filipino immigrant and histories of trauma and abuse, illness, faith, and love, recently won the Restless Books Prize for New Immigrant Writing. The annual award goes to a first-generation debut author and includes $10,000 and publication of the winning manuscript. Talusan lives outside Boston and teaches at Tufts and Grub Street, and “The Body Papers’’ will be published in the fall of 2018.

Pick of the week

Kim Ward at Bear Pond Books in Montpelier, Vt., recommends “Dark Matter’’ by Blake Crouch: “There have been many stories written about people trying to fix their lives by time travel. There have been some about traveling to alternate universes. This one is a rip-roaring ride from start to finish with some cool and unique views on what might happen if you were kidnapped by your doppelganger and then tried to go in and fix it all.”


Coming out

“Montpelier Parade’’ by Karl Geary (Catapult)

“The Cooking Gene: A Journey Through African-American Culinary History in the Old South’’ by Michael W. Twitty (Amistad)

Nina MacLaughlin is the author of “Hammer Head: The Making of a Carpenter.” She can be reached at nmaclaughlin@gmail.com.