We talk with author Susan Cheever about AMERICAN BLOOMSBURY and Pamela Thompson tells us about her debut novel, EVERY PAST THING.
Today’s show begins in the early nineteenth century and ends in that century’s last year-November, 1899. We start our time travel with our first guest Susan Cheever. She takes us to Concord, MA where a “genius cluster” of great American writers gathered around Ralph Waldo Emerson. Her book is AMERICAN BLOOMSBURY: Louisa May Alcott, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Margaret Fuller and Henry David Thoreau: Their Lives, Their Loves, Their Work. She says these writers, popularly known as “The Transcendentalists”, invented a new form of American literature that often came from the yearnings, erotic passions, and disappointments they so deeply felt. Cheever tells us about the ambivalent relationship between Emerson and Thoreau, how Nathanial Hawthorne turned his despair into THE SCARLET LETTER and why Louisa May Alcott began writing LITTLE WOMEN. The daughter of the American writer John Cheever, Susan Cheever is the also the author of the memoir AS GOOD AS I COULD BE, published in 2001, as well as numerous other books.
“Every past thing becomes strange.” That’s how the protagonist of Pamela Thompson’s debut novel EVERY PAST THING begins the journal she writes within the book. Mary Jane Elmer is a young woman in 1899 who’s come to New York from Shelburne, Massachusetts with her husband, the painter Edwin Romanzo Elmer. She and Edwin are still mourning the death of their young daughter, Effie, but Mary Jane’s thoughts are also taken up by her romantic longings for a young student with whom she had a brief encounter 10 years before. Thompson’s novel covers only the course of a week, but the boook’s depth and beautiful prose takes the reader on a far and satisfying journey. Pamela Thompson lives in western Massachusetts.