by Stephanie Kraft
Rand McNally & Company 90 photographs, 239 pages, $9.95
“The places I loved or hated between the ages of three and thirteen compose an inexhaustible landscape of memory,” Ellen Glasgow once wrote. This landscape of memory is what Stephanie Kraft explores for us in her compact, unusual book about the homes and hometowns of thirty American authors.
In well-chosen pictures and neat, graceful essays she shows how and where the writers lived, and how deeply rooted they were in their home territories. For instance, William Faulkner, working in Hollywood and furiously homesick for Oxford, Mississippi (his Yoknapatawpha County) once wrote that he yearned to be in his own kitchen “with my family around me and my hands full of Old Maid cards.” Sherwood Anderson, talking of the countryside around Clyde, Ohio, where he grew up, recalled his boyhood sense of “awe before the facts of life in meadows.”
Kraft also tells us how the hometowns reacted to becoming literary subject matter. Sinclair Lewis’ neighbors in Sauk Centre, Minnesota, for example, were shocked when Main Street (set in the thinly disguised town of Gopher Prairie) appeared. Two years later they renamed their central thoroughfare “The Original Main Street.”