The Word On The Street
Italian journalist Andrea Di Robilant’s latest book began with a question from a tourist he overheard in Venice 10 years ago. Tom Paul of Madison, Conn., was looking for the home of two Venetian brothers who claimed they had crossed the Atlantic and reached the coast of North America a century before Christopher Columbus’s voyage. Did they or didn’t they? Now di Robilant had to find out for himself.
“Irresistible North: From Venice to Greenland on the Trail of the Zen Brothers’’ (Knopf) is the tale of Di Robilant’s quest. Was the book the Zen brothers wrote about their journey mere fiction? Over the years scholars have debated the matter and the weight of sentiment has shifted back and forth. Di Robilant concludes that Nicolo Zen was “a first-class muddler, not a fablemonger.’’
Book fest on the Vineyard Suellen Lazarus spends her summers in Chilmark and the rest of the year in Washington, D.C. She so loved the first National Book Festival held in D.C. 10 years ago that she decided to start a similar event on Martha’s Vineyard. It has been a rousing success.
For the Martha’s Vineyard Book Festival next Sunday organizers made a point of seeking authors who might appeal to younger residents. Lazarus is pleased to have lured Melissa Coleman, who wrote a memoir about growing up in the 1970s when her parents were caught up in the back-to-the-land movement, and novelist Chris Adrian, named by The New Yorker one of 20 writers under age 40 to watch.
Also participating are Vineyard residents Geraldine Brooks and Ward Just as well as 2011 Pulitzer Prize winner Siddhartha Mukherjee, Isabel Wilkerson, Alexandra Styron, Andre Dubus III, and debut novelist Amor Towles.
An afternoon of Whittier John Greenleaf Whittier’s best-known poem is “Snow-Bound.’’ This saga in verse takes place inside the poet’s longtime home in Amesbury as a snowstorm rages for three days. Its publication the year after the Civil War ended brought him fame and a comfortable income.
Whittier, an abolitionist who produced two collections of antislavery poetry, died in 1892. His poems found a wide readership in the Atlantic Monthly and Houghton Mifflin published a seven-volume set of his poetry and prose.
Poets will gather in the garden at the John Greenleaf Whittier Home from 3 to 4:30 p.m. next Sunday to read from his work. This 13th annual reading is a collaboration between the Boston-based poetry series Tapestry of Voices and the Whittier Home Association. Details at www.whittierhome.org/wordpress.
Coming out ■ “The Good Muslim: A Novel’’ by Tahmima Anam (Harper)
■ “InSideOut Coaching: How Sports Can Transform Lives’’ by Joe Ehrmann (Simon & Schuster)
■ “A Year and Six Seconds: A Love Story’’ by Isabel Gillies (Hyperion)
Pick of the Week Caitlin Doggart of Where the Sidewalk Ends in Chatham recommends “Tolstoy and the Purple Chair: My Year of Magical Reading” by Nina Sankovitch (Harper): “This graceful memoir describes a true love affair with books. After losing her sister to cancer, Sankovitch embarks on a year of reading: one book every day. Her project becomes an ongoing conversation with her sister and provides insight into her own past.’’
Jan Gardner can be reached at JanLGardner@yahoo.com.