Literary New England Starts a New Chapter

IT ALMOST FELT LIKE A FAMILY MEMBER DIED when, in August 2015, I realized I needed the time I was using to produce the Literary New England Radio Show to care for my elderly parents instead.

BlogTalkRadioImageReaching as many as 10,000 fellow bibliomaniacs an episode, I hosted the show for four fantastic years, interviewing best-selling authors as diverse and talented as Margaret Atwood, Nathaniel Philbrick, Geraldine Brooks, Alice Hoffman, Jodi Picoult, Chris Bohjalian, and Deborah Harkness. And when it was gone, I mourned.

But I am thrilled to announce that today, with this post, Literary New England is back!

While the original Literary New England was primarily a weekly podcast, the new Literary New England will take several forms. Rather than try to cram our celebration of New England-connected books and authors into one, weekly, hour-long podcast, we’ll deliver our coverage in more bit-sized servings, and dish it out several times a week.

Me readingFrom this website, Literary New England will feature:

  • Book reviews
  • Print and audio author interviews
  • Video shorts
  • Travel suggestions to New England #LitLocations
  • #NovelFacts on New England books and authors
  • And much more!

Because Badass Bookish Women (to be known here as BBWs) don’t always get the ink and recognition they deserve, we’ll be paying extra attention to showcasing empowering and inspirational literary females from the past and present. A truth: The #FutureIsFemale. And while we love men, we believe it’s women who will ultimately change the world.

Alison Hawthorne Deming and NathanielPeople have asked why—when there are so many different books and authors, from so many different places—I focus on New England. I’ve given different answers. But I think Alison Hawthorne Deming, Nathaniel Hawthorne’s great-great-granddaughter, answered that question best when I interviewed her in January 2012, and she talked about New England being a place where people practice “high thinking and plain living.”

Our nation started here. Stories have been lived and told here not just since the Mayflower landed in 1620, but for centuries before. There is a palpable sense of belonging here that I believe draws and inspires people. It certainly inspires me. And that sense of place, history, and life—lived in every imaginable circumstance and time—is a powerful thing.

Since book love is meant to be shared, please follow Literary New England on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. And help us spread the word about the start of our exciting new chapter!


Cindy Wolfe Boynton


Review: Hey, Hollywood. Orphan Number Eight should be a movie.

Orphan Number 8One of the books I took on vacation to Martha’s Vineyard last month was Kim van Alkemade‘s Orphan Number Eight–a book that, from the back blurb, I was pretty sure I was going to like. I ended up giving it four stars on Goodreads after not being able to put it down.

An historical novel about a Jewish nurse who plots revenge when one of her patients is the doctor who subjected her to damaging medical experiments in a New York City Jewish orphanage decades before, the book has a risky structure for a debut novelist. Chapters that take place in the present are written in the first person, while chapters in the past are written in the third. This change in voice is startling at first. But van Alkemade is a talented writer who, through rich prose and detail, makes you forget anything but the story as she skillfully brings protagonist Rachel Rabinowitz’s pain, vulnerability, struggle and desire for justice to vivid life.

I’ll be featuring an interview with Kim van Alkemade about Orphan Number Eight on this coming Monday night’s Literary New England Radio Show. Naomi Jackson, author of the fantastic The Star Side of Bird Hill, and Laura Anderson, whose latest engrossing Tudor novel is The Virgin’s Daughter, will be my other guests.

The X-ray treatments Rachel undergoes as part of what her Jewish orphanage doctor believes will be groundbreaking medical research are part of what Kim and I will talk about on the show. Click here for a short teaser and, if you like what you hear, be sure to tune in at 8 p.m. Monday night! In addition to the author interviews, we’ll be giving away copies of each of these books.
But don’t wait to see whether you win a copy of Orphan Number Eight to add it to your to-read list. In it, you’ll travel with Rachel from the cramped tenement apartments of turn-of-the-century Manhattan, to orphanage cribs where children go weeks without ever being touched, to an off-the-map town in Colorado, to the impossibly soft sand and blue sky of Coney Island. It’s a terrific and affecting ride.

Attention Hollywood: Orphan Number Eight should be a movie!

– Cindy Wolfe Boynton

Celebrating ‘Connecticut Author’s Day’

CTAuthorDaySept1“The State of Connecticut has been and continues to be home to countless talented local authors, from world renowned literary figures including Mark Twain and Harriet Beecher Stowe, to authors that are lesser known but equally deserving of recognition …”

ThaUnexpectedGracet’s Finding Dadan excerpt from the proclamation Gov. Dannel Malloy issued to named today “Connecticut Authors’ Day” in the Nutmeg State.

Celebrations included an invitation-only reception at the Mark Twain House in Hartford featuring best-selling Connecticut authors June Hyjek (also president of the Association of Publishers for Special Sales, Connecticut chapter) and Kara Sundlun (also an Emmy Award-winning journalist), shown at right, and several state officials. More than 60 people attended.

“When you look at the names of those who have lived and created here, from Mark Twain to Dominick Dunne, you see the shaping of America’s culture,” Hyjek said. “While the bold-faced names get most of the attention, this day intends to celebrate all authors who choose to call Connecticut home. Books combat illiteracy. Even if a book doesn’t become a bestseller, it doesn’t mean that it hasn’t added value to someone’s life. Every book is important; every author is important.”

Among the authors with Connecticut connections noted at today’s reception were Pulitzer Prize-winners including A. Scott Berg (Lindbergh), Annie Proulx (The Shipping News) and Bill Dedman (The Color of Money), along with best-sellers Stephanie Meyer (Twilight), Elizabeth Gilbert (Eat, Pray, Love), Jay McInerney (Bright Lights, Big City) and Candace Bushnell (Sex and The City).

How are each of these authors linked to Connecticut?

  • Scott Berg was born in Norwalk
  • Annie Proulx was born in Norwich
  • Bill Dedman lives in Fairfield County
  • Stephanie Meyer and Jay McInerney were born in Hartford
  • Elizabeth Gilbert was born in Waterbury and grew up on a small family Christmas tree farm in Litchfield
  • Candace Bushnell was born and raised in Glastonbury


Pretty Baby by Mary Kubica >> one of our book giveaways tonight!

Tomorrow is the release date for Mary Kubica‘s Pretty Baby, follow-up to her debut novel The Good Girl, but we’ll be giving away copies tonight!

Listen to tonight’s Literary New England Radio Show starting at 8 p.m. Our interview with Mary will air at roughly 8:17, and both before and after that conversation, we’ll tell you how to win. In all, we feature three authors and book giveaways on tonight’s show:

3 books 7.27.15Hope you’ll join us! For those who can’t, the good new is that shortly after tonight’s episode ends, it will go into the Literary New England Radio Show archives, where you can listen anytime. Scroll through the archives, and you can access episodes going back to our very first one aired in December 2011.

F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald’s beautiful, gin-filled summer in Connecticut

The Fitzgeralds in front of their Westport house.
The Fitzgeralds in front of their Westport house.

For six months in 1920, F. Scott Fitzgerald and his wife Zelda lived in a rented house at 244 Compo Road South in Westport, Conn., as he wrote his second novel, The Beautiful and Damned. The house is now a private home.

What the "Wakeman Cottage" the Fitzgeralds rented looks like today.
What the “Wakeman Cottage” the Fitzgeralds rented looks like today.

Fitzgerald was 23 at the time, fresh off the success of his debut novel, This Side of Paradise. He and Zelda were newlyweds and known–not always in a good way–for their love of liquor and parties.

At Compo Beach.
At Compo Beach.

Westport, a beacon for artists of all kinds in the 1920s, was a perfect place for the couple. “Summers at Westport, Connecticut, exceeded the riotousness of New York,” said Westport resident and painter Guy Pene du Bois in his 1940 autobiography Artists Say The Silliest Things. “There, gin and orange juice ruled the days and nights. Talk was an extravaganza. Work was an effort made between parties.” And gin was one of the Fitzgeralds’ favorite. In Invented Lives: F. Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald, biographer James Mellow describes their “mad rides along Post Road with abrupt stops at roadhouses to replenish the supply of gin.”

The gin rickey was often their drink of choice. Perhaps a great way to celebrate the lives of this legendary literary couple would be to mix a pitcher and bring it to Westport’s Compo Beach at sunset, followed by a stroll down Compo Road South to see the house that ended up being immortalized in The Beautiful and Damned:

The gray house had been there when women who kept cats were probably witches. … Since those days the house had been bolstered up in a feeble corner, considerably repartitioned and newly plastered inside, amplified by kitchen and added to by a side-porch but, save for where some jovial oaf had roofed the new kitchen with red tin, Colonial it defiantly remained.

FScotthouse_CocktailSome believe Westport also was the actual inspiration for The Great Gatsby, rather than parts of Long Island. Articles in the WestportNow and The New York Times’ Connecticut section explore this possibility, plus include quotes from those who remember the Fitzgeralds during their time in Connecticut. But if gin is still on your mind, hold off on the Gatsby exploration until after you spend a few minutes enjoying this great Open Culture post about Fitzgerald conjugating the verb “to cocktail.” You may want to have a gin rickey in hand.

Hear Dolen Perkins-Valdez, Joseph Finder & Elizabeth Alexander in the Literary New England Radio Show archives

3 booksMiss this past Monday, June 22, Literary New England Radio Show? No worries! You can hear our three enthralling guests in the Literary New England Radio Show archives. The episode features:

  • Dolen Perkins-Valdez on Balm. Set shortly after the end of the Civil War, it’s the story of three people who have come to Chicago in search of a new life: Madge, who was born with magical hands that heal; Sadie, who can talk with the dead; and Hemp, who is searching for both redemption and his missing family.
  • Joseph Finder on The Fixer. The latest stand-alone thriller by this New York Times bestselling author that focuses on a former investigative reporter forced to move back to his childhood home, where he makes an exciting and dangerous discovery about his father’s past.
  • Elizabeth Alexander on The Light of the World. A gorgeous memoir by an acclaimed poet and Pulitzer Prize finalist about the beauty of married life, the trauma of her husband’s death, and the solace found in caring for her two teenage sons.

Was a great episode! Definitely check it out!