Friday, October 12, 2012

A Bibliophile’s Guide to Portland, Maine By Karen Wojcik Berner

Thank you so much for having me here today, Jencey.

View photo in messageHave you ever wanted to escape your daily existence and live somewhere completely different?

In my latest novel, “Until My Soul Gets It Right (The Bibliophiles: Book Two),” Catherine Elbert cannot stand living one more day on her family’s farm in Burkesville, Wisconsin. Watching a PBS travelogue, she becomes intrigued with Maine, with its lighthouses and rugged coastline, so different from the Midwest. She eventually settles on Peaks Island, off the coast of Portland.

Portland is such a great city, steeped in history and funky enough to have a vibrant arts community. Elizabeth Strout, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of the wonderful “Olive Kitteridge” was born here, not to mention publishing juggernaut Stephen King. Besides, who doesn’t love reasonably priced lobster?

Being a bibliophile myself, I always visit any literary landmarks or novel points of interest. Here are a few in and around Portland.

The Wadsworth-Longfellow House. Smack in the middle of downtown Portland at 489 Congress Street, is the childhood home of the legendary nineteenth-century poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, which is still filled with original furnishings and family memorabilia. Longfellow is one of the most famous American poets, having written such pieces as “Paul Revere’s Ride,” “Christmas Bells,” and “The Children’s Hour.” As a matter of fact, his poem is why the holiday shop Catherine works at in Portland is called Christmas Bells.

The rock near Portland Head Light. I know it sounds strange, but if you visit the most famous lighthouse in Maine and the iconic image of the area, Portland Head Light, there is a large, flat rock with a plaque behind it. Longfellow was friends with the lighthouse keepers and was said to visit often. This is your chance to sit and view what Longfellow may have when he was conceptualizing his famous poem, “The Lighthouse.”

Brown Library. Housing a collection that dates from the sixteenth through twenty-first centuries, Brown Library is known for its comprehensive documents of Maine and New England history. Located behind the Wadsworth-Longfellow House, it has an extensive collection of nineteenth-century newspapers, as well as the John S.H. Fogg Autograph Collection, which includes signatures from Revolutionary War generals, kings and queens, and literary figures.

Longfellow Books. Describing itself as “fiercely independent,” this bookstore, located at One Monument Way, holds author events featuring everyone from New York Times best-sellers to local Maine authors. It even has a Classics Book Club, just like the one my characters belong to in my series, the Bibliophiles.

Have you ever been to Maine? What is your favorite literary hangout?

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