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Archive for May, 2011|Monthly archive page

The Fens: Then and Now

In Boston Individualists, Hidden History on May 30, 2011 at 11:29 am

A Frederick Law Olmstead creation, the Fens is a marshy park a mile from downtown Boston. The Fenway neighborhood which got its name from the park, is comprised of college students, longtime residents, and the Red Sox.   According to an article on Boston.com, Olmstead came up with the name, “Fens” because he wanted people to think of it as a place to see, rather than a place to use, according to an article on Boston.com.  Parks are for running around, frisbee, and walking dogs.  As a verdant, marshy area, The Fens is more of a vegetative tableau vivant.

What is not stated in this article is at least as interesting as what is.

For generations of gay men (and on occasion, their bashers), the Fens has had a different connotation. It is a well-known meeting place for men looking for sex with other men.  The tall reeds that invaded the park years ago, provide them with that most elusive urban amenity, privacy in a public place. Now, the city plans to irradicate the reeds and along with it, a slice of social history that remained hidden just as it did in this article — in a public place.

The irradication effort makes sense since what is meant to be seen is now clogged with reeds that grow like crab grass.  A greater acceptance of the gay community may make public assignations less urgent.  Is the use of the Fens in this way a relic of a more closeted society?  Time will tell.


Dick Wimmer, Author Whose Book Was Rejected 162 Times

In Writers on May 29, 2011 at 8:46 pm

Who cannot relate to Dick Wimmer, the writer whose obituary (he was 74) was splashed across many major news outlets this past week?  The itinerant English college instructor’s first book, Irish Wine, was rejected 162 times.

Horatio Alger fans come closer: Wimmer’s book was accepted the 163rd time and to good reviews.

It was followed by two other books forming the Irish Wine trilogy, which itself was followed by anthologies edited by Wimmer on baseball and basketball.

May he now rest in peace, next to the wary editors who rejected him.

Mr. Wimmer, who after 25 years of submissions and more than 150 rejections finally got that book published — to very positive reviews — died on May 18 at his home in Agoura Hills, Calif., his son said. He was 74.

Saying that agents and publishers had spurned him 162 times, Mr. Wimmer laid claim to being the most-rejected published novelist in history. Finally, in 1989, “Irish Wine” was published by Mercury House.  –New York Times, May 24, 2011

James Allen, Highwayman, Who Bound His Memoir in Human Skin

In Boston Individualists on May 27, 2011 at 12:13 am

James Allen’s memoir of his days as a highwayman is one of the rarest books in the rare book collection of the Boston Athenaeum, America’s oldest private membership library.  The one man who fought back when Allen attempted to rob him was John Fenno.  This impressed Allen so much that he asked to have a copy of his memoir bound in skin from his own back and presented to Fenno.

But is this true?

Yes, within the past several years, the Library had a visitor:

The interpretation always accepted here has been that the highwayman’s own skin was used (as the book binder). This belief has recently been confirmed in a striking manner. A visitor to the Athenæum a few months ago announced himself as the son and namesake of one George Arnold, who did cataloguing work at this Library some ninety years ago. The visitor’s grandfather, Peter Low, had come to Boston from London, where his father and grandfather were in the book business. Here he was engaged in bookbinding, for the Old Corner Book Store and other clients. The grandson relates the story that the skin used for binding Walton’s book came from Massachusetts General Hospital on the very day of his death. Walton was a Jamaican mulatto, and the skin, taken from his back, had been treated to look like a gray deer skin. Peter Low had not realized at first the precise nature of the material placed in his hands. By the time his day’s work was done, however, he was in great distress of mind and nightmares filled the night that followed.

–Boston Athenaeum Website

Huguette Clark, Anti-Social Socialite and Last Link to Guilded Age is Dead at 104.

In New York Individualists on May 25, 2011 at 1:29 am

Huguette Clark

 –New York Times, May 25, 2011.