Author Archives: uwpress

Readings on Syria and Cuba

2633Cleopatra’s Wedding Present: Travels through Syria
Robert Tewdwr Moss
Introduction by Lucretia Stewart

Robert Tewdwr Moss was a journalist of astonishing versatility who was murdered in London in 1996, the day after he finished this book. He left this lyrical gem as his legacy. Moss’s memoir of his travels through Syria resonates on many levels: as a profoundly telling vivisection of Middle Eastern society, a chilling history of ethnic crimes, a picaresque adventure story, a purely entertaining travelogue, a poignant romance—and now, a record of Syria in the late twentieth century, before the devastation of civil war.

 

5216-165wWinner, Luciano Tomassini International Relations Book Award, Latin American Studies Association
Cubans in Angola: South-South Cooperation and Transfer of Knowledge, 1976–1991
Christine Hatzky

“Hatzky convincingly argues that Cuba and Angola were not mere pawns in a proxy war between the Cold War superpowers, but that both countries worked as independent actors with their own specific interests in a relationship of equal partnership. . . . Well written and excellently translated.”American Historical Review

Angola, a former Portuguese colony in southern central Africa, gained independence in 1975 and almost immediately plunged into more than two decades of conflict and crisis. Fidel Castro sent Cuban military troops to Angola in support of the Movimento Popular de Libertação de Angola (MPLA), leading to its ascension to power despite facing threats both international and domestic. What is less known, and what Cubans in Angola brings to light, is the significant role Cubans played in the transformation of civil society in Angola during these years. Offering not just military support but also political, medical, administrative, and technical expertise as well as educational assistance, the Cuban presence in Angola is a unique example of transatlantic cooperation between two formerly colonized nations in the global South.

 

3495Transgression and Conformity: Cuban Writers and Artists after the Revolution
Linda S. Howe

“A brilliant synthesis of Cuba’s cultural production since the Revolution. Linda Howe offers the ultimate guide to understanding the cultural policies of the island. . . . Fascinating and comprehensive.”
—Cristina García, editor of Cubanísimo

Defining the political and aesthetic tensions that have shaped Cuban culture for over forty years, Linda Howe explores the historical and political constraints imposed upon Cuban artists and intellectuals during and after the Revolution. Focusing on the work of Afro-Cuban writers Nancy Morejón and Miguel Barnet, Howe exposes the complex relationship between Afro-Cuban intellectuals and government authorities as well as the racial issues present in Cuban culture.

 

 

Recounting Yaqui history as an outsider

Hu-DeHart-Yaqui-Resistance-and-Survival-cEvelyn Hu-DeHart, author of the new revised edition of  Yaqui Resistance and Survival: The Struggle for Land and Autonomy 1821-1910, comments on the difficulties of writing history as an outsider and the rewarding feedback she received from the Yaquis she met. The new edition was released by UWP in early November.

To prepare for the new edition of my book,  I wrote a preface entitled “Reading Yaqui History in the Twenty-First Century.” I did not, however, include in that preface two anecdotes about the reaction of some Yaquis to my work. These encounters have given me a lot of personal satisfaction, so here I share them with you, dear Potential Reader, in hope that the stories will spur you to pick up the book and read it.

Shortly after the book was first published in 1984, I was invited to give a talk at the University of Arizona. It was of course near the U.S.–Mexico border and the original Yaqui homeland in Sonora, Mexico, as Pascua Yaqui Tribewell as near Yaqui exile communities in Arizona that had become permanent over the years. After the talk, an older gentleman approached me to introduce himself as a Yaqui. He did not thank me; instead, he told me that his people would not have recounted their history chronologically as I did, because that is not how time plays out for them. Hearing that as a sharp rebuke, my heart began to sink, until he quickly added that perhaps I was a Yaqui in my previous life. I took that gratefully as a back-handed compliment.

Some fifteen years later, I was invited to give a talk on Yaqui history at Humboldt State University in northern California. Afterwards, while having a snack at the campus cafeteria, I was approached by a group of young men who identified themselves as Yaquis. They said that they had grown up in the American Southwest and had read my book. They knew only a few of the great events, they told me, and had not heard of the resistance leaders I wrote about. They then thanked me warmly for giving them back a history they had lost. I was grateful for this direct and sincere affirmation of the book’s worth to the very people it concerned and mattered to most.

Texas Yaqui 2Writing indigenous history as an outsider is a challenging and risky business.  The burden of responsibility to “get it right” for insiders can be balanced only by appreciation for the outsider historian’s craft and authority. When the older Yaqui and the younger Yaquis spoke truth to my power, I was simultaneously humbled and proud during both encounters.

Hu-DeHart-Evelyn-2016-cEvelyn Hu-DeHart is a professor of history, American studies, and ethnic studies, and a past director of the Center for the Study of Race in America, at Brown University. She is the author of Missionaries, Miners, and Indians: History of Spanish Contact with the Yaqui Indians of Northwestern New Spain, 1533–1830.

A brief history of the Irish Nationalist Movement

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Paul A. Townend, author of The Road to Home Rule: Anti-imperialism and the Irish National Movement, provides some background on the turbulent political landscape in Ireland in the late 1800s. The University of Wisconsin Press is publishing this book today in the book series History of Ireland and Irish Diaspora

The Road to Home Rule tracks the relationship of discontented Irish patriots with their place in the British imperial system. As “jingo” imperial policies drove the relentless and often violent imperial expansion of the British Empire of the 1870s and 1880s, Irish political entrepreneurs capitalized on a rising, visceral popular Irish rejection of that system. The story parallels in certain ways the striking current turn in Anglo-American political culture towards anti-globalist populism.

Then and now, an ambitious and rambunctious political minority worked tirelessly, successfully, and, in the minds of the political establishment, unscrupulously, to disturb what many saw as an inevitable progressive march away from the past. This past was bound by localism and resentful identity politics, and this minority sought to move towards a brighter, more prosperous, and mutually advantageous transnational and interconnected future. In Ireland in the 1870s, Anglo-Irish elites led by the lawyer Isaac Butt imagined a new Ireland, ruled by its own parliament but even more closely connected to the British Empire, the great globalizing force of the last quarter of the nineteenth century. By granting Ireland local autonomy in the form of “home rule,” Butt argued to anyone in England who would listen that Irish grievances could be settled quickly, and reconciled Irish energy and human capital could be harnessed to help build the rapidly expanding empire.

Identifying with Benjamin Disraeli’s efforts to lead a populist turn in British imperial culture, and to embrace the inspirational potential of imperial grandeur, Butt and others believed that, properly led, Irish soldiers, merchants, and emigrants could leverage their longstanding service to Empire into a genuine partnership for ordering the world’s less civilized peoples. The joint project of spreading Christianity, British law, and building a global economy dominated by British technology, capital markets, communications, and transport infrastructure—railroads, telegraphs, and steamships—would thus transcend generations of petty sectarian animosities and festering grievances. All of this would allow the intransigent “Irish problem” to fade into the history books, a curiosity of the past, overcome forever by the force of progress, prosperity, optimism, and mutual enterprise.

In Ireland, however, this vision was disturbed by unanticipated developments, and was then swallowed up by a wave of frustrated and angry Irish populism. The uncharacteristically unimaginative failure of Disraeli to seize the opportunity presented by Butt’s offer of collaborative partnership frustrated Butt and his Irish allies. Rising economic distress in Ireland occasioned by the disruption of global agricultural markets compounded popular discontent. The situation boiled over as Disraeli, and then his Liberal successor, William Ewart Gladstone, embarked between 1878 and 1885 on a spectacular series of bloody imperial campaigns against Afghans, Zulus, Boers, Egyptians, and Sudanese peoples unwilling to accept Pax Britannica and all its benefits, which they never asked for.

It took the political entrepreneurship of Charles Stewart Parnell, however, and a handful of cosmopolitan allies—many of them globetrotting journalists and foreign correspondents, like the Fenian J.J. O’Kelly or Parnell’s close associate, Cork native Justin McCarthy—to capitalize on the populist opportunity afforded by these wars and economic disruptions. Parnell caught the pulse of Irish disgust and rejected any embrace of British imperial ambition. He worked to marshal anti-imperial Irish public opinion, stirred as it was by imperial violence, appalled by the imposition of “Zulu-whipped” British soldiers on the Irish countryside, and quick to see parallels between Irish, African, and Indian experiences of British power.  Parnell superseded Butt by forging a powerful bond with nationalist sentiment, building a transformative and enormously consequential new Home Rule movement that demanded greater independence and rejected Irish support for the imperial project. He and others used the press, especially the new technologies that encouraged the insertion of political cartoons, to promote a vision of empire building as an exercise in hypocritical brutality.

Photo Credit: National Library, Ireland

“Look on this, and on this,” July 1882; comparing the occupation of Alexandria with “Coercion” during the Irish Land War. Photo Credit: National Library, Ireland

By strengthening for many in Ireland the connection between opposition to Union and opposition to empire, Parnell made it nearly impossible for himself or his successors to reconcile Irish independence with imperial citizenship. They alienated forever many imperially minded Britons who rightly diagnosed the threat Parnellism posed to the emerging British-dominated global system. As Flora Dixie, the shrewd pioneering war correspondent and sympathetic critic of Parnell, noted at the time, her English friends were disgusted by the apparent unwillingness of a Home Rule Irish parliament led by Parnell to “agree to any imperial policy of the ministry.” “What would be the result,” she wondered, of this fundamental disconnect on foreign policy, “if not political anarchy?”

In embracing nationalism and rejecting the transnational progressivism of their day, these Irish nationalists acted more out of opportunism than ideology. The leaders of the Parnell movement were neither parochial nor anti-modern, but they did enormously frustrate a seemingly inevitable march of history towards a future that many believed would subordinate local economic interests, as well as cultural and political identities, to new power structures and forces of globalization. To achieve their political goals, Parnellite Home Rulers had to stoke public opinion, graphically caricature British power, and work to remind Irish people of their historical grievances. While they often encouraged sympathy and solidarity with other imperial subjects, their sometimes cynical embrace of contemporary racial attitudes also led them to encourage the Irish people to expect political success where less “civilized” peoples failed to resist British power. In their struggle against what they understood to be overwhelmingly powerful political and economic forces, they adopted an opportunistic and ethically fluid approach to building their movement into a transformative revolution.

townend figure 2 blog

“Prophet and Loss.”; Satirizing the occupation of Egypt. Photo Credit: National Library, Ireland

How Brexit might be better understood by contemplating the Irish anti-imperialist campaign is too presentist an undertaking for this historian. But, it is interesting to note how contemptuous Butt and his contemporaries were about Parnell’s efforts, even while they acknowledged the potent destructive political force of charismatically led populist campaigns rooted in economic frustration, fiercely held “local” identities, and resentment of distant and unresponsive elites. As Mitchell Henry, one appalled ally of Butt, put it in a public letter in 1879, the new leadership was “revolutionary and criminal” in its rebranding of Irish patriotism as the rejection of empire. “The object of the Home Rule movement,” he insisted, was “to present Great Britain and Ireland as one empire, united together.”

The lessons of history are often invoked; one of the most important is that it can be very difficult to judge the likely verdict of the future on the choices made in a given present. Parnell remains a national hero in Ireland; his political genius is acknowledged by many who are less sure of the long term consequences of the political movement he led. But to the majority of his politically astute contemporaries, the savvy Irish elites of his day, Parnell was a demagogue who enabled the short-sighted and opportunistic rejection of the best way forward for the Irish people into a better future and a brighter era of cooperation. Because he refused to let go of the past and move on from bitterness and grievance, the argument went, his trading in the emotionally effective but short-sighted currency of anti-imperialism left the Irish outside of the power structures that self-interest dictated they accept and adapt to.

Townend-Paul-2016-cPaul A. Townend is a professor of British and Irish history at the University of North Carolina, Wilmington. He is the author of Father Mathew, Temperance, and Irish Identity and the coeditor of Ireland in an Imperial World.

 

 

University Press Week 2016! #FollowFriday blog tour

upweek2016_LogoSmallThe University Press Week blog tour concludes today, with the theme of #Follow Friday.

 

 

 

 University of California Press offers links to blogs and social channels, showing how they foster community through their publishing and dynamic outreach efforts.

 Seminary Co-op Bookstores provides links to all UP authors that spoke at the Seminary Co-op in November.

University of Nebraska Press congratulates recent literary contest winners.

University of Minnesota Press writes about an upcoming symposium titled Avant Museology.

University of North Carolina Press shares a #FollowFriday post connecting readers to many of their publishing partners.

MIT Press writes about the MIT Press bookstore’s move to a new location.

 

We invite you to follow news from the University of Wisconsin Press on these sites. Click through to find our home pages.

Twitter   “Follow” us here.

Facebook  “Like” us here.

Blog    Subscribe to the blog in the righthand sidebar.

Thanks for participating in University Press Week 2016!

 

UNIVERSITY PRESS WEEK 2016! THURSDAY BLOG TOUR: THROWBACK TO THE FUTURE

Throwback to the Future

On Day Four of University Press Week, visit these blog sites that highlight the past and future of university press publishing.

Yale University Press on mass media and the global village

Indiana University Press on Indiana’s Bicentennial Bookshelf

Seminary Co-op Bookstores reproduces their Fall 1983 newsletter

University of Michigan Press  introduce two major projects: a digital archaeology monograph about excavating a Roman city, built on a video game platform;  and a new digital publishing platform for information and data in multiple forms.

IPR License introduces its work as a fully transactional rights and licensing online marketplace

Columbia University Press on the South Asia Across the Disciplines series, a Mellon-funded collaborative project of Columbia University Press, the University of Chicago Press, and the University of California Press

University of Toronto Press Journals looks back and forward at online publishing platforms for journals

Also, plan to watch this event on Friday!

Scholars and Editors on Social Media
YouTube Live   Friday, November 18, 12PM ET
Communities of scholars and editors have always been essential to the work of university presses. Today these communities often form and find each other via social media. An AAUP Art of Acquisitions Hangout brings together editors and scholars to explore this. Watch the livestream >

And view an impressive gallery of university presses collaborating with partners to form communities.

 

The Art & Craft of Print

We are ce80th-logolebrating University Press Week with the theme of “community,” and from April 2016 to April 2017, we are blogging monthly about University of Wisconsin Press history to mark our eightieth year. On top of that, for this Wednesday blog tour of university presses, the theme is “university press staff spotlight.”

Terry Emmrich at the Overture Center galleries

Terry Emmrich at the Overture Center galleries in summer 2016

It is was an obvious choice, then, to shine that spotlight on Terry Emmrich, production manager in the books division of UWP. In addition to his expert knowledge of typesetting, composition, papers, offset printing, and binding (as well as digital files and production), Terry is a fine art printmaker. In that, he joins a large and historic community of Wisconsin artists.

He also has an impeccable production pedigree, hailing from Neenah in the heart of Wisconsin’s “Paper Valley.” He grew up among folks working in the paper industry, and after studying art and printmaking at the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh, he was a sales rep for a printing company before joining UWP in 1989.

A linoleum block relief print by Terry Emmrich

A linoleum block relief print by Terry Emmrich

 

Nine of Terry’s linoleum block relief prints were chosen for a dual exhibition in summer 2016 in the galleries of the Overture Center for the Arts, Madison’s premier visual and performing arts venue.

As UWP production manager, Terry has also taken an important role in the documentation of Wisconsin and American printmaking. He has been either the manager or assistant production manager when UWP published significant books on printmaking that required the highest production quality.

Managing the production of our titles related to printmaking has been a special treat for me as it has allowed me to apply my professional knowledge to the publication of a subject in which I have had a lifelong interest. In the case of the books on Warrington Colescott’s prints, it also gave me an opportunity to work with an international giant in the field of printmaking and an artist whom I have long admired.

The most notable of the UWP publications on printmaking are these.

1943A Century of American Printmaking, 1880–1980 by James Watrous
In this sumptuously illustrated history, James Watrous captures the vast panorama of American printmaking in the past century. As he traces the roots and evolution of the art, the story becomes one of prints, people, and events—from the printmakers, their artistic conceptions, and works, to the curators, dealers. collectors, critics, printers, workshops, and exhibitions that played crucial supporting roles. The result is both a compelling cultural history and a seminal survey of a major American art form.
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The Print in the Western World: An Introductory History by Linda C. Hults
A history of  500 years of the fine-art print, including detailed treatment of the work of five master printmakers—Albrecht Dürer, Rembrandt van Rijn, Francisco Goya, Pablo Picasso, and Jasper Johns. More than 700 illustrations, forty-nine of them in color, show the evolution of the relief, intaglio, planographic, and stencil processes through the centuries.

0485Progressive Printmakers: Wisconsin Artists and the Print Renaissance by Warrington Colescott and Arthur O. Hove
Printmaking exploded on the American art scene after World War II, rapidly expanding from New York to the Midwest and beyond. Central to this movement and its development was the University of Wisconsin–Madison, where a group of talented young artists was making prints and developing a print curriculum. Progressive Printmakers documents, in words and stunning pictures, the breakthrough aesthetics and technical innovations that made the Madison printmakers a force in the art world.

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The Prints of Warrington Colescott: A Catalogue Raisonné, 1948–2008 by Mary Weaver Chapin
A satirist in the tradition of William Hogarth, Francisco Goya, Honoré Daumier, and George Grosz, Warrington Colescott interprets contemporary and historical events, from the personal to the public, the local to the international. He is noted for his exceptional command of complex printmaking techniques and for his innovative approach to intaglio printing. This book is the first fully illustrated catalogue of Colescott’s extensive and varied graphic career and accompanied a major retrospective exhibition at the Milwaukee Art Museum.  Colescott, also a UWP author as the co-writer of Progressive Printmakers, is still making art today at age 95.

To read more 80th Anniversary posts about publishing history at the University of Wisconsin Press, click here.

To read more “staff spotlights” from other university presses, visit here. 

University Press Week 2016! Tuesday blog tour: Booksellers We Love

Indie Bound!  Tuesday’s blog tour highlights the wonderful booksellers that partner with university presses to bring our books to the reading public.

University of Texas Press: Q&A with their sales manager about visiting indie bookstores along the West Coast  this fall.
University of Chicago Press :  a day in the life of sales rep Mical Moser.
Cornell University Press spotlights Buffalo Street Books, Ithaca’s cooperatively owned community bookstore.
University Press of Colorado looks back on the past year’s author events at their two local indies, Tattered Cover and Boulder Bookstore.
NYU Press features a re-cap of the Brooklyn Book Festival.
McGill Queens University Press offers an appreciation of Canada’s independent bookstores.
University Press of Kentucky features fun, revealing Q&As with indie booksellers across the state.
University Press of Kansas showcases The Raven Bookstore and KU Bookstore, two local shops that carry and promote their titles.

And don’t miss a post from one of the U.S.’s best indie bookstores, the Seminary Co-op in Chicago, where they’ll highlight what’s on their front table right now.

University Press Week 2016! Monday Blog Tour: The People in Our Neighborhood

One of the highlights of University Press Week is the blog tour, in which presses and bookstores celebrate the work of university presses with fascinating and diverse posts, with a different theme each day. Today’s theme is “The People in Our Neighborhood.” Begin today at Northwestern University Press. Rutgers University celebrated their 250th anniversary, and Rutgers University Press played a large role in the festivities—replete with fun photos. Check out Fordham University Press for another interesting post. The University of Toronto Press publishing blog features their history editor, who recounts her experiences running lectures at a nearby Jewish Community Centre in Toronto on Why History Matters Today, which showcases a string of their higher education authors. Their sister blog, University of Toronto Press Journals, spotlights one of their journal editors and the work they are doing in their own communities related to the journal. Seminary Co-op Bookstores shares a curated book list of favorite University Press titles from Haun Saussy, faculty member at the University of Chicago faculty and an author with both Columbia University Press and Fordham University Press. Athabasca University Press features members of their editorial committee. Be sure to return here tomorrow to continue the tour!

New books for November 2016

We are pleased to announce three new books arriving in November.

Hu-DeHart-Yaqui-Resistance-and-Survival-cPublication Date: November 1
YAQUI RESISTANCE AND SURVIVAL
The Struggle for Land and Autonomy, 1821-1910
Revised Edition
Evelyn Hu-DeHart

A landmark history of the Yaqui people of northern Mexico

Hu-DeHart-Evelyn-2016-c

Evelyn Hu-DeHart

“Still stands as the most comprehensive and rigorously researched history of the Yaqui in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Hu-DeHart reminds us that in spite of the destruction wrought by the Spanish empire, the Mexican Revolution, and modernization on both sides of the border, the Yaquis resisted and survived.”
—Elliott Young, Lewis & Clark College

“Some works of history are timeless. Yaqui Resistance and Survival is such a book, reminding us never to forget just how brutal and vicious the history of colonialism has been. Here is the history of the Yaqui Indians, who resided in what became the northern Mexican states of Sinaloa and Sonora. From the eighteenth century to the twentieth, they faced missionaries seeking souls, miners demanding disposable labor, and entrepreneurs who wanted them wiped off the face of the earth. The Yaqui fought back to keep their lands, their culture, and ways of life.”—Ramón A. Gutiérrez, University of Chicago

Bouldrey-Inspired-Journeys-cPublication Date: November 22
INSPIRED JOURNEYS
Travel Writers in Search of the Muse
Edited by Brian Bouldrey

Bouldrey-Brian-2016-c

Brian Bouldrey

“The tremendously satisfying and uplifting sense of these essays is the ongoing nature of human pilgrimage, whether to the center of the self or the ends of the earth. After reading this book, I want to go on a journey myself! Highly recommended.”—Antonya Nelson, author of Bound

“Bouldrey has assembled a stellar collection of writers—  true storytellers all—who describe in the most human of terms their varied pilgrimages around the world in search of their elusive muses.”—Booklist

Townend-The-Road-to-Home-Rule-cPublication Date: November 22
THE ROAD TO HOME RULE
Anti-imperialism and the Irish National Movement
Paul A. Townend

Townend-Paul-2016-c

Paul Townend

“A bold and original interpretation in which empire emerges as the essential context—rather than a mere sideshow or backdrop—for the rise of Irish nationalism. To find the origins of Home Rule, we will now need to look not simply at the internal politics of the United Kingdom but at Irish responses to events in India, Egypt, Sudan, and South Africa.”—Kevin Kenny, Boston College

Following the Ghost of Thomas Hardy

Award-winning writer Floyd Skloot recounts the journey to England that inspired him to write his new novel The Phantom of Thomas Hardy, published by the University of Wisconsin Press this week. 

My wife Beverly and I didn’t travel to England in the spring of 2012 so that I could research a novel about Thomas Hardy. The idea that I would write a book-length work about Hardy never occurred to me, until I began to write a book-length work about Hardy nine months after we returned from our trip.

***

It had been hard to decide what to cram into our two weeks in England. We’d be there from May 22 through June 5. Beverly, who’d lived in the UK for four years in the early 1980s, wanted to see landscapes, gardens, and ancient sites. I wanted to pay homage to a few writers whose work and lives had mattered to me for the nearly fifty years I’d been writing. And we wanted to walk as much as possible, to get off the usual tourist track, explore. So after a couple of days in London we rented a car and confined our travels to southern England this time, vowing to return another time and head north.

Walks in the Cotswolds, on Bodmin Moor, and around Cornwall and Carmarthen Bay had all made the itinerary. Also, we planned to visit Hidcote Manor Gardens, the Welsh National Botanic Gardens and Dinefwr Castle, and Lanhydrock Garden in Cornwall. But Beverly sacrificed visits to the gardens of Barnsley House, the grounds of Blenheim Palace, and the Bronze Age Rollright stones. And I chose Dylan Thomas’ home at Laugharne and Thomas Hardy’s Dorset, sacrificing visits to the places where T.S. Eliot set his Four Quartets, the homes of the Dymock poets, and the Hay-on-Wye bookstores.

For me, finally seeing Hardy territory was the centerpiece. As a student at Franklin & Marshall College in the late 1960s, I’d written my undergraduate honors thesis on Hardy’s novels, brought to them by my mentor/employer/substitute father, Professor Robert Russell, who had died at age eighty-six just a few months before we began planning our trip. It felt important to me that I visit Hardy territory in the wake of  Russell’s death. Since I’d published an essay about Hardy in 2007, I didn’t anticipate writing about him again. In fact, I felt certain that visiting his places would mark the end of my long engagement with him.

We stayed at a B&B in Dorchester for two nights, which gave us parts of three days—June 3, 4, and 5—to look around, tour Hardy’s birthplace and the home called Max Gate that he built and lived in for the final forty-three years of his life, see his grave at Stinsford Churchyard, and walk some of the places he wrote about such as the Weymouth shoreline or Lulworth Cove.

Thorncombe Woods.1

Thorncombe Woods Photo Credit: Beverly Hallberg

Nothing unusual happened during our time in Dorset. We met no one connected with Hardy, spoke to no one about Hardy. It was moving to me to be there, and it did seem like a time of closure. Only once, in downtown Dorchester at the start of our Hardy wanderings, did I feel even the slightest sense of the writer’s presence, accompanied by a passing thought that it would have been sweet to somehow call Dr. Russell from where I stood at #10 South Street, beside the heavy wooden door of a Barclays Bank that bore a round blue plaque saying “This house is reputed to have been lived in by the MAYOR of CASTERBRIDGE in THOMAS HARDY’S story of that name written in 1885.”

***

In June and July, back home in Portland, I wrote an essay about our trip, “To Land’s End and Back: A 1,512-Mile Drive Around Southern England.” That essay included a mere three paragraphs about what we saw during our time in Dorset. It completed my book Revertigo: An Off-Kilter Memoir (University of Wisconsin Press, 2014), and was – I believed – all I had to say about going to Hardy country.

ready to write Hardy.2

Photo Credit: Beverly Hallberg

But my thoughts kept returning to Dorset, to Hardy, and to Dr. Russell. I spoke about this with my daughter Rebecca, who reminded me to write notes about these thoughts and let them go wherever they might take me. She was surprised to learn that I no longer had a copy of my college thesis and encouraged me to see if I could track one down at Franklin & Marshall. In July I found myself drawn to rereading Hardy’s short second novel, Under the Greenwood Tree, set in and around the author’s childhood home where we’d spent a couple of hours. Then I reread Claire Tomalin’s biography, Thomas Hardy, which I’d reviewed for the Boston Globe in 2007. My notebook was filling. By August I felt pretty sure that I did, after all, need to write something much longer than the three paragraphs in my earlier essay, but I wasn’t sure what form that writing would take. Then I reread Michael Millgate’s Thomas Hardy: A Biography Revisited (2004) and Ralph Pite’s Thomas Hardy: The Guarded Life (2006), both of which I’d first read as soon as they were published. I found and read several more biographies. My sense of Hardy as a person, a character, was deepening in ways I’d never considered before.

And I kept returning to the memory of when I was standing in front of the Barclay Bank building in Dorchester vaguely sensing Hardy’s presence and wishing I could call Dr. Russell. In March 2013, in a fresh notebook, I wrote, “Beverly and I walked up South Street in Dorchester, following a tourist map past Trespass Outdoor Clothing, Carphone Warehouse, Top Drawer Cards & Gifts, a shuttered O2 Store.”

And that was the beginning of the novel! While standing in front of that Barclays Bank building, pondering the enigma of a fictional character living in a factual building, my character Floyd is approached by the ghost of Hardy himself. Read more about the novel here.

Floyd Skloot is an award-winning writer of fiction, essays, poetry, and creative nonfiction. His twenty books include Revertigo: An Off-Kilter Memoir and The Wink of the Zenith: The Shaping of a Writer’s Life. He lives in Portland, Oregon.