Dogtown: Death and Enchantment in a New England Ghost Town
By Elyssa East
Elyssa East’s favorite artist produced a series of paintings based on the abandoned Dogtown wilderness near Gloucester, MA. Trying to find some spiritual growth she visited the area, heard some of the typical small town New England gossip that surrounds any area that’s been inhabited for hundreds of years and decided to write a book about the place.
It feels like she started out to write a biography of the artist, Marsden Hartley, found that wouldn’t make more than a short story then decided to add in the tale of a recent (1980’s) murder that took place inside of the Dogtown wilderness when THAT turned out to not be enough to flesh out a book the author then dug up every and any bit of trivia, folklore, rumor and anecdote she could find no matter how distantly related to the main subject, Dogtown. As an example when a somewhat famous poet is mentioned as having spent time in the area we’re also treated to the details of a school he taught at, every famous person who also taught at the school even if they had nothing to do with Dogtown. The story meanders; wandering from the past to the present while infrequently touching back on the 1980’s murder story.
There’s far too much padding added to the book. I struggled for far longer than necessary for a book of this length. In the end the I found it hard to follow and just wanted it to end. I’m sure there are better histories of the Gloucester area out there and while they may not touch on or even mention Dogtown that’s probably because in the grand scheme of things very little of real interest ever did happened there in it’s hundreds of years of existence.
Hawk (give this one a pass…)