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New England

Writing on Stone: Scenes from a Maine Island Life

Christina Marsden Gillis. Peter Ralston, photos.
Publisher UPNE  
Format hardcover
Product Dimensions 9.25 x 6.3 x 0.9 inches
ISBN 9781584656975
Pages/Publication Date 172/2008
Daedalus Item Code 30168
This item is not available.
Located off the southwest coast of Mount Desert Island in Maine, tiny Gotts Island is ringed with a three-mile-long band of bright granite—a "rock bound belt" that suggests permanence. But the small community established there in the late 18th century disappeared in the 20th, leaving little more than names on cemetery stones, while the island has since been adopted by vacationers. Christina Gillis has been a summer resident for more than 40 years, having purchased the house of poet Ruth Moore in 1965, while her son Ben, killed in a plane crash in Kenya in 1992, has joined generations of earlier islanders as a "name in stone." In this gentle memoir of place and experience, illustrated with color photos, Gillis tours Gotts and its history, making connections between its stark physical beauty, its known and unknown places, and the decades of memories and myths it encompasses.

"Gillis's range of reference is broad and engaging. She will bring in the Cuban artist Ana Mendieta or Virginia Wolff or that famous island couple, the Kellams, from nearby Placentia Island, to highlight a point about island life. She also sketches portraits of islanders: Russie Gott, Lyle and Vee Reed, Norma Stanley, Uncle Mont. Locals and summer people end up sharing a lot, from solitude to the solace of memories of better days. Writing on Stone offers resonant pictures of a remarkable community. Peter Ralston's photographs add color intervals to the narrative, and his colleague Philip Conkling's citation from Goethe about the shock of recognition sets the stage for the memoir that follows. 'The island is a gathering,' Gillis writes. 'It is a site for undertaking the archaeology of memory. It is the perfect medium.' The author knows whereof she speaks."—Working Waterfront

"Haunting and haunted, this beautiful memoir of a family summer house on an island in Maine explores an intricate geography of love and loss with lyrical precision. In grave and eloquent sentences, Christina Gillis traces the boundaries between the dead and the living, between grief and survival, seeking to fill in the empty spaces of communal as well as familial history. 'We do not simply dwell in the islanded summer house,' writes Gillis. 'We also imagine. We dream.' And so will the enthralled readers of Writing on Stone."—Sandra M. Gilbert

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