Saturday, April 2, 2011
I just completed Elyssa East's Dogtown. Really well-written, in a very pondering, smooth way. It does not read like other non-fiction books. It has a workshop-like feel about it when you read it, a book version of a grainy documentary. It goes back and forth between the colonial history of the place (it's a remote part of Gloucester, MA, so there's lots of history) and the murder of a young woman by a local whistling kettle in the 80s. But mostly it's about the feel one has in the place itself. East shows that the entire acreage of Dogtown is, for lack of a better word, haunted. Not cursed, exactly. There's just a certain...something about the land, the air, and everything in between. Eccentric artist-types have made a pilgrimage to Dogtown, MA for a long time now, and a part of the place's weirdness is why that is. What is it about the land, she asks, that draws the lost, the eccentric, the weird? (She, and others, include themselves and the local madman in that group. They are all the same, she says, just in different ways.) In the end, she is driven away by the place, as others who cared for the land had been before her, and the conclusion is that the same weirdness that drew them to the land also pushed them away from it. The writing is well planned and carried out, and I think that adds to the documentary-feeling of it. It seems choreographed, but in a good way. It badly needed some photos of the people and places described; hopefully in the next edition. It's a quick read; check it out.