Youmans (pronounced like 'yeoman' with an 's' added) is the best-kept secret
among contemporary American writers. --John Wilson, editor, Books and Culture Marly Youmans is a novelist and poet out of sync with the times
but in tune with the ages. --First Things

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Small literary adventure

Vintage Cooperstown postcards (ebay)
showing Otsego Lake (Cooper's Glimmerglass)
and Kingfisher Tower, commissioned
by Edward Clark when times were hard
and the local stonemasons were out of work.
Sleeping Lion Mountain (or maybe Sleeping Mountain Really-Big-Hill) has been rubbed away by the mist, and even the romantic Kingfisher Tower is barely visible in the lake, next to a softened but still irregular line of shore and trees. But the sparrows are still chipping away in the wet rugosa roses, as cheerful-seeming as ever... Yesterday I wandered off to a wedding at All Saints Cathedral in Albany, and then on to see Yolanda Sharpe's new art at her house and the SUNY art department. The mist seems to have fooled with time, so all that seemed long ago when I woke at six this mornings.

Last week I had a semi-literary adventure. Michael and I went looking for the bit of landscape now called Natty Bumppo's cave. Cooperstown is stranded somewhere between the real and the mythic or fictional, with its castles and lake monster and semi-fictional Cooper places (not to mention the faux nineteenth-century village made out of real-but-transported buildings that is the Farmer's Museum, or the tourists dressed up like pro ball players), and that uncertainty was much of what made me write Glimmerglass. We spied what we thought might be the cave and climbed up, me in treadless shoes. By the nigh-vertical top, sliding and crawling on leaf litter and loose sticks, I was quite sure that I would be a very minor footnote in Cooper history, doomed to go pinwheeling down the slope. The cave was quite tiny, fit for only a pygmy family, but imagination can do a lot with the materials given.

On the way back, after teetering along the ridge for some time, we spotted a more prominent path that we might have taken. And now that I've seen some photographs, I realized that all that death-defying enterprise of scrabbling about and hanging on to little roots and skating on leaves was for something that was definitely not Natty Bumppo's cave.

7 comments:

  1. Now that is something for me to ponder: someone searching within real geography for something that was a fictional creation. And so I ponder what all of that might mean.

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  2. Your 'semi-literary adventure' made me smile. Makes me almost want to go find a magical fictional cave somewhere too.

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  3. And in the facebook comments on this one, I found out that poet and photographer (and much else) William P. Baldwin has a novel coming out! Excerpt: "Ten years ago I discovered where Cooper had gone to the journal of a south carolina indian trader for much of his Indian lore and I used both as a source in my about to be released novel Charles Town. Nothing wasted. that's the beauty of IT. whatever IT is."

    And isn't that interesting?

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  4. So you discovered something else.

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Alas, I must once again remind large numbers of Chinese salesmen and other worldwide peddlers that if they fall into the Gulf of Spam, they will be eaten by roaming Balrogs. The rest of you, lovers of grace, poetry, and horses (nod to Yeats--you do not have to be fond of horses), feel free to leave fascinating missives and curious arguments.