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Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Glimmerglass IRL

Art by Clive Hicks-Jenkins
Design by Mary-Frances Glover Burt
Mercer University Press, 2014
Various people have asked me about the "real Cooperstown things and people" behind Glimmerglass.  Here are a few:

  • The gatehouse on the Lake Road near the museums is the model for the house where Cynthia Sorrel lives. It does indeed have charming moldings sprinkled about the ceiling in the parlor. And yes, it has seven doors to the outside. When I was having lunch there long ago, I did see the waterline in the kitchen that marked flood height from the stream close by. 
  • The mansion is gone, but the fossil-peppered part of the fictional mansion's appearance was inspired by a local stonemason, who one day handed a wonderful fossil to my daughter as the children and I stood watching him lay a dry wall.
  • I was not thinking of any real-life people, though I confess that the two asexual figures--Theodore and Iz--were inspired by the idea of various old-fashioned Yankee families where the children never marry but live together always. My husband had four aunts and an uncle who lived this way all their lives. Traces of Fenimore Cooper appear here and there in the book. And I was once well and truly snubbed by someone from the Glimmerglass Opera, but the figure who snubs in the novel isn't modeled on that person--or, indeed, on any particular person. Cooperstown is the only place I've ever lived where snubbing actually happens, and I am afraid that I have found the experience of being emphatically snubbed (once by an opera employee, once by a woman who married a great ways "up") quite illuminating. Social layers and social snobberies are always fascinating for a storyteller.
  • The Opal Bone... That strange figure was inspired by the Tiffany angel window at Christ Church Cooperstown, with its brilliant eyes, opaline flesh, and bright string of leaves around its neck. And Christ Church itself makes a few cameo appearances. And Cynthia looks toward Cooper Park from the church and sees that it is snowing.
  • The frog pageants... Once upon a time, a rector at Christ Church and his wife had an inordinate number of elegant, leggy stuffed frogs. The pair often put on small froggy tableaux in the privacy of their home. During major renovation, they lived not in the rectory but in the gatehouse of the story.
  • Glimmerglass itself, or Otsego Lake, with the underwater hillock that Fenimore Cooper used in the Leatherstocking Tales as the site for Muskrat Castle... Glimmerglass is Cooper's name for the lake. Bits of worn brick and transfer wear wash up from its depths, to be picked up by the shower. I have lots of friends who sail. Our lake has a deep, gouged-out glacial bed, so of course we have a snaky monster, seldom glimpsed. I'm not sure why I was impelled to send characters under the lake, but in winter people bore holes in the ice and fish from shanties, so the idea of unlocking the ice and entering the watery world is congenial to the place.
  • Perhaps the labyrinths were suggested to mind by the tiny, leafy labyrinth at the Farmer's Museum, with a classical pillar at its heart. My children used to love to play in its mysteries. I do have a figure from the classical world in my labyrinth...
  • The village is awash in ghosts, many of whom are colorful and who live near me, though I have never seen one. Very sensible people I've know tell me that they have seen a ghost, so perhaps I will have a chance. I've never even seen the three children who dance in the parlor of our house.
  • We have two castles in the village, Kingfisher Tower in the edge of the lake and the stone Norman tower in the woods off Beaver Meadow Road. (Auto-correct wants to make that "Normal," but it's nothing like normal to have New World castles, is it?)
  • Etcetera...
And a very merry Christmas-to-be to you, 
whatever or whenever you celebrate in turn, for 
"'God bless us every one!' said Tiny Tim, the last of all."


  1. How wonderful to have so much inspiration from your hometown and area! Glimmerglass figured in at least one other book, Thaliad, was it?

    I am eagerly and very impatiently waiting for my copy - will it be under the tree, or will it be here in the New Year, or ?

    1. Yes, Thaliad. And also in some stories that I have not collected. There's a short story that involves another angel window. "The Angel with the Broken Face."

      Oh, I'm glad you will have one! Enjoy!

  2. My copy is (finally) on order! I look forward to reading it in January. I don't know why I waited so long.

    1. Thank you, Scott. I am hoping to have a good reading year like yours was this year in my next year. This one was a weak reading year--too, too many mountains to move.

  3. Merry Christmas, Marly! Best wishes for a prosperous and prolific 2015.

  4. And there it was in my stocking this morning, I've rather skipped reading this post lest it act as a spoiler!

    A wonderful Christmas to you and yours, Marly!

    1. What a nice, fat stocking you must have! I hope you like the book. And that you had a lovely Christmas across the sea.


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.