Is a Vineyard summer still a good time to catch up on your reading? It’s clear that the slow-dance summers of the Kodachrome era have been replaced by the social media do-it and post-it hustle. The past two pandemic summers should have prompted a return to the days of literary leisure, yet they felt more like flurries of masked activity. Frankly, it’s gotten so busy on the Island that not even the ferries can keep up anymore. So what about this? Instead of tackling the traffic and hyperventilating over the high price of gas, let’s make a move to get back to books!
Last summer when I read John Hough, Jr.’s latest novel, “The Sweetest Days” (Simon & Schuster), I was floored by a pivotal and shocking scene in the novel which involves a pregnant high school senior. Already accepted to Bryn Mawr and planning to become a lawyer, she makes the difficult decision to get an abortion. The year was 1964, and abortion was illegal in this country. (If you think that you’ve heard this story before and you can imagine what happens next, trust me — you can’t.)
“The Sweetest Days” is being released in paperback this week, 49 years after Roe v. Wade and less than a month after the now infamous leak of the Supreme Court draft decision signaling that a majority of justices have voted to overturn Roe. Not to mention one week after lawmakers in Oklahoma voted to make abortion illegal upon fertilization.
Hough’s book spans decades, but this section takes place when abortion was illegal, before it was legal, before the leak, before Oklahoma. I reached out to Hough via email, and asked him about writing about a young woman who makes the decision to get an illegal abortion. He responded, “I tried to show, as I’ve always believed, that an abortion is no easy thing, even when the woman feels firmly that she must have it. There’s doubt, even guilt. I also tried to show that abortion on the sly, even when the provider is competent, can be very dangerous.”
Hough will be joining us at Islanders Write as part of the pitch panel, where five writers will have an opportunity to pitch their books to industry professionals, and those of us in the audience will get to listen and learn.
We are thrilled that E. Lockhart will be joining us at Islanders Write for the first time this summer. Lockhart’s mesmerizing first novel, “We Were Liars” (Delacorte Press), which takes place on an island off the coast of the Vineyard, was a runaway bestseller. Her newest book, “Family of Liars” (also Delacorte), which is a prequel to “We Were Liars” and also takes place just a quick boat ride from Edgartown, has claimed the No. 1 spot for the past two weeks on the New York Times Bestseller list. Lockhart will be part of a panel discussion focusing on sequels and prequels.
And congratulations to Philip Weinstein, a retired English professor who is known to many Vineyard year-rounders for his classes on the classics, on the publication of his latest book, “Soul-Error” (The Humble Essayist Press). “Soul-Error” is a memoir of sorts; it’s a book of personal essays with a philosophical bent in which literary characters come and go, much in the way that friends, family, and summer houseguests do. Weinstein will be part of a panel discussion focusing on the nontraditional memoir.
As we count down to the MV Times event Islanders Write, which begins on Saturday night, July 30, and continues through July 31 and August 1, event producer Kate Feiffer will send weekly dispatches from the Writer’s Table.
For more information about Islanders Write, visit islanderswrite.com.