new england literary news | nina maclaughlin

Festivals celebrate books in Provincetown and Dickinson in Amherst

Jerry Ellis with a copy of the picture book about him featuring drawings by Mat Brown, who did the signs for Ellis’s Building #19 stores.
Jerry Ellis with a copy of the picture book about him featuring drawings by Mat Brown, who did the signs for Ellis’s Building #19 stores.

Provincetown hosts book fest

Provincetown’s robust literary energy will be on display this weekend as a number of writers will descend on the outer Cape for the second annual Provincetown Book Festival taking place on Friday and Saturday.

Festival highlights include an opening night reception at 6 p.m. for Sebastian Junger, author of “The Perfect Storm,’’ who will be presented with the Rose Dorothea Award, which honors nationally renowned authors who work in Provincetown. And the celebration will close with a conversation between Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist and Maine resident Richard Russo and National Book Award winner and Marblehead resident Julia Glass.

Both days will feature discussions, readings, and other events featuring writers and poets from the Cape and beyond, including M.T. Anderson, Ann Hood, Michael Ruhlman, Angela Cohen, Olga Broumas, Joe Okonkwo, Justin Torres, and Mecca Jamilah Sullivan.


All festival events are free and will take place at the Provincetown Public Library. For more information and a complete schedule, visit

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Building #19, the regional discount chain known for its eclectic assortment of goods and tongue-in-cheek, cartoon-y advertising, may have closed its doors after declaring bankruptcy in 2013, but its story lives on. Picture book author Linda Elovitz Marshall, daughter of owner Gerry Elovitz (long known as Jerry Ellis), recounts her father’s story in a children’s book, which she self-published in time for his 90th birthday, which is Monday. The saga, which sports the store’s famous tagline as its title (“Good Stuff Cheap!: The Story of Jerry Ellis and Building #19, Inc.”) details how Elovitz, an unemployed appliance salesman, opened a no-frills shop to sell fire-salvaged furniture in the Hingham Shipyard and grew it into a 10-store chain. The book was illustrated by Mat Brown, the same artist who created Building #19’s signature signs and marketing material. Though “Good Stuff Cheap!’’ was released Aug. 29, Marshall is hosting an official book-launch party for the family on Sunday at her parents’ Dedham residence. “I really want my children’s children. . . to understand how hard my father worked, how he was able to make something that benefited so many people, and how much he really cared,” said Marshall, a cultural anthropologist and children’s book author.

Dickinson read aloud

Emily Dickinson once wrote: “Inebriate of air – am I –/ And Debauchee of Dew –/Reeling – thro endless summer days.” On Saturday, in the closing days of summer, each one of Dickinson’s nearly 1,800 poems will be read aloud, starting at 6 a.m. and going approximately 14 hours, at the home where Dickinson lived and wrote. The marathon, now in its 13th year, is part of the Amherst Poetry Festival, which runs Sept. 14-17. The festival also includes a screening of the documentary “Emily Dickinson: My Letter to the World,’’ as well as discussions, readings, workshops for young poets, and others on nature poetry and printmaking techniques. Events include a Friday night reading by Dara Wier (“In the Still of the Night’’) and Bianca Stone (“Poetry Comics from the Book of Hours’’) at the Amherst College planetarium at which a display of the starscapes that defined the sky on the nights of Dickinson’s birth and death will be projected on the dome. Most events are free and will be at the Emily Dickinson Museum in Amherst and various locations around town. For a complete schedule, visit emilydickinsonmuseum .org/amherstpoetryfestival.

Coming out

“White Dialogues” by Bennett Sims (Two Dollar Radio)

“Soul of a Nation: Art in the Age of Black Power’’ edited by Mark Godfrey and Zoé Whitley (D.A.P./Tate)


“While Standing in Line for Death’’ by CAConrad (Wave)

Pick of the week

Molly Halpin at Northshire Bookstore in Manchester Center, Vt., recommends “Night Sky with Exit Wounds’’ by Ocean Vuong (Copper Canyon): “I found myself engulfed in these poems. They put you in a place at a time; they give you characters that you seem to know even after only a few lines; and they make you think. They accomplish everything poetry is meant to accomplish.”

Globe correspondent Kaitlyn Locke contributed to this column. Nina MacLaughlin is the author of “Hammer Head: The Making of a Carpenter.” She can be reached at