Musings on Place, Travel, Books, Literature, Poetry, Literary Criticism, Collecting, Media, Life and the Arts
September 17th, 2014 • Posted in Providence

H.P Lovecraft walking tour of Providence, Rhode Island


Lovecraft’s College Hill Walking Tour

The following map and descriptions were used as a basis for walking tours at the 2013 NecronomiCon conference 




[Map of College Hill]

  1. Roger Williams National Memorial Park — Commemorating the site on which Roger Williams founded Providence in 1636.
  2. Cathedral of St. John, Episcopal, 271 North Main Street (1810) — Founded in 1720 as King’s Church, both Lovecraft and Poe haunted the graveyard of this church. It is on the National Register of Historic Places, and is both a National Historic Landmark and a National Historic Site. (SH, CDW)
  3. Sarah Helen Whitman House, 88 Benefit Street (1783-92) — Home of the poetess courted by Poe.
  4. Sullivan Dorr House, 109 Benefit Street (1809) — Designed by John Holden Greene, this house sits on land that was once owned by Roger Williams, and where he was originally buried in 1683.
  5. F.E. Seagrave House, 119 Benefit Street — In 1933 Lovecraft nearly moved into this house instead of the Samuel B. Mumford House.
  6. Stephen Harris House, 135 Benefit Street (1763) — “The Shunned House” of Lovecraft’s story, which Lovecraft referred to as the Babbitt House. This house was abandoned and in poor condition during Lovecraft’s day. (SH)
  7. The Old Court Bed & Breakfast, 144 Benefit Street (1863) — Originally built as a rectory for St. John’s Episcopal Church, this building is now a lovely B&B. In Lovecraft’s Providence & Adjacent Parts, Henry L.P. Beckwith comments that this building was Lovecraft’s basis for the home of Dr. Elihu Whipple in “The Shunned House” although the Benjamin Cushing house (see number 9) is a much more likely candidate. (SH)
  8. The Old State House, 150 Benefit Street (1762, 1850-51, 1867, 1904-06) — From this building Rhode Island declared its independence from Great Britain on May 4, 1776 — two months before the other colonies did so. It is now a National Historic Landmark. (CDW)
  9. Benjamin Cushing House, 40 North Court Street (1737) — A more likely candidate for the Dr. Elihu Whipple house, this “Georgian homestead with knocker and iron-railed steps” is the oldest house on College Hill. (SH)
  10. Shakespeare’s Head, 21 Meeting Street (1772) — John Carter, apprentice to Benjamin Franklin, published the Providence Gazette and Country Journal in this building, which was also a post office and bookstore. It is now home to the Providence Preservation Society. (CDW)
  11. The Brick Schoolhouse, 24 Meeting Street (1769) — Built to serve as a school and for town meetings, this building became the temporary home for Brown University when it moved from Warren to Providence in 1770. It is on the National Register of Historic Places. (CDW)
  12. Site of the Golden Ball Inn (1783) — Demolished since Lovecraft’s day, this inn had such illustrious visitors as George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, the Marquis de Lafayette, and Edgar Allan Poe. (SH, CDW)
  13. Home of Franklin C. and Lillian D. Clark, 161 Benefit Street — This was once the home of Lovecraft’s uncle and aunt.
  14. The Marine Corps Arsenal, 176 Benefit Street (1840) — This building is the armory of the Providence Marine Corps of Artillery.
  15. The Colonial Apartments, 175-185 Benefit Street (1929) — Lovecraft bemoaned the fact that this “wretched ultra-modern apartment-house with all urban sophistications” replaced the “bit of actual country remaining” on College Hill.
  16. Benefit-Dexter House, 187 Benefit Street — Once the Knowles Funeral Home, where the funerals of Lovecraft and his aunt, Lillian, were held.
  17. Providence Art Club, 10 and 11 Thomas Street (1786-89 and 1791) — Lovecraft and his aunts attended art shows here. (CC)
  18. Fleur de Lys Studio, 7 Thomas Street (1885) — This house was built by Providence artist Sydney Richmond Burleigh, and was given as the home of artist Henry Anthony Wilcox in “The Call of Cthulhu.” (CC)
  19. First Baptist Meetinghouse, 75 North Main Street (1775) — The congregation was founded in 1638 by Roger Williams, and this is the third church they built in Providence. It is the oldest Baptist church, the mother church of the Baptists, and a National Historic Landmark. (CDW)
  20. Market House, 4 South Main Street (1773-74) — The lower floor of this building served as a market, while the second was used variously as a banquet hall, barracks, and office for the first mayor. It was the site of the “Providence Tea Party” in 1775. Markers at the southwest corner of the building show the high water marks during the gales of 1815 and 1938. (SH, CDW)
  21. Providence County Superior Courthouse, 250 Benefit Street (1924-33) — This immense building houses the State Supreme Court, the Superior Courts, the Attorney General’s department, and other offices.
  22. Joseph Brown House, 50 South Main Street (1774) — From 1791 to 1929 this building was occupied by the Providence Bank, the oldest banking institution in New England and second oldest in the country. It is now an office building. (CDW)
  23. Stephen Hopkins House, 15 Hopkins Street (1707, 1743) — Hopkins was the first Chancellor of Brown University, Chief Justice of the Superior Court of Rhode Island, ten times governor, and signer of the Declaration of Independence. A National Historic Landmark. (CDW)
  24. Providence Athenæum, 251 Benefit Street (1836-37) — A frequent haunt of Lovecraft’s, Poe courted Sarah Helen Whitman here. The library owns a copy of the American Review in which Poe signed below his anonymously published poem, “Ulalume.” (SH, CDW)
  25. Pendleton House, 232 Benefit Street (1904-08) — Lovecraft visited this museum which was the first in the United States to have an American wing. It contains Charles L. Pendleton’s collection of 18th Century American furniture, silver, china, and paintings.
  26. List Art Building (1969-71) — Lovecraft’s final home was moved from this location in 1959 (see number 30) to make way for the List Art Building. From the kitchen of the Mumford house, Lovecraft claimed he could look into the stacks of the John Hay Library.
  27. Van Wickle Gates (1901) and Brown University (1770) — These gates are opened twice a year: once to allow new students in, and once to allow graduates out. A photograph inSelected Letters shows Lovecraft seated here and has the caption, “Lovecraft in Brooklyn.”
  28. John Hay Library, 20 Prospect Street (1910) — Named after the Brown graduate who was Assistant Private Secretary to Abraham Lincoln and Secretary of State under Presidents McKinley and Theodore Roosevelt. It holds the largest collection of Lovecraft manuscripts. (CDW, HD)
  29. H.P. Lovecraft Memorial — Erected in 1990 through the efforts of S.T. Joshi, Will Murray, Jon Cooke, and the Friends of H.P. Lovecraft.
  30. Samuel B. Mumford House, 65 Prospect Street (1825) — Lovecraft’s final home, moved to this location in 1959. Lovecraft describes it not only in his letters, but as the home of Robert Blake in “The Haunter of the Dark.” (HD)
  31. First Church of Christ, Scientist (1913) — This site, one of the highest points in Providence, was used for a warning beacon against Indians in 1667 and against the British in 1775. It was claimed that the beacon could be seen as far away as Cambridge, Massachusetts. (CDW)
  32. Prospect Terrace, 75 Congdon Street (1867) — This small park was one of Lovecraft’s favorite haunts. The third resting place of Providence’s founder, Roger Williams, is here. The statue in honour of Williams was erected in 1939. (CDW)
  33. Henry Sprague House, 100 Prospect Street — The address of this house was used as the address of the Ward house in The Case of Charles Dexter Ward. (CDW)
  34. 10 Barnes Street — This was Lovecraft’s home from April 1926 to May 1933. It was also the home of Dr. Marinus Bicknell Willett in The Case of Charles Dexter Ward. (CDW)
  35. “Little white farmhouse” — A colonial home mentioned in The Case of Charles Dexter Ward. (CDW)
  36. Halsey House, 140 Prospect Street (1801) — Built by Colonel Thomas Lloyd Halsey, this home was reputed to be haunted in Lovecraft’s time. It served as the Ward house in The Case of Charles Dexter Ward. (CDW)
  37. Jenckes Street — One of the steepest streets on College Hill; better walked down than up… (CDW)

CC – “The Call of Cthulhu”
CDW – The Case of Charles Dexter Ward
HD – “The Haunter of the Dark”
SH – “The Shunned House”

For more information visit The H.P. Lovecraft Archive here.  Call of Lovecraft is a walking tour of Providence, Rhode Island, accessible through your mobile device.

September 17th, 2014 • Posted in Iran

Audio: Marcello Di Cintio’s Literary Pilgrimage to Iran

Marcello Di Cintio is a Canadian writer. He won the 2012 Shaughnessy Cohen Prize for Political Writing for his book Walls: Travels Along the BarricadesThe award was handed out on March 6, 2013 at the Writers’ Trust of Canada’s annual Politics and the Pen in Ottawa. Marcello was born in Calgary, Alberta where he currently lives with his wife, Moonira, and son, Amedeo.

We met recently to discuss his literary pilgrimage to Iran, which he captured in his book, Poets and Pahlevansa Journey into the Heart of Iran. Please listen here:

September 17th, 2014 • Posted in San Diego

Audio: Rae Armantrout on Poetry, Place, and San Diego

Rae Armantrout is an American poet generally associated with the Language poets. Armantrout was born in Vallejo, California but grew up in San Diego. She has published ten books of poetry and has also been featured in a number of major anthologies. Armantrout currently teaches at the University of California, San Diego, where she is Professor of Poetry and Poetics.

On March 11, 2010, Armantrout was awarded the 2009 National Book Critics Circle Award for her book of poetry Versed published by the Wesleyan University Press, which had also been nominated for the National Book Award. The book later earned the 2010 Pulitzer Prize for Poetry. Armantrout’s most recent collection, Just Saying, was published in February 2013. She is the recipient of numerous other awards for her poetry, including an award in poetry from the Foundation for Contemporary Arts in 2007 and a Guggenheim Fellowship in 2008.

Source: Wikipedia.

We met recently to discuss her poetry, William Carlos Williams, place, and how to be a literary tourist in San Diego. Please listen here: 

September 16th, 2014 • Posted in Boston

Boston Literary Cultural District is the first of its kind in the U.S.

Brattle Bookstore
(Boston, MA)— The Massachusetts Cultural Council (MCC) Board voted unanimously today to approve the designation of the Boston Literary Cultural District. This is the first Massachusetts Cultural District to focus specifically on one art form.

The effort to establish the district was led by GrubStreet Founder and Executive Director Eve Bridburg. GrubStreet’s headquarters are located in the district which runs from Copley Square to Downtown Boston and is also home to the Boston Athenaeum, Boston Public Library, and the annual Boston Book Festival.

“I’m thrilled to announce the designation of Boston’s second Cultural District,” said MCC Executive Director Anita Walker. “We recently celebrated the designation of the first 25 Massachusetts Cultural Districts and I’m delighted to add the Literary Cultural District to this extraordinary group of communities.” 

A cultural district is a compact, walkable area of a community with a concentration of cultural facilities, activities, and assets. MCC’s Cultural Districts Initiative grew out of an economic stimulus bill passed by the Massachusetts Legislature in 2010.

It is designed to help communities attract artists and cultural enterprises, encourage business and job growth, expand tourism, preserve and reuse historic buildings, enhance property values, and foster local cultural development.

About the Boston Literary Cultural District

Shakespeare on the Common. A speakers’ forum featuring Alice Walker, or a book festival with Doris Kearns Goodwin. Walking tours that take you past Sylvia Plath’s apartment, just around the corner from Robert Frost’s residence, and Khalil Gibran’s….

All that, and more – poetry slams, writing workshops, readings, signings – can be found in Boston’s Literary Cultural District, the first such district in the country. From Washington Street to Exeter, from Beacon Hill to Boylston, Boston is crammed with literary happenings and history – probably more so than any other city in the country. Where else would you find an annual conference where aspiring novelists can meet literary agents who might be willing to peddle their work? Literary giants like David McCullough to Dennis Lehane? A vibrant community of writers and readers who partake of Boston’s rich literary life via readings, discussions groups, and other programs and events? An unparalleled literary heritage with a broad and diverse set of writers ranging from enslaved poet Phillis Wheatley to Henry David Thoreau, Anne Sexton, and Eugene O’Neill?

Hotels in the district offer literary tour packages. Restaurants like Carrie Nation offer themed literary menus. And institutions from the Boston Public Library to the Boston Athenaeum, Emerson College, Suffolk University, and GrubStreet have ongoing programs and events that cater to those who enjoy their relationship with the written word – or will develop one now that all things literary in Boston have been made more visible.

September 16th, 2014 • Posted in Authors and Books

Seven Wicked Quotes on Publishing

Alfred Knopf

Most authors are born to be failures and the publisher knows it. He makes his living out of the few successes, and if he is indulgent with less successful writers, it is not only because there is always the possibility that today’s failure may become tomorrow’s best seller. Unless he has a genuine sympathy with the author’s problems, no one can hope to make an enduring success of publishing


To write books is easy, it requires only pen and ink and the ever-patient paper. To print books is a little more difficult, because genius so often rejoices in illegible handwriting. To read books is more difficult still, because of the tendency to go to sleep. But the most difficult task of all that a mortal man can embark on is to sell a book.  

Another illusion, seldom entertained by competent authors, is that the publisher’s readers and others are waiting to plagarize their work. I think it may be said that the more worthless the manuscript, the greater the fear of plagarism.


A small publisher really should, if he can, stay away from fiction.


A small press is an attitude, a kind of anti-commerciality. The dollars come second, the talent and the quality of the writing come first. If the presses wanted to make money, they’d be out there selling cook books.


Gone today, here tomorrow

ALFRED KNOPF on book returns.

Great editors do not discover nor produce great authors; great authors create and produce great publishers. 




September 15th, 2014 • Posted in Rome

Video: A Humorous look at Rome by the always entertaining Clive James

September 13th, 2014 • Posted in Scotland

Go to Scotland to see the Green Ray

The Green Ray (Le Rayon Vert) is a novel by Jules Verne published in 1882 and named after the optical phenomenon of the same name. The lead characters set off to find the green ray in Scotland, near Fair Island in the Orkneys (just as Verne himself did). After many thwarted attempts, due to clouds, flocks of birds and distant boat sails hiding the sun, the ray eventually becomes visible, but alas (or not), the protagonists, seeing love in each other’s eyes, ignore the horizon. 

Green flashes and green rays are rare optical phenomena that occur shortly after sunset or before sunrise, when a green spot is visible for a short period of time above the sun, or a green ray shoots up from the sunset point. It is usually observed from a low altitude where there is an unobstructed view of the horizon, such as on the ocean. The idea in the novel that one can predict where and when to observe the green ray has no scientific basis.

Cited in Eric Rohmer’s 1986 film, the green ray is used as a central image providing meaning and guidance for the film’s troubled main character, Delphine. Verne’s book is discussed at length in the film as a “fairytale love story” whose protagonists are consumed in their search for the rare meteorological phenomenon. Believed to give a heightened perception to those who view it, one of the characters further explains that “when you see the green ray you can read your own feelings and others too.” Seizing this idea, Delphine uses her own search for the ‘rayon vert’ to help overcome her crippling fear of intimacy.

Source: Wikipedia

September 13th, 2014 • Posted in Los Angeles

Literary Tourist visits Los Angeles: The Serendipitous sequel

As happens so often with book lovers, serendipity (sadly not the late, lamented bookstore of the same name) was at hand during my recent visit to Los Angeles. 

It showed up in a book (of course), a book that I’d bought at

Sam: Johnson’s Bookshop (highly recommended). During the day in question, I’d made a special trip to  

Powell Library on the UCLA campus. I wanted to have a look at the ceiling of the dome

in the reading room. It has painted on it the imprints of 30-40, 15th and 16th century printers, the most famous of which is probably that of

Aldus Manutius

Prior to this we’d been at the glorious Getty Museum, ostensibly to check out the

Research Library but, seeing as it was closed (one of the few days of the year that this is the case), to take in the great view,

the garden, the art,

and the temporary exhibitions (notably one called ‘Chivalry’ that presented some lovely illustrated manuscripts and

Book(s) of Hours.

From here we headed downtown for a browse through The Last Bookstore: ‘The Strand on the West Coast’. Big selection of books here

upstairs and

down. The building used to house a bank. The more collectible books are found in the old vault…a two volume set caught my eye: Vasari’s  Lives of the Painters published by The Limited Editions Club. SIGNED by the printer and designer Giovanni Mardersteig on the colophon page. It only cost $40. I’ve seen some going for as much as $300. Needless to say it now sits on my bookshelf.

On the way out of town, in Pasadina, we visited the

Huntington Library, with its extraordinary ‘highlights’ exhibition featuring important editions of Newton, Shakespeare and Chaucer among others. Interesting how big some of these dudes’ handwriting was, especially

Jack London’s and

Henry Thoreau’s. Once through this we were treated to a whole wall full of different editions of The Origin of Species, and some lovely bird and animal

prints (notice how squared off the tails are..!). The Huntington is surrounded by some lovely gardens, including a Rose Garden which unfortunately, due no doubt both to the time of  year and a water shortage, was a bit worse for wear. I sat for a time under a bower outside the coffee shop savouring a very potent double espresso.

About ten minutes drive from the Huntington you’ll find one of the great indie bookstores in California. Vromans has been in business since the 1890s providing a wonderfully wide selection of titles, sponsoring many high-profile author events, and giving back to the community. It’s located next to a theatre, and several blocks away from a very decent used bookstore, Book Alley

Which brings us back to serendipity. That evening after all of this literary touristing, I sat down to read my Sam: Johnson acquisition, a  history of the Ward Richie press. The foreword happens to have been written by one Lawrence Clark Powell, the guy they named the Library after (he was chief librarian there for many years). In it, he thanks Richie for getting him his first job…at Vromans. 

September 12th, 2014 • Posted in Literary Tourism

Literary Tourist’s list of Great Notebooks


Here first are a few quotes about the mighty notebook (notepad, writing pad, drawing pad, legal pad):

When Bugs Bunny walks into rehab, people are going to turn and look. People at rehab were stealing my hats and pens and notebooks and asking for autographs. I couldn’t concentrate on my problem. Eminem

When I was still in prep school – 14, 15 – I started keeping notebooks, journals. I started writing, almost like landscape drawing or life drawing. I never kept a diary, I never wrote about my day and what happened to me, but I described things. John Irving

I can’t predict how reading habits will change. But I will say that the greatest loss is the paper archive – no more a great stack of manuscripts, letters, and notebooks from a writer’s life, but only a tiny pile of disks, little plastic cookies where once were calligraphic marvels. Paul Theroux

When I’m in the field, when I’m working, I keep very careful notes. I wear big shirts with big breast pockets, and I carry in them two little spiral notebooks. Peter Matthiessen

Here second is a list of fine notebook purveyors:

1. Moleskin

2. Fiorentina

3. Field Notes

4. Piccadilly

5. Leuchtturm

6. Baron Fig


September 12th, 2014 • Posted in Literary Destinations

Top 20 trends in Destination Marketing

In a recent survey the following top 20 trends were identified by tourism officials as having major impacts on their Destination Marketing Organizations.

(The majority of these trends involve the collective impact of:
• The rapid adoption of smart technology
• Growing prominence of social media
• A result of first two forces – the changing expectations and requirements of customers)


  1. Social media’s prominence in reaching the travel market (e.g., Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter, Weibo).
  2. Mobile platforms and apps becoming the primary engagement platform for travelers.
  3. Customers increasingly seeking a personalized travel experience.
  4. Smart technology (e.g., phones, bag tags, and cards) creating new opportunities for innovative new services and processes.
  5. Travelers demanding more information, control, interaction, and personalization.
  6. Geotargeting and localization becoming more prevalent.
  7. Brand identity for destinations becoming more critical in terms of meeting planner perceptions about value and experience.
  8. Customers increasingly looking for a travel experience that allows them to experience a local’s way of life.
  9. Technology enabling faster decision-making by customers, thereby, increasing business to a destination.
  10. Consumers becoming increasingly comfortable with ordering products online.
  11. Hotel taxes increasingly vulnerable to alternative politically based projects.
  12. Big Data arriving for the tourism industry.
  13. The brand of a destination becoming a more important factor in travel decisions to consumers.
  14. Governments facing pressure to reduce or eliminate direct financial subsidies to the tourism sector.
  15. Short-stay trips and mini vacations becoming increasingly popular.
  16. More third-party information providers aggregating content about destinations.
  17. Peer-to-peer buyer influence driving customer purchases.
  18. Governments dealing with tourism from an integrated, multidepartmental perspective, focused on economic development.
  19. Customers increasingly going directly to suppliers for goods and services.
  20. Economic conditions continuing to be highly volatile, subject to global and regional shocks.