After a cold snap, a snowstorm, and a handful of rainy days, Sunday finally delivered some April-worthy weather. I took advantage of the sunny day by going for a long walk in Westport, Connecticut.
Westport is fabulously bookish. I should mention it has an award-winning library that hosts an almost dizzying array of book discussion groups, author talks, and other literary events. Though it doesn’t have an independent bookstore, it does have an awesome Barnes and Noble, where you’re likely to find writers at work in the café. This is because loads of authors call Westport home. As it happens, quite a few of them have books coming out this year – Jane Green, Emily Liebert, and Charlotte Rogan.
The town’s most celebrated author-resident would likely be F. Scott Fitzgerald.* Fresh from the success of This Side of Paradise and newly married, he lived with Zelda, his bride, in Westport for six months in 1920. Theirs was a short stay, to be sure, but apparently, they made the most of it, hosting raucous parties that scandalized Zelda’s mother.
The novel he is best known for, The Great Gatsby, bears traces of his stay, as New Yorker writer Barbara Probst Solomon argued in 1996. She cites as evidence two towns in the novel named East Egg and West Egg, which echo the names of two towns near Westport, Easton and Weston. Also telling are Fitzgerald’s descriptions of the landscape, which reflect Connecticut more than Long Island, and the presence of an Italian child near the train station. The Westport train station is located in Saugatuck, historically an Italian neighborhood.
And speaking of Saugatuck, that’s where I began my walk, which took me up Bridge Street, down Compo Road South, where the Fitzgeralds’s temporary home is marked with a plaque, and to the shore.
Quite a few trees are still waiting for their inaugural blooms. I love the starkness of the branches against the blue sky.
Here is the home where the Fitzgeralds lived on Compo Road South. It dates to around 1780 and was built by a fellow called William Gray. It passed into the ownership of one Wakeman Couch in 1806, which is (one assumes) why it’s called the Wakeman House.
I took this shot of the plaque as well, mostly because I enjoyed the close up of that pretty stone wall.
Further along is the Longshore golf course. No golfers yet, but they are coming. They are coming.**
The sun was beginning to set, and it looked quite lovely.
Further on is a statue of a Minuteman. Because New England. A plaque beneath the statue, erected in 1910 by the Connecticut Society, Sons of the American Revolution, reads:
To commemorate the heroism of the Patriots who defended their country, when the British invaded this state, April 25th, 1777. General David Wooster, Colonel Abraham Gould, and more than 100 Continentals fell in the engagements, commencing at Danbury and closing on Compo Hill.
If you’re interested in learning more about the battle, here is a piece I wrote about it a few years ago: Westport’s Revolutionary History.
A block from the statue is the waterfront. It was quite windy at the shoreline, so I only went as far as the harbor.
* This is arguable, of course. I’m basing my claim on the omnipresence of The Great Gatsby on American literature syllabi.
** Apparently, I cannot resist making a Harry Potter reference. Anyone know from where I borrowed these lines? 🙂