So warm up Christmas is upon us and by that I mean, Thanksgiving. Uh, that holiday could not come soon enough. I am very tired and I haven’t had any vacation in nearly a year. Five days off. Five days when I don’t have to work or lesson plan or worry if I’m going to make it to my next job on time. HEAVEN.
Usually during an extended holiday with the family, we go on a little road trip, usually to some thickly New England destination. Salem, Gloucester or Newburyport. Now let me back track here for just a second. My parents are the most New England Yankee Brahmin Polish people on the planet. Sometimes I truly believe that they are both the reincarnations of some long lost Lowells or Cabot Lodges. More on those folks in a bit.
Anyway, we’ve made this road trip many a time to Newburyport and hey I like it. I’m pretty thickly New England at this point as well. I proudly wear my New England Patriots hat now and I occasionally even drop an R here and there.
We visited our usual haunts. The bookstore with the cafe in it. The British store with the insane Cadbury selection. The olive oil store. This time though we added another stop. We went to the Maritime Museum in Newburyport. Of course there were remnants and reminders of Newburyport’s glorious past as a global whaling power, but there was also a room dedicated to son of Newburyport John Marquand. Who was he? Well read on.
John Marquand is a novelist who I learned about in the early 2000s when I was still living in Washington DC. On my way to work in the morning, every morning, I would read the Washington Post. One day there was an article about forgotten novelists. John Marquand was on the list, so I purchased one of his books called HM Pulham Esquire about this Brahmin who suffers in quiet desperation. Like they all do. Anyway, it was a rip roaring yarn.
I knew there would be things about John Marquand when they mentioned novelists. His at home library had been reconstructed in the maritime museum. I knew some about his background but I decided to look up his biography on wikipedia and boy, was I not disappointed. Oh, I was not. I can’t even paraphrase it. It is THAT GOOD. I’m going to copy and paste it below and copiously credit wikipedia for providing me with this bio:
Marquand was the son of Philip Marquand and his wife Margaret née Fuller, he was a scion of an old Newburyport, Massachusetts, family. He was a great-nephew of 19th-century writer Margaret Fuller and a cousin of Buckminster Fuller, who gained fame in the 20th century as the inventor of the geodesic dome. Marquand was born in Wilmington, Delaware, and grew up in the New York suburbs. When financial reverses broke up the family’s comfortable household, he was sent to Newburyport, Massachusetts, where he was raised by his eccentric aunts, who lived in a crumbling Federal Period mansion surrounded by remnants of the family’s vanished glory. (Marquand’s ancestors had been successful merchants in the Revolutionary period; Margaret Fuller and other aunts had been actively involved with the Transcendentalist and abolitionist movements.)
Marquand attended Newburyport High School, where he won a scholarship that enabled him to attend Harvard College. As an impecunious public school graduate in the heyday of Harvard’s Gold Coast, he was an unclubbable outsider.
Thanks wikipedia. Thank you very much. I mean that first paragraph is normal, normal. Yeah, he was born. Financial reversals. Not great. Eccentric aunts.
But that second paragraph and we are off to the races so to speak. “Impecunious public school graduate” — you mean he’s poor. I mean he was poor. “An unclubbable outsider” — OK did someone’s tea sipping sarcastic Brahmin grandmother write that? That got more than a chuckle from me, let’s just put it that way.
So yeah, so translation Wikipedia to English is that dude, dude did the work and got himself a scholarship to the Harvard and zoomed back into the elite. What made Marquand different though was that he choose to satirize the group from which he had come. A blue blood satirist who had been in the club but had become impecuniously unclubbable but was back in the club to make fun of the club. Delicious.
I was trying to describe him to my mother and I finally said — he’s like Truman Capote but with less venom, not in need of the venom transplant midway into writing a novel. Now even I’m tempted to read another Marquand novel.
Anyway, there are photos because there are always photos, that are what else? Thickly New England. I wonder what the Brahmin grandmother would say about me. A foreigner who picked themselves up by their bootstraps? I mean how unclubbable!!!!!