When I began to receive promotional material from the City of Pittsfield about a summer-long celebration of Herman Melville last spring, “Call Me Melvile,” I anxiously surveyed Melville’s chronology in one of the Library of America volumes I have on my shelf, looking for some date worthy of commemoration by this busy series of events, and I found none. In 1812, Herman Melville was not yet born. In 1862, nothing happened, except for the continuing decline of his literary and fiscal fortunes as well as his mental state. The following autumn he was to leave Pittsfield for good, much to his sorrow, trading his beloved house, Arrowhead, with his brother for a brownstone in New York City. In 1912 Melville remained in obscurity, the Moby-Dick revival still in the future. Perhaps 1852 was the key year…?
As part of the second annual Berkshire Festival of Women Writers, Orion and Gastronomica co-hosted a reading featuring renowned food writer Ruth Reichl, poets Ellen Doré Watson and Patty Crane, and fiction writers Francine Prose (finalist for the National Book Award) and Elizabeth Graver. Their contributions have now been posted on the new Gastronomica site as a Web exclusive.