cover image The Shores of Bohemia: A Cape Cod Story, 1910–1960

The Shores of Bohemia: A Cape Cod Story, 1910–1960

John Taylor Williams. Farrar, Straus and Giroux, $35 (368p) ISBN 978-0-374-2627

Literary agent Williams (coauthor, Perle, Williams & Fischer on Publishing Law) delivers an admiring group portrait of the writers, artists, architects, and playwrights who flocked to Cape Cod in the first half of the 20th century. Over a 50-year period, notable figures including Edward Hopper, Mary McCarthy, Eugene O’Neill, Tennessee Williams, and Edmund Wilson divided their time between New York City’s Greenwich Village and the Cape Cod communities of Provincetown, Truro, and Wellfleet, where they rented cheap rooms or bought old farmhouses and transformed them into artists’ studios. Frequent parties and long days by the seaside provided ample opportunities to debate the virtues of realism, the merits of Stalinism versus Trotskyism, and other matters. Williams details the circumstances behind the plays, novels, and paintings created in Cape Cod, including Tennessee Williams’s The Glass Menagerie and Mary McCarthy’s A Charmed Life, and highlights how residents balanced their hedonistic lifestyles with serious dedication to progressive ideals. A poignant chapter profiling the children of this milieu reveals the harsher side of gifted but often neglectful parents who lived primarily for art and alcohol. Erudite and evocative, this is an indelible snapshot of a time and place that inspired significant creative achievement. Photos. (May)