Dead or Alive is a new PANK blog column that will visit either the home of or memorial to a different writer each month. When Robin McCarthy was a child, her family vacations were pilgrimages to literary landmarks; the house where Lucy Maud Montgomery wrote Anne of Green Gables, each home described in Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Little House on the Prairie series, Thoreau’s cabin on Walden Pond. She has been unsuccessful in breaking herself of this habit, and as an adult her frequent road trips are enhanced by incorporating some bookish tourism, most often the home or grave of a writer. These trips are often an opportunity to familiarize herself with an author she may have overlooked and always inspire deep reverence for the varied shapes writing careers assume and the surprising places in which they can be discovered.
by Robin McCarthy
It’s June of 2012 and dear friends are being married in the mountains of western North Carolina. The wedding is a three day affair held on the grounds of a lovely country resort in a town named Flat Rock, twenty driving hours from my home in the Northeast. The land is rolling, lush, verdant. There is a white peacock. There is a pond beside which to be wed. There are fiddles and pastel-colored drinks served in mason jars. And, a mile and a half up the road, there is the former home of Carl Sandburg.
This is a fact that takes some thinking. Carl Sandburg’s name is so closely linked to Chicago in my memory that I struggle to place him here, just outside Asheville, at the foot of the Appalachians. It is bewildering that the National Park Service operates a sprawling farm in North Carolina as the Carl Sandburg National Historic Site, when his papers and so much of his career are housed in Chicago. Yet, Sandburg and his wife, Paula, and their three daughters moved to the farm, named Connemarra after the region of Ireland, in 1945. He lived there twenty-two years until his death, and a third of his work was created there. Continue reading