Sunday, September 13, 2009

Literary Road Trip: Grace Metalious (New Hampshire Author)

Literary Road Trip, dreamed up by Michelle at Galleysmith, is a project in which bloggers showcase their local authors. I am going to be featuring New Hampshire authors, for a small state we have some fantastic writers and I am so excited about this project!

For my first author I am showcasing Grace Metalious. Don't know who that is? Go ask your parents, or even your grandparents. Go ahead, I'll wait...I'd be interested to hear some of their responses.

Grace Metalious was the author of four books. Her first, and most famous, was Peyton Place. She later published Return to Peyton Place, The Tight White Collar and No Adam in Eden. She was born in 1924 in Manchester, New Hampshire. Her family was poor and life was difficult. But Grace had a wealth of imagination and she grew up with a wry wit and ideas that were unconventional and rebellious for her time.

"If I'm a lousy writer,then an awful lot of people have lousy taste."
-- Grace Metalious

Grace married George Metalious in 1943 and by the mid fifties the couple had three children and a meagre existence. In desperation, she sat down and wrote Peyton Place, a book about the seedy underside of life that the chirpy fifties wanted to sweep under the rug. It was a smash hit, it ripped the veneer of respectability off of the decade and revealed the secrets and hypocrisy underneath.

The book was a huge bestseller. She did as much for the publishing industry at the time as Dan Brown (another NH author) did with The Da Vinci Code or J.K. Rowling did with Harry Potter. The popularity of the book spawned a sequel, the film Peyton Place was nominated for nine academy awards and then it was made into a prime time television serial, the first of its kind. She not only created a publishing sensation, she changed conventions and minds in America.

Of course, that kind of change is never easy. Grace was the focus of adulation and success as well as revulsion and hatred. She began to drink and by the age of 39, she was dead.

Opinions very, but I think she was a great writer. Here are the first two paragraphs from Peyton Place:

"Indian summer is like a woman. Ripe, hotly passionate, but fickle, she comes and goes as she pleases so that one is never sure whether she will come at all, nor for how long she will stay. In northern New England, Indian summer puts up a scarlet-tipped hand to hold winter back for a little while. She brings with her the time of the last warm spell, an unchartered season which lives until Winter moves in with its backbone of ice and accoutrements of leafless trees and hard frozen ground. Those grown old, who have had the youth bled from them by the jagged edged winds of winter, know sorrowfully that Indian summer is a sham to be met with hard-eyed cynicism. But the young wait anxiously, scanning the chill autumn skies for a sign of her coming. And sometimes the old, against all the warnings of better judgment, wait with the young and hopeful, their tired, winter eyes turned heavenward to seek the first traces of a false softening.

One year, early in October, Indian summer came to a town called Peyton Place. Like a laughing, lovely woman Indian summer came and spread herself over the countryside and made everything hurtfully beautiful to the eye."

Grace Metalious is buried not far from where I live, and a friend of mine lives in the house that the Metalious family lived in when Peyton Place was written. That's about as local as it gets!

If you haven't read any Grace Metalious, give Peyton Place a try. You don't even have to buy it, the entire thing is available free online (click here), courtesy of Google Books. I thought you would like to see a glimpse of the television show:


Emily Toth said...

I'm very glad you're reading and visiting with Grace Metalious. I'm the author of the only biography of her, INSIDE PEYTON PLACE: THE LIFE OF GRACE METALIOUS (Univ. Press of Mississippi). Sandra Bullock has bought my book to star as Grace Metalious, but I don't know when (or if) the movie will be made.

Emily Toth
Baton Rouge, LA

The Tome Traveller said...

Hi Emily,

I have seen your biography online, I would be very interested in reading it! Her life story would make an interesing, if sad, film. I think Sandra Bullock ought to try something more serious anyway, her recent comedies haven't been hits.

Thanks so much for stopping by!!

Beth F said...

I definitely know the books and the show, but I didn't recognize the author's name. Thanks for this spotlight.

bermudaonion said...

I know the book, movie and show as well, but I never could have come up with the author's name. I love the quote by Grace Metalious!

Zibilee said...

I bought a copy of Peyton Place a few years ago at a used book store, and it has been sitting there patiently for awhile now. I have heard that it was racy for it's time and that it was a sensation when it came out.

Michelle said...

I didn't realize that Peyton Place was a show that was based on a novel. Though it seems most shows in some way are influenced by litreary works in some capacity it seems.


Jem said...

I really enjoyed this post. As a fairly new resident of New Hampshire I am keen to learn about it's literary heritage. So thanks for the really interesting info and I loved the quote. I am going to get a hold of the biography by Emily Toth as I love reading about the lives of authors-particularly women authors.

Tameri T. said...

Hi - I recently published an article on Grace and her work. It can be found here;

Anonymous said...

I recently visited the area and was quite shocked to find very little indicating Grace had even lived there. My husband was with her on her death bed, and explained how the residents reacted. It seems very sad that no one will stand up for her - from the perspective of a woman who changed so many women in so many countries.

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New Hampshire, United States
Bibliophile, Anglophile, Traveller... I have been an avid reader all of my life, since I took the Dr. Seuss Dictionary away from my Mom when I was less than a year old because I wanted to read it myself. In college, where I earned my degree in English Literature, I was often asked "What are you going to do with it?" Now I finally have the answer to that question!!! Being employed as a Flight Attendant for twenty years has given me a lot of life experience and, better still, a lot of time to read. I love to travel for fun, too.