Literary Tourism

Literary Tourism | Vermont

Johann Thorsson

Staff Writer

Johann Thorsson is a native of Iceland, but spends much of his time in Bookland. He has lived in a few parts of the world but currently lives in Iceland with a pretty woman and a mischievous son who resembles Calvin (of Calvin and Hobbes fame) more each day. He has a complicated but ultimately useless degree in bioinformatics from a very pretty college in England. His favorite books are 1984, Flowers for Algernon and The English Patient. He hopes one day to call himself a writer without feeling like he's just fooling himself. Blog: Johann Thorsson - On Book and Writing Twitter: @johannthors

I had the pleasure of spending a summer in Vermont.  My brother ran a bed and breakfast (of course) and I stayed with him and his wife during my summer break. He showed me all the main places in Vermont (it doesn’t take that long) and pointed out a few interesting literary spots to me as well, knowing I was one of them book-people.

Rudyard Kipling’s Home near Brattleboro

Kipling owned a house in Vermont called Naulakha. It sits beautifully but has a certain Overlook Hotel vibe to it.

“Ninety feet was the length of it and thirty the width, on a high foundation of solid mortared rocks which gave us an airy and a skunk-proof basement.”

Kipling lived here with his wife and daughter when he wrote, among others, Jungle Book. It’s got a tennis court and a pool table, so Kipling clearly knew what was what back in the day. The house is kept as-was and nothing is cordoned off so there is no museum feel to the house.

The best part is that you can rent the house and sleep in Kipling’s bed, write at his desk and, erm, sit on his throne.

It is available for rent year-round from the The Landmark Trust for the paltry sum of $350 a night (minimum 3 nights). It sleeps 8 people, so mathematics inform me that if you can find 7 friends looking for an interesting trip, sleeping there can be yours for the low, low sum of (350 * 3) / 8 = $131.25.

It certainly seems like an interesting place for writers to spend a long weekend.

The Tiny Town of Townshend

Townshend is a small town by small town standards, with a population of 1,149 in 2000 (according to the infallible Wikipedia).  It looms large (sort of) in the literary sense as being the setting for H. P. Lovecraft’s now-classic story The Whisperer in Darkness, which features brains in jars and extra-terrestrial fungi, none of which, I feel compelled to add, are to be found in modern day Townshend.

It is also the scene of Jodi Picault’s books  House Rules, which tells the story of a boy with Asperberger’s who is accused of committing murder.

The Robert Frost House and Trail, Shaftsbury

Poet Robert Frost lived for over 40 years in Vermont, near Bennington (as did Shirley Jackson). His house is now a museum where, for the small sum of $6, visitors can take a look inside. The trees around the house, some of which were planted by Frost himself, were the inspiration for much of the language of his poetry.

In 1923, Robert Frost wrote Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening by the dinner table in the house. That alone is reason enough for most people to take a look.

There is also a Robert Frost trail leading from the property. The trail leads through deep woods, skirts several waterways, and passes through a red pine stand planted by Robert Frost. Just make sure to wear long sleeves and pants, as Lyme disease-carrying deer ticks are common in the area.