For undergrad I attended Hampshire College in Amherst, Massachusetts. David had never been to the Pioneer Valley, so the two of us packed our bags and headed up to Northampton for the weekend so I could give him a tour of my college days. It was a super relaxing, fun time and exactly what I needed. Special thanks to lovely and talented Maya for hosting us.
The weekend was fantastic—we walked around Amherst & Northampton and cooked/ate some delicious meals. Plus, David got the true Hampshire experience—while exploring the campus we saw a guy in a fez and a drum circle.
Anyway, one of my favorite things about the Pioneer Valley is what a literary place it is. We went to four bookstores total and I purchased used copies of Room by Emma Donoghue, Friend of My Youth by Alice Munro and The Imperfectionists by Tom Rachman. Plus I bought David a copy of one of my favorite novels The Group by Mary McCarthy.
The highlight of the trip was the Montague Bookmill, which has the best motto of all time: “Books you don’t need in a place you can’t find.” The Bookmill is a used book store right on the Sawmill River in an 1842 gristmill. It is an amazing space with two levels of books and cumfy seating throughout, so it’s the perfect place to read or do work. Plus, it has a great cafe overlooking the river and a record/movie store that was playing Earth, Wind & Fire—it legit does not get any better than that. The Bookmill was by far our favorite part of the trip and is a beautiful thirty minute drive from Northampton—it is the #1 thing I recommend doing if you’re ever in the Pioneer Valley.
“I hope you don’t have friends who recommend Ayn Rand to you. The fiction of Ayn Rand is as low as you can get re: fiction. I hope you picked it up off the floor of the subway and threw it in the nearest garbage pail. She makes Mickey Spillane look like Dostoevsky.” - Flannery O’Connor
“It’s uncomfortable sitting at a round table: your elbows aren’t resting on anything and you can’t lean on them to rest from writing, and while you’re writing they’re sticking out into nowhere, and if you don’t notice that right away you tell yourself, ‘I don’t know what’s wrong with me, I’m tired,’ and it’s because your elbows aren’t resting on the table.” - Marguerite Duras
“Many writers who are no longer young claim, for various reasons, to read very little, indeed, to find reading and writing in some sense incompatible. Perhaps, for some writers, they are. It’s not for me to judge. If the reason is anxiety about being influenced, then this seems to me a vain, shallow worry. If the reason is lack of time — there are only so many hours in the day, and those spent reading are evidently subtracted from those in which one could be writing — then this is an asceticism to which I don’t aspire.” - Susan Sontag
“My basic rationale might be that I like to write. I feel good when I am doing it — better than when I am not. I find joy in the texture and tone and rhythms of words and sentences, and when these happily combine in a ‘thing’ that has texture and tone and emotion and design and architecture, there comes a fine feeling — a satisfaction like that which follows good and shared love. If there have been difficulties and failures overcome, these may even add to the satisfaction.” - John Steinbeck
“Every writer must have common sense. He must be sensitive and serious. But he must not grow solemn. He must not listen to himself. If he does, he might as well be under a tombstone. When he takes himself solemnly, he has no more to say. Yet he must despise nothing, not even solemn people. They are part of life and it’s his job to write about life.” - Gertrude Stein
“When I was working on The Names I devised a new method — new to me, anyway. When I finished a paragraph, even a three-line paragraph, I automatically went to a fresh page to start the new paragraph. No crowded pages. This enabled me to see a given set of sentences more clearly. It made rewriting easier and more effective. The white space on the page helped me concentrate more deeply on what I’d written.” - Don DeLillo