The Mount is abuzz with activity this week as we prepare for our first annual literary festival, Berkshire WordFest. The week started with this season’s second lecture, by T.J. Stiles, who spoke about his Pulitzer Prize-winning biography The First Tycoon: the Epic Life of Cornelius Vanderbilt. For those who missed the lecture there is a detailed interview with Mr. Stiles here. The First Tycoon won the 2009 National Book Award for non-fiction and we thank Mr. Stiles for visiting us. Your blogger was disappointed to find out that one famous story about Vanderbilt is apocryphal, as it involved The Mount’s neighbor George Westinghouse. Apparently the admittedly crusty Commodore did not actually throw Westinghouse and his invention (air brakes for trains) out of his office. He was probably too busy counting his money, which at his death amounted to “one out of every twenty dollars in circulation, including cash and bank deposits.”
We of course also present Wharton on Wednesdays, and today’s reading will be by Ariel Bock of the Berkshire Theatre Festival. For some reason WoW tends to attract extremes of weather, last week’s monsoon followed the previous Wednesday’s mega heat wave. This only seems to add to the experience of hearing Wharton’s words read at the place in which she wrote so many. Today’s story is The Looking-glass, and it appears both in the The Ghost Stories of Edith Wharton and the Library of America’s Collected Stories 1911–1937 , available at all good bookshops including, of course, The Mount’s! The photo above of Harrison Gibbons reading The Rembrandt was taken by Jason Brown, whose Wharton Project is making audio recordings of her works. The first volume of Edith Wharton on Audio is now available.
While “WordFest” has not yet made its appearance in the Oxford English Dictionary, it is a celebration of words and writing. We quote from the blog at The Arts Fuse: “With the establishment of Wordfest, a celebration of writing in America with talks, interviews, panels, and book signings, The Mount seems to be coming into its own in ways that make it more alive than ever before.” There are still tickets available for all the events, and there is something for everyone, from poetry to panels to playing word games on the Terrace. Your blogger will be stationed there as your resident Cruise Director for the duration of the festival so come and join us!