Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Snow and Books

Introducing a new, inclement-weather-inspired feature on The Size Of Connecticut, in which I read and semi-quasi-review one of the ever-growing stack of Connecticut guidebooks on the floor beside my desk.

First up, the Insiders' Guide to Connecticut, by Eric D. Lehman, published by Globe Pequot Press.

Today I learned: I laughed out loud upon reading that "Connecticut rarely feels crowded," was somewhat horrified to find that there's a 475 area code, and was surprised to hear that the Wilbur Cross is the "only thruway in Connecticut to cut through a natural obstacle." Until I stopped to think about it for a second and realized, duh. The necessarily brief yet fairly decent history section mentions that Connecticut's General Assembly declared independence from British rule 16 days before the Continental Congress did so. (Did everyone else know this?!) It also reminded me of the fabulously named Locomobile company, which manufactured cars (originally they were steam-powered) in Bridgeport at the turn of the 20th century, and which I had forgotten about. And I had no idea before reading this guide that New Haven is America's oldest planned city. (Which explains a lot...)

Amusements: The sight of the Connecticut accent rendered in print, as in the town of "Clin-en." The sentence beginning with, "If you are in the mood for a morning wine tasting..." The assessment that "New London County is the place to be" and "simply too pass up." (I feel so validated.) The scientifically dubious assertion that time "actually does move slower" in Litchfield County.

Listings: Depending how you look at it they are either quite limited or highly selective. Some of the things I look for in every Connecticut guide to gauge how comprehensive it is (Haystack Mountain is one) were missing. Some of my favorite destinations were there, but only sort of, e.g. Stonington Borough is referenced but not presented as the perfect tourist recommendation that (I believe) it is, and confusingly called a village and/or conflated with the entire town of Stonington. The Capitol Building isn't listed, which seems a weird omission, but practically every Barnes and Noble location is included, which strikes me as unnecessary. Among several little "Close-ups" are two on the state's "remarkable cemeteries" and "quintessential villages," which are nice. There's little in this book that you couldn't find by Googling Connectict + [insert type of attraction here.] I got the sense that Lehman was jealously hiding the good stuff from outsiders. (A dilemma with which I greatly sympathize.) The index is, shall we say, lacking.

Quotes: Heavy on Mark Twain and Wallace Stevens. My favorite is Stevens, on the Connecticut River: "It is the third commonness with light and air, a curriculum, a vigor, a local abstraction. Call it, one more, a river, an unnamed flowing, space-filled, reflecting the seasons, the folk-lore of each of the senses; call it, again and again, the river that flows nowhere, like a sea."

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