With all the mess in the world, all the excitement on the political scene, with all the other blogs leaping to express opinions about relevant topics, why would there be one like this that varies from writing about fair hope to writing about Fairhope?
I'm glad you asked. To answer, I have updated, edited, and excerpted a section from the introduction to my second "Fairhope" book When We Had the Sky:
"A few years ago I published a little book called Meet Me at the Butterfly Tree. It was a memoir of a town called Fairhope on the Eastern Shore of Mobile Bay in Alabama. That book began as a collection of letters between me and Robert E. Bell, author of a novel called The Butterfly Tree which was set in Fairhope in the 1950's. Bob and I had struck up a correspondence based on our memories of the town, and his letters were so vibrant, so evocative, that I felt our back-and-forth would make good reading for both the Fairhope ciizens who remembered some of the same events and people we did and the many who did not.
"Although Bob died before the book was published, he had encouraged me to finish it with what I knew of Fairhope. I added chapters of character sketches and research on people I remembered who to me exemplified the spirit that once was Fairhope. When published, Meet Me at the Butterfly Tree was a success on its own terms; it informed as well as stirred up memories...
"...As for me, I felt there was something missing in its portrayal of Fairhope. I had never been entirely comfortablee with Bob's characterization of the magical aspects of Fairhope, not even when the original The Butterfly Tree was published in 1959. The butterfly image was born in his imagination, the imagination of a visitor from the Birmingham area who grafted his own fantasiies onto the Fairhope he found. The town was magic for him, certainly, a young man with an intellectual and artistic bent, and a need to express himself. The Butterfly Tree was a coming of age novel a la young Truman Capote, the boy with the bangs whose picture graced the cover of Other Voices, Other Rooms and enchanted the young Andy Warhol and others. Bob's picture on the back of The Butterfly Tree was quite handsome too.
"Although we knew some of the same people and lived through some of the same times, Bob's Fairhope wasn't really the Fairhope I knew. To me, Fairhope was unconventional, surely, and a place to grow up among the unconventional, from the ardent proponents of the theory of Single Tax to the intellectual keepers of the Unitarian flame and the families who supported the progressive education approach of the Marietta Johnson School of Organic Education.
"As such, it was not a place that celebrated the ordinary or rewarded the dull. Its legacy of Progressivism and rebellion made it a place to grow up without the requirement of conformity. It did not so much encourage eccentricity as accept it as a natural if somewhat amusing choice. And, as far as I knew, Fairhope had been founded on principles that assured a certain off-centeredness in personality for generations to come."
Now that I read that, I realize it's pretty good stuff. I'm still waiting to hear from Randall Williams at New South Press in Montgomery as to whether the book will ever be published, but I can use some of it for the blog. I added that about Andy Warhol because of my recent posts about him, and I learned from the PBS Special about his fixation on the Truman Capote picture.
As for the purpose of this blog, it was always indirectly defined as a way to sell copies of Meet Me at the Butterfly Tree, so it's time for me to pitch the book one more time. It's for sale on amazon.com or from the publisher at iUniverse.com, or from the author directly. If you are a regular reader of Finding Fair Hope and haven't read it, act now. Order your copy today. If just happening on this blog and you hate blatant plugs, I'm sorry about that. A sample of the writing can be found above and throughout this blog, and I would love to think the book has appeal beyond the few fortunate citizens who happen to have a Fairhope connection.