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Book Review | The Paradise of All These Parts

Book Review | The Paradise of All These Parts
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One of my favorite New England writers is John Hanson Mitchell, whose Ceremonial Time (1984) investigated the “deep history” of Scratch Flat, a one-square-mile piece of ground 35 miles northwest of Boston, from the Ice Age to the Digital Age. His new book, The Paradise of All These Parts (Beacon Press; $24.95), attempts the same core sampling, this time of Boston itself, producing an intriguing blend of geology, biology, political science, and personal anecdote. “We all live by myths of one sort or another,” he writes, “and it is stories, after all, that create the reality of a person — or, for that matter, a place.”

Among the subjects of his stories are Katherine Nanny Naylor, whose 17th-century privy produced a treasure trove of artifacts, including a bowling ball; Thomas Blackfish, a self-proclaimed Native American whom Hanson describes as a member of the Wannabe tribe; James Michael Curley, the legendary Irish American mayor who once threatened to sell the Public Garden, just to horrify the Brahmins; and generation after generation of protestors, who fought everything from the Stamp Act to the dismantling of the Citgo sign near Fenway Park — “an odd reaction,” Mitchell points out, “given that there had been a flurry of protest when the sign was first erected.”

It all helps to explain the reaction of one 19th-century Bostonian who, when accused of provincialism, replied, “Why travel when we are already here?”

Please Note: This information was accurate at the time of publication. When planning a trip, please confirm details by directly contacting any company or establishment you intend to visit.

Tim Clark


Tim Clark


Tim Clark has been writing for Yankee Magazine and The Old Farmer's Almanac since 1975. Subjects of his many Yankee profiles have included filmmaker Ken Burns, historian Barbara Tuchman, pediatrician and political activist Dr. Benjamin Spock, and World War II General James Gavin. Tim left his job as Managing Editor in 1999 to teach English at ConVal High School in Peterborough, N.H. for 13 years, but since retiring from that demanding and rewarding profession in 2012, he has continued to contribute articles and book reviews. Tim lives in Dublin, N.H., two miles from the offices of Yankee Publishing, and serves as Town Moderator, a post previously occupied by Rob Sagendorph, the founder of Yankee Magazine.
Updated Friday, October 24th, 2008

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