Shelf Life

Connecticut Yankee home

''I consider myself an actress first, a dancer second, and a singer third,'' Liza Minnelli says in ''The Dancer Within.'' ''I consider myself an actress first, a dancer second, and a singer third,'' Liza Minnelli says in ''The Dancer Within.'' (Rose eichenbaum)
Email|Print|Single Page| Text size + By Jan Gardner
August 10, 2008

Jon Clinch, whose debut novel, "Finn," owes a literary debt to Mark Twain, has joined the effort to keep Twain's house in Hartford open to the public. On Sept. 23, Clinch and 10 other writers, including Phillip Lopate and Stewart O'Nan, will give a reading to benefit the Mark Twain House and Museum.

The nonprofit that operates the 11,500-square-foot house - a marvel of whimsy and craftsmanship - has said it may have to shut down the house where Twain wrote "The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn" and other classics because it cannot cover expenses. One cause of its difficulties is a new visitors center that cost almost double what was initially projected. Twain himself endured a reversal of fortune after building the house in 1874. He suffered a major loss on his investment in an early typesetting machine, and the family had to move out.

Tickets for the benefit are $40 to $100. Details at marktwain

Papyrus, paper, scissors
In a carriage house near Washington Square in Brookline is the small but fascinating Museum of International Paper History. On view are handmade papers and tools that have been used over the centuries to make paper in China and Burma.

Over the past 35 years, museum director Elaine Koretsky has visited 43 countries to document traditional ways of making paper by hand. The tradition is particularly strong in Asia, where handmade paper is burned during ceremonies to honor the dead.

Koretsky was an artist in the 1970s when she learned to make paper by hand. She set out to research the history of handmade paper, amassing a collection of 3,000 items and writing papers and books. She and her husband, Sidney Koretsky, have produced 10 DVDs about papermaking traditions in a number of places, including Laos, Vietnam, and the Himalayas.

The Koretskys possess an encyclopedic knowledge of plants used to make paper, and in a garden next to the carriage house they grow bananas, bamboo, sisal, mulberries, cotton, and papyrus, to name a few.

The museum is open on Mondays from 1 to 4 p.m. for the summer, but visitors should call ahead: 617-232-1636.

Dancing on
Rose Eichenbaum is an oral historian and documentary photographer of the dance world. A dancer herself, she interviewed and photographed dozens of dancers from stage and screen - among them Mitzi Gaynor and Marine Jahan, who was Jennifer Beals's body double in "Flashdance" - for her new book, "The Dancer Within: Intimate Conversations with Great Dancers" (Wesleyan University).

Many dancers have faced debilitating injuries. With 15 screws in her leg, Chita Rivera, at 73, was still dancing when Eichenbaum interviewed her. Ben Vereen, who suffered a stroke, told Eichenbaum, "I'm alive. I'm above ground. That's really what matters."

Coming out
"The One-Life Solution: Reclaim Your Personal Life While Achieving Greater Professional Success," by Henry Cloud (Collins)

"Smoke Screen," by Sandra Brown (Simon & Schuster)

"New Stories From the South: 2008," edited by ZZ Packer (Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill)

Pick of the week
Nancy Ockers of Titcomb's Bookshop, in East Sandwich, recommends "Those Who Save Us," by Jenna Blum (Harcourt): "This gripping novel about the lives of average German citizens during World War II really makes you think: If you and your family were starving and your government was brutalizing its own citizens, what would you do? Some of the desperate decisions the characters make haunt them for the rest of their lives."

Jan Gardner can be reached at

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