ON THE VINEYARD by Jane Carpineto


A Year in the Life of an Island
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A full complement of seasons on Martha’s Vineyard, experienced from the common man’s perspective, by Carpineto (On Call, 1994, etc.). After visiting the island a number of times, Carpineto decided to dig deeper than the tourist surface, to gain a sense of why so many people think of the Vineyard as a special place. She wanted to take its pulse from the man on the street, not the glitter folk heavily associated with it, from Bill Clinton to James Taylor. For two years, on and off, she sampled each of the months and each of the towns, beaches, and festivals, and interviewed a slew of residents, both year-rounders and summer people, conservationists and developers, T-shirt sellers and boat builders, long-time citizens and new arrivals. She successfully contacts people who have interesting things to say about their circumstances or the history of their towns (in particular, her interviews with African-American residents of Oak Bluffs detail the genesis of its black community), or funny stories to relate about the island’s celebrities (much of this communicated to her in the usual way—at the hairdresser’s). And though she avoids gossip and never intentionally digs for dirt, she does uncover a mean seam in island life: substance abuse, physical abuse, unemployment—and the glaring class differences lurk in the background, unavoidable and often nasty. Carpineto passingly nods at the landscape, but her portrait of the Vineyard is painted with conversations, and if the people turn out to be eccentrics, so much the better: for instance, a square peg known as Johnny Seaview, whom she is sure will be the island’s archetypal original, but Carpineto is smart enough to know the oddities are a spice, and the main ingredients lie elsewhere. A shrewd look at Martha’s Vineyard, mercifully celebrity-free and pleasingly idiosyncratic within the quotidian. (16 pages b&w photos, not seen)

Pub Date: June 1st, 1998
ISBN: 0-312-15584-0
Page count: 272pp
Publisher: Dunne/St. Martin's
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15th, 1998


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