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PTOWN by Peter Manso


Art, Sex and Money on the Outer Cape

by Peter Manso

Pub Date: July 1st, 2002
ISBN: 0-7432-0094-2
Publisher: Scribner

A well-defined and intelligent look at some of the characters—from colorful to determined to notorious—who have given texture and personality to Provincetown, Massachusetts.

“Existing in the liminal space where the eastern edge of America meets the Atlantic, Provincetown has remained throughout its history a haven for outsiders fleeing poverty and persecution,” writes Manso (Brando, 1994, etc.). Although he doesn’t slight Provincetown as a geographical place, he appreciates that it’s the people who have put Ptown on the map, and he has chosen a selection of them to capture the aura of the town: a Portuguese fisherman who managed to get caught for every (substantial) infraction, social and legal, he has committed; a woman preservationist whose work affords a glimpse into the workings of the town government; a police chief who kept the rule of law through a precarious balance of when to look and when not to; bar owners and drug smugglers; lost souls; and those who have found their true selves. The art community gets thorough coverage, starting back with the summer schools of art in the late-19th century through the time when the town served as home base for Abstract Expressionists, then Pop artists, and a whole gallimaufry of current painters. Some of Manso’s most insightful material concerns the evolution of the gay community, from its birth to its polymorphous diversity, and particularly its politics, which have always perked strongly: laid-back, radical, progressive, commercial, correct, incorrect. Manso endeavors, and mostly succeeds, to give each voice a fair hearing, providing good doses of history, whether of the fishing industry, the tourist trade, or the extraordinary explosion in real estate values that has, in the past few years, utterly changed the face of the town and the composition of the population.

In a place that has always valued liberty over law, Manso has caught the intriguing angles that let him shed light on the heart of Ptown.