A short story evolves to become a short novel, and is published. The author achieves success with his modest yarns about life on Cape Cod. He publishes his tales in the Saturday Evening Post, enjoys a respectable living from his writing, summers on the northern Jersey shore, and dies in Winter Park, Florida. Through his stories, readers discover a Cape Cod populated by dreamers and doers, practical idealists who define success in terms of personal codes more than popular myths of the America’s 20th century success machine. Readers travel from afar to experience his Cape Cod, and residents help them realize the dream. Soon, the Cape becomes a destination, an ideal of a better time in America, and a vacationer’s mecca.
In 1911, Joseph Crosby Lincoln (1870-1944), 41, published his story The Woman-Haters: A Yarn of Eastboro Twin-lights (A.L. Burt Company, NYC). He was a third of the way through his career as a spinner of popular yarns set on Cape Cod, in a part of the country that was invisible to all but a few thousand residents and their occasional visitors from nearby Boston. It was a place apart from the nation’s rambunctious urban centers, a throwback to an earlier, self-reliant America. Its people were taciturn, pragmatic, and passionate about life’s possibilities. Lincoln distrusted modern progress and so he kept returning in his stories to the childhood home from which he had been taken after his father died and his mother moved him to the mainland. Lincoln’s anti-modernist tendencies found expression in stories about this Yankee outpost on a narrow finger of sand so far out to sea that on especially clear days residents might fancy seeing their ancestors’ old country to the east. Here adversity was vanquished, justice prevailed, and romance was eventually, ultimately requited.
In The Woman-Haters, once-married Seth Atkins and Emeline Bascom accidentally reunite on a beach at the extreme easternmost tip of the nation. In this fantasy realm between sand and sea, they see their past actions in new light, comprehend their lives afresh, and rediscover their former attraction.
In 2010, enter Daniel Adams, a veteran writer-producer-actor-director who likes the cut of Lincoln’s literary jib. Adams is one of movie-making’s working class heroes who keep the dream of movie magic alive by gathering friends, locals, and would-be filmmakers together to put on a show. He attracts popular stars to his troupe, works long hours, stretches a dollar to the breaking point, and captures moments on film that become movie memories for the rest of us. Previously, he had directed an adaptation of Lincoln’s 1911 story, Cap’n Eri: A Story of the Coast into The Golden Boys (2009). Recently, he adapted Joe Lincoln’s The Woman-Haters: A Yarn of Eastboro Twin-lights a full one hundred years after it was published into the small feature film, The Lightkeepers.
Whether The Lightkeepers is a commercial or artistic success is not at issue here. As of this writing, it has grossed an estimated 4.5 million dollars, which does not qualify it as a commercial success in 2010. The 1911 equivalent, by the way, would have been $193,500. Reviews are mixed. Some critics have faulted the language, the staging, and Richard Dreyfuss’ interpretation of former sea captain Seth Atkins. Positive reviews have cited The Lightkeepers’ grown-up love story, the palpable sense of place, and the distinctively Yankee knack for understatement.
What counts is that Joseph Lincoln lived life and wrote stories his way. He spun yarns that made readers feel good about themselves. And Daniel Adams is living his life and making movies his way. Hats off to both artists. Thanks for keeping the dream alive.
Joseph Crosby Lincoln (1870-1944), Author
Daniel Adams, Writer-Director