Michael's Reviews > Dogtown: Death and Enchantment in a New England Ghost Town

Dogtown by Elyssa East
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's review
Jun 02, 10

Read in June, 2010

East is obsessed with Marsden Hartley's paintings which use Dogtown (on Cape Ann in MA) as their inspiration.
East obsessively researches the area and the many eccentrics inhabiting it.
She concludes that the place is stubbornly mysterious, but that this mysteriousness is partly a product of perception.
East does too much research and seems to try to fit too much of it into the book.
The seams start to bulge.
East lambasts people for fixating on the murder of Anne Natti, but does the same by framing her book around the murder and then the trial against Peter Hodgkins, a compulsive liar.
East swiss cheeses (yes that's a verb) her own narrative into the story, but this comes off as incomplete and droopy (if swiss cheese is droopy, then the metaphor stands).
East keeps asking herself and Hodgkins what Hodgkins feels safe from when he says that Dogtown makes him feel safe, but she does not seem to fully understand what it is that brings her there.
The chapters on Charles Olson and Hartley are fantastic as is East's commentary on art and its effect on her.
East accomplishes the most astounding feat; she makes you want to visit Dogtown, but not at night, lest you fill your pants with shit.
The locals seems to not want anyone to visit, but then one shouldn't plug a leaking dam with their finger.

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