Sometimes, if you wait long enough, some of the best things in life can be yours at no cost.
With the coming of the new year, that includes a treasure trove of American literature, films, and other items that have now had their copyrights lapse due to inaction by the US Congress, and have now entered the public domain. This year, that means works produced in the year 1924.
The same year, mind you, that Mansfielder Louis Bromfield’s first book was published.
According to Wikipedia, The Green Bay Tree’s storyline goes like this:
“John Shane, a mysterious gentleman appears in a Midwestern town and builds his estate-Cypress Hill-beyond the penetrating eyes of the townspeople who refer to it as Shane’s Castle. After his death, his widow Julia, and daughters Lily and Irene, make no effort to quell the speculation of their neighbors. Steel mills eventually surround Shane’s Castle and its inhabitants, serving only to enhance the appearance of the Shane clan’s separateness. With his keen storytelling, the author carefully unfolds the stories of a community of people and the Shane women with whom they are fascinated, preoccupied, and even obsessed.”
If the term “Shane’s Castle” sounds familiar, it should. The mansion was based on Bromfield’s childhood memories of Oak Hill Cottage, which still stands north of downtown Mansfield.
Three years later, Bromfield would win the Pulitzer Prize for his novel, “Early Autumn.”
What does entering the public domain mean for The Green Bay Tree? It should shortly become available for download on e-readers for free. This may well be the year, therefore, when you can become introduced to the writings of Louis Bromfield.
It also allows us to share a small exceprt, to-wit:
“THE drawing-room of the house in the Rue Raynouard was a long, high-ceilinged room with tall windows opening upon a terrace and a sloping lawn which ran down to the high wall that shut out the dust and the noise of the Rue de Passy. It was curiously like the muffled, shuttered drawing-room in the old house in Cypress Hill, not because the furnishings were the same; they were not. From Shane’s Castle Lily brought only two things . . the glowing Venice and the portrait of her father. Mr. Turner’s flamboyant painting hung above the black marble mantelpiece in the Rue Raynouard. The portrait of John Shane hung against the satinwood paneling opposite the row of tall windows. The similarity was not an easy thing to define, for its roots lay in nothing more tangible than the bond between old Julia Shane and her daughter Lily, in a subtle sense of values which the one had passed on to the other.”