new england literary news | nina maclaughlin

Avenue Victor Hugo returns, the Dogtown Writers Festival debuts, and buried treasure awaits

The Avenue Victor Hugo bookstore has reopened in a barn in Lee, N.H.
Cord Blomquist
The Avenue Victor Hugo bookstore has reopened in a barn in Lee, N.H.

Back in stock

The storied, atmospheric Avenue Victor Hugo bookstore lived on Newbury Street for nearly three decades before a rent hike (to $25k/month) forced the shop to shutter in 2004. For author and owner Vincent McCaffrey, re-opening sometime, somewhere was always the plan. And now, fifteen years later, it’s happened, this time, in an old barn in Lee, New Hampshire, where he and his wife now live. They’d been operating online, and McCaffrey writes in an e-mail of how good it is to go back to “talking to people again about books instead of staring at a gray screen.” The store, holding about 20,000 titles, is a place that rewards curiosity and an openness to serendipity. “Our shop was always the place to find the obscure on the shelf next to the popular,” he writes. McCaffrey talks of the changes of book publishing and selling over the decades he’s been in the business, and laments the way dollars and corporations now fuel what’s being produced: “Once there were editors who allowed authors to first find a voice and then find an audience. Now there are agents who live by the percentages. More books are published today but actually by a smaller number of authors and marketed to a less diverse audience.” He acknowledges that rural Lee is a long way from the bustle of Boston, but its proximity to the University of New Hampshire means it’s a “highly educated” and “strong book-loving community,” he says, “with many of just the sort of eccentrics that once made our store in Boston possible.” Avenue Victor Hugo, at 1 Lee Hill Road, is open Fridays and Saturdays from 10 a.m. - 6 p.m. For more information visit

Shore thing

The Gloucester Writers Center launches its first annual Dogtown Writers Festival this weekend, bringing together a number of writers for talks and workshops. The guiding principle behind the festival is “finding words in place,” exploring how grounding in the local history, geography, and people can serve to deepen our understanding of the much wider world. Events begin on Friday evening with a keynote address by author and journalist Sandy Tolan. Saturday offers a number of workshops including “Poetry in Place” with Sandra Williams; “Writing a 10 Minute Play” with M. Lynda Robinson; “The Big Picture” with Alan Weisman, which asks how to select detail to capture specific place and also suggest something larger. Three panel discussions will explore “Words in Place,” with Anna Solomon and Weisman; “Words over Time,” with Charlotte Gordon and Jim Scrimgeour; and “Words in People — Voices of Cape Ann,” with Anita Diamant and Mark Carlotto. Events take place on Friday and Saturday in locations around Gloucester; for more information and a complete schedule visit

Digging deep

Arlington resident and UMass Lowell English teacher Sandra Miller’s new memoir “Trove: A Woman’s Search for Truth and Buried Treasure” (Brown Paper) centers around the author’s ongoing search for an elusive sense of wholeness. “With an instinct born of yearning, I have trained myself to find things.” As a child, she magpied all sorts of treasures; as an adult, her hunt continued when she joined a male friend on a literal treasure hunt, seeking out buried treasure in the form of $10k worth of gold coins. “Here I was on a Friday afternoon in a defunct Brooklyn airport, ignoring my children, pissing off my husband, looking again because I didn’t know what else to do. Where? Where? Where?” she asks. The hunt leads her to unexpected places, and ultimately back to herself. Miller will discuss the book on Wednesday at 7 p.m. at Trident Books on Newbury Street.

Coming Out


The Shadow King by Maaza Mengiste (W.W. Norton)

Get The Weekender in your inbox:
The Globe's top picks for what to see and do each weekend, in Boston and beyond.
Thank you for signing up! Sign up for more newsletters here

Year of the Monkeyby Patti Smith (Knopf)

Surfacing by Kathleen Jamie (Penguin)

Pick of the Week

Tom Holbrook at Riverrun Bookstore in Portsmouth, N.H., recommends “Once & Future” by Cori McCarthy and Amy Rose Capetta (Jimmy Patterson): “Oh, you know, just your average intergalactic teenage gender-fluid retelling of the Arthur myth. So much packed in to a book that starts with a bang and never slows down. The authors create a believable and compelling future, with unique and funny characters.”

Nina MacLaughlin is the author of “Hammer Head: The Making of a Carpenter.” She can be reached at