Friday, February 24, 2006

Considering that recently retired Fairmont State University English professor Dr. Jack Hussey spent much of his life in a small town, it is perhaps apropos that he capture the essence of the most famous small town in America.

He recently completed his book, "Transcendence: Three Concord Stories," a collection of three short novels set in Concord, Mass. Hussey has taught upper level American literature courses at Fairmont State for the past 35 years. The book, his first, reflects his interest in 19th century American literature and Massachusetts writers Ralph Waldo Emerson, Nathaniel Hawthorne and Henry David Thoreau.

"I'm still tinkering but, essentially, it's finished," Hussey said.

His trio of novellas spans life in Concord from the 1840s to the 1880s. Concord's fame dates to April 1775 when it became the setting of the battle that ignited the American Revolution. During the 19th century, Concord sustained its fame as the home of some of the country's most famous writers -- Emerson, Hawthorne, Thoreau and Louisa May Alcott.

Hussey became interested in Concord 12 years ago when he wrote and produced a video documentary, "Neighbors in Eden." The story of the town and its resident authors sold 2,000 to 3,000 copies.

"In the late 90s, I decided I'd write an historical article about a fugitive slave who showed up in Concord one night. I did the research and was ready to begin the article, but after the first sentence I realized I had neither the desire nor the discipline to do an historical article," Hussey said. "What I wanted to do was to explore the inner lives of these fascinating people. I wrote one long story about the fugitive slave and the local abolitionists and then another story that intrigued me and then a third. I spent last year finishing them."

Hussey said on visits to Concord he became intimately familiar with the landscape of the town, which in many ways is just as it was 150 years ago.

"Some of the same characters appear in each story. The unifying image in each of the stories is the railroad, which was to the 19th century what flight and the Internet have been to the 20th century, forces for both great good and great harm," he said.

Hussey, a Detroit native, earned his doctorate degree at the University of Florida and his bachelor's and master's degrees from the University of Detroit. He and his wife and three daughters moved to Fairmont in 1971. He started the book about seven years ago. Until then, the most writing intensive period of his life was from the time he was 10 until he graduated from college.

"I've had a satisfying career here at Fairmont State. I've made many friends and have been able to teach the books and the writers I love," he said. "I am teaching three courses this term in my phased retirement mode. One is a course on four of my favorite writers: Poe, Hawthorne, Dickinson and Thoreau."

Hussey said he is awaiting final word from a Boston literary agent who is interested in representing the book. Hussey's colleague Dr. Martin Bond, Dean of the College of Liberal Arts, is looking forward to seeing the book in print.

"A fine scholar, Jack Hussey is also a gifted professor, one whose ability to bring literature to life is legendary among Fairmont State students," Bond said. "In bringing extensive knowledge of 19th century New England and keen perception of human drama to the writing of fiction, Jack's creative mingling of persons and events "both historical and imaginative" provides a wonderful reading experience for all of us."