Arts & Culture

Reviews: January/February 2019

Books on political violence and small-town Maine; a pop podcast.

View full image

Bealport: A Novel of a Town
Jeffrey Lewis ’66
Haus Publishing, $22.95
Reviewed by Alex Beam ’75

Alex Beam ’75 is a columnist for the Boston Globe.

Bealport, Maine, is a small seaside town that attracts an unlikely savior: Roger Keysinger, a hedge fund manager who happens to own a second home on “the Island,” where the rich summer types like to play croquet and sail. One Friday afternoon Keysinger comes across a pair of Norumbega loafers selling for $26 at Big Jim’s Surplus & Salvage. He is surprised to learn that the comfortable, old-fashioned shoes are made locally, and decides to buy the small struggling factory on behalf of his Greenwich, Connecticut, partnership.

Like all of us, Keysinger has mixed motives. He hopes to help Bealport, and he hopes to enrich himself and his colleagues. The men and women whose lives he affects by reviving the shoe factory have their own complicated motives, too. Author Jeffrey Lewis ’66, a veteran TV writer, populates Bealport with memorable characters, for instance the local minister flirting simultaneously with Karl Marx and with a denizen of the Shady Lady strip club; and two brothers engaged in a fratricidal struggle for primacy that plays itself out in the demolition derby arena and elsewhere.

Lewis, who spends part of the year in Castine, Maine, has a nice feel for the conflicting folkways of the locals and the summer folk. “Sailing was so aimless and rich, or it seemed that way, anyway, to someone standing on the shore,” Lewis writes of the favored pastime on the Island. “Sailing made you one of them.” For the McDonald’s crowd, Lewis parses the subtle gradations of looming poverty: “If you had a bit more money, you patronized the Walmart instead of the Dollar Store,” he writes. “If you were feeling flush, you went to the Target.” Big Jim’s salvage store was “a worst-case scenario,” with which many Bealporters were painfully familiar.

Bealport is a tight, successful novel; Lewis is a master of literary economy. This is as good a book about a small town as you are likely to read. Bealport provides proof, if any were needed, that small towns can experience big heartaches.