Author’s book the talk of the town

MARBLEHEAD – Nathaniel Philbrick had one of the greatest honors the literary life can bestow Wednesday evening.”This is about as big a high as a writer can get,” Philbrick said after speaking at the Marblehead Village Middle School auditorium on his book, “In the Heart of the Sea,” The Abbot Public Library’s choice for the 2007 Marblehead Reads program. His talk drew 120 people and is one of the high points of the month-long program.”I spent two years writing the book and the only people I saw were my wife, the dog and the kids. Here I’m with a roomful of people of all ages who have read the book, discussed it and even done projects on it.”He had just signed Grade 8 student projects presented to him by Librarian Nancy Anthony, who was accompanied by eighth grader Kate Hewig.The book won the 2000 National Book Award for Non-Fiction and spent 20 weeks on the New York Times Bestseller List, which may have come as a surprise to Philbrick. “In the Heart of the Sea,” after all, tells the story of the whaling ship Essex, which sank after being rammed by a whale, an incident that formed the basis for Herman Melville’s Moby Dick – and Moby Dick was so unpopular when it first appeared that it sank Melville’s career as a novelist.”I was unsure of its appeal beyond New England,” Philbrick admitted, laughing.Abbot Public Library Director Bonnie Strong said the library’s 90 copies of the book have been circulating constantly since March 1.Wednesday night’s talk was one of the high points of the month for her. The other came when she learned that Marblehead High teacher Connor Ryan is supervising three students – Eileen Kennedy, Sinead Persaud and David Seidan – who are videotaping a documentary of the program, day by day.The month isn’t over yet. There are two concerts and a number of on-going discussion groups.Daisy Nell and Captain Stan will perform “Songs of the Sea” for families and kids ages 5 and up at the Abbot Public Library on Sunday at 2 p.m. (Signup required); Ye Mariners All will sing at the Me & Thee Coffeehouse, 28 Mugford St., Sunday, March 25, at 2 p.m.The library will sponsor book discussion groups for kids 5 and up, kids in Grades 4-6, teens and adults, and the library will show the film “Moby Dick” Thursday, March 22, at 1:15 p.m. Other book discussions will take place at One Kimball at Marblehead Light and the Seagull Inn Bed and Breakfast. Further information is available at (781) 631-1481.

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