“‘Sparring in the Dark’ is on my bedside table because, first, it is a biography, second it’s about a Maine artist – Henry Strater (1896 – 1987) – and third it was written by another Maine artist, Michael Culver, whom I happen to know and whose paintings I admire and have shown at my gallery.

“I was already aware that both author and subject hail from Louisville, Kentucky, are painters and found their way to Maine and more specifically to Ogunquit. I had seen a selection of Strater’s paintings at the Ogunquit Museum of American Art. What I didn’t know before reading this well-researched, illustrated volume are the many hats that Strater wore during his life.

“Strater’s interests and pursuits centered around the arts and his serious, ongoing search to learn the ‘how to’ of the creative process. But there is a lot more to this life, which makes for breezy, entertaining reading about the manly realms of boxing, brawling, sports fishing, women and Maine politics. The descriptions of Strater’s travels and his constant quest to cover new territory draw the reader in, in Europe before and during World War I and in the interwar period, then back to America, where he went up and down the East Coast and later the Southwest, always painting and expanding his range of subject matter.

“Beyond these external facts, Culver conveys Strater’s often stormy home-life: his three marriages and divorces, his eight children and his relationships with literary giants Ernest Hemingway, Ezra Pound, Gertrude Stein and F. Scott Fitzgerald, whose character Burne Holiday in ‘This Side of Paradise’ is based on Strater.

“We see a man who straddled different social and cultural spheres and who while sparring with his own demons, succeeded in making an enormous contribution to Maine cultural history. He did so with his own art, the art he collected, his acting as a patron to many an impecunious artist, and – last but not least –  for having the vision, means and will to found the Ogunquit Museum of American Art – now celebrating its 71st season. — CORDULA MATHIAS, Mathias Fine Art, Trevett


Mainers, please email to tell us about the book on your bedside table. In a paragraph or two, describe the book and be sure to tell us what drew you to it. What makes it a can’t-miss read for the rest of us? From memoir to mystery, fantasy to science fiction, history to horror, we want to hear what you are reading and why. Send your selection to pgrodinsky@pressherald.com, and we may use it as a future Bedside Table.


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