by Timothy Lutts
I recently read two books by Salem writers , back-to-back, that were as different as night and day. They’re not the kind of books that will ever make the best-seller list, but I enjoyed reading both, and maybe you will, too!
“Hollywood Before Glamour” is by Michelle Tolini Finamore, a Salem friend whom I’ve known for years.
Michelle is the Curator of Fashion Arts at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, and this scholarly, deeply researched and thoroughly documented book is the result of her doctoral thesis. Yet it is not dull, and even though fashion is not my cup of tea, I found myself turning the pages, as I learned how fashion in film evolved from the early days of silent movies—when actresses wore their own clothes— to the famous and glamorous era of the studio stars.
Michelle considers all the angles, from social to political to economic, as she describes how fashion in film evolved. She cites many films, both famous and forgotten, and many actors and actresses, similarly remembered or not. (After reading the book, my wife and I enjoyed watching—thanks to Netflix streaming—the beautifully expressive Lillian Gish in the silent classic “Way Down East.” A remake was done with Henry Fonda—talking, of course—but I recommend the original.) The photographs of Michelle’s book are spectacular, the typography and design first-rate (my wife designed the cover), and the binding is perfect. Unfortunately, the book is priced at $80, though you can get it at Amazon cheaper or you can ask at your local library.
“Odyssey of the Seven Seas” is by Athan Galanis, who left Newton, Massachusetts, this spring and moved to Salem to become my neighbor, and this book is his life story.
Athan (it’s pronounced like the Greek capital without the S) is not a writer, his book has minimal documentation, and his research consisted mainly of digging through the things that one accumulates over a very long life. But his story is a very good one, beginning in poor rural Greece in 1936 and soon encompassing the challenges of surviving World War II as a child.
One of seven children, Athan was the smart one, and by sticking to the books throughout his life, and sticking to his values as well, he was able to travel the world as a seaman and eventually as a captain, on both cargo ships and then passenger ships. Athan rubbed elbows with the President of Greece and other famous people, but his most notable passenger was a beautiful Italian girl named Dorothy, whom he fell in love with and remains happily married to today! They settled in Newton and he founded his own company where he acted as shore agent at many ports on the New England coast.
The book is self-published at Amazon, and looks it. But it has heart and it has soul, and while it was clearly written for his family and friends—and they’re lucky to have it—I hope more people get to read the life story of my new neighbor.