… know that UD spends part of the summer at her little house in the wilds of Upstate New York. As the academic year ends and August seems less distant, she begins to follow the news in the Leatherstocking Region — which is what her part of the state calls itself.

But maybe not for much longer.

The name has mystery, history and romance but tourism leaders say the name Central Leatherstocking Region doesn’t attract tourists.

After long discussions and a virtually unanimous vote at a recent meeting tourism leaders in that area agreed to now call the region ‘Central New York’.

The Central Leatherstocking was named for James Fenimore Cooper’s literary works ‘Leatherstocking Tales’. Cooper’s father founded Cooperstown and 4 of the 5 ‘Leatherstocking Tales’ were based out of the New York area.

“Of course Natty Bumppo was a prototype of the American frontiersman, wore leather britches. He was referred to as leatherstocking. He was Cooper’s hero in all five leatherstocking tales” says Paul D’Ambrosio who serves as chief curator for the Fenimore Art Museum.

Stephen Elliott who is the president of N.Y.S. Historical Association says the name Central Leatherstocking Region didn’t attract tourists to their area. “When people plan trips the practicality is that they know where it is so they know if they want to go there. While we may have lost that great romance connotation the fact of the matter is people know where [Central New York] is.” says Elliott.

A UD reader long ago pointed UD in the direction of Mark Twain’s essay about Cooper, which says everything I’ve thought about Cooper ever since Harold Kaplan, at Northwestern University many years ago, assigned Deerslayer in one of her American literature classes.

There have been daring people in the world who claimed that Cooper could write English, but they are all dead now… Now I feel sure, deep down in my heart, that Cooper wrote about the poorest English that exists in our language, and that the English of “Deerslayer” is the very worst that even Cooper ever wrote.

I may be mistaken, but it does seem to me that “Deerslayer” is not a work of art in any sense; it does seem to me that it is destitute of every detail that goes to the making of a work of art; in truth, it seems to me that “Deerslayer” is just simply a literary delirium tremens.

A work of art? It has no invention; it has no order, system, sequence, or result; it has no lifelikeness, no thrill, no stir, no seeming of reality; its characters are confusedly drawn, and by their acts and words they prove that they are not the sort of people the author claims that they are; its humor is pathetic; its pathos is funny; its conversations are — oh! indescribable; its love-scenes odious; its English a crime against the language.

Counting these out, what is left is Art. I think we must all admit that.

(UD‘s house is in Summit, New York. She’s therefore introduced a new category with this post: SNAPSHOTS FROM SUMMIT.)

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4 Responses to “Longtime readers of University Diaries…”

  1. Eric the Read Says:

    Any day in which I am reminded to read The Literary Offenses of James Fenimore Cooper is a good day. Thanks!

  2. Michael Tinkler Says:

    How do you feel about Melville? I had to read Pierre, or the Ambiguities in college. It put me off him for life.

  3. Margaret Soltan Says:

    I don’t like his novels, but his short stories!! Amazing. Bartleby, the Scrivener in particular. Amazing.

  4. Bill Harshaw Says:

    Oh come now. Twain is just jealous that Daniel Day Lewis never played Huck Finn. Cooper may not be the best writer upstate New York ever produced, but his themes are basic. And, when when Huck lights out for the territories, who is he going to find there? You got it.

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