Anastas and Buckles : Two Generations, Two Perspectives


‘Two generations, Two Perspectives’ 

Writers Center event features authors age 28, 77


Two writers representing two generations of Gloucester natives a half century apart will talk about their recent work at an event at the Gloucester Writers Center.

The program is titled “Two Generations, Two Perspectives, TwoGloucesterWriters” featuring Casey Buckles, 28, and Peter Anastas, 77, both of whom will read from their novels about Gloucester on Wednesday Feb. 18 at 7:30 p.m.

Buckles’ book is titled “Plain of Ghosts,” while Anastas will read from his novel-in-progress “Nostalgia.” 

Casey Buckles, 28, will read from his novel about Gloucester during a program titled “Two Generations, Two Perspectives, Two Gloucester Writers” on Wednesday at 7:30 p.m. at the Gloucester Writers Center. 

Peter Anastas, 77, will read from his novel about Gloucester during a program titled “Two Generations, Two Perspectives, Two Gloucester Writers” on Wednesday at 7:30 p.m. at the Gloucester Writers Center. 


For starters, Anastas grew up in the nation’s oldest seaport when it had a thriving fishing industry that employed thousands of residents working at sea and in the shore-related businesses. 

Downsizing industry 

Buckles, on the other hand, grew up at a time when fishing was greatly downsized with the onslaught of government regulations, and when local drug abuse made recurrent headlines as it continues to do so today. His generation is also the first to compete in a global marketplace that’s seen U.S. jobs vanish overseas where the labor market is cheaper. 

A lifelong writer and columnist, Anastas holds degrees in English from Bowdoin College and Tufts University. He also studied Medieval Literature at the University of Florence, Italy. 

Commenting on the value of the young writer’s work coming as it does from his experience growing up in the heart of Gloucester, Anastas noted: ”The city has been the subject of a great deal of poetry and prose, of history and fiction; yet until the recent publication of Casey Buckles’ novel, ‘Plain of Ghosts,’ we have not had an account of what it feels like to come of age at this very moment in a community in dramatic transition.” 

’Locally crafted’ 

Buckle’s novel, he further noted, should be experienced as a “locally crafted and produced work of art.” 

The novel tells the story about the struggles of its main character, Noah, and his friends, as they attempt to make lives for themselves after high school, and while they may dance and drink in local bars and clubs, they are searching for deeper connections of love, companionship and the meaning of community, explained Anastas. 

”For Casey, the bleakness comes from the fact that he is looking at the lives of his generation in Gloucester. What do they have for work? What is in store for them if they stay here? In many ways Casey is a poet,” said Anastas. 

Buckles said this book grew out of years of note taking when he was attending school at the University of Massachusetts, Boston. 

”It was a lot of reflection that turned into what the book is now,” said Buckles, who studied philosophy, anthropology and English. 

Seaport issues 

In addition to Buckles’ reading, Anastas will read from his own work in progress, which is described as a post mortem investigation of how the city came to be what it is today. Anastas has cherished his life in Gloucester, though he too has critical views about the issues that face the seaport today. 

Anastas asked Buckles about what he sees as the future in Gloucester for his generation. 

”The world didn’t end when the Bird’s Eye fell, so there is still a future. Will it include my generation or any type of working waterfront? That will be easier to answer in retrospect,” wrote Buckles in response. “…For those who are here, spread over its 41.5 square miles, for however we live to survive, there is a future in this city.” 

Gail McCarthy can be reached at 978-675-2706, or via email at. 

Gloucester Writes the Sea

Gloucester Writes the Sea
Peter Anastas
Joe Garland on his porch at Black Bess, Eastern Point, Gloucester, preparing for a visit with Sebastian Junger, 1998,
photo by Ernest Morin


Sitting out last week’s blizzard with a hot toddy and a good book, the distant roar of the Back Shore’s breakers in my ears, I began to think about the storms we’ve lived through, especially the Northeaster of 1991, known historically as The Perfect Storm.  This sent me to the bookcase for my copy of Sebastian Junger’s 1997 bestselling account of the storm and its impact on the city and our fishing families. 
I read the page proofs of The Perfect Stormin one sitting.  Replying to Junger’s publicist at W. W. Norton, who had sent them to the Book Store in Gloucester for pre-publication comment, I told her that I found the book “beautifully written.”  I said it gave “the flavor of Gloucester fishing life as lived by a segment of that community—-the bars, the drinking, the relationships formed out of bar life, the violence of that life, the losses.”  I went on to note that Junger had rendered this life “without judgment and with a precision of emotional detail.”
Eighteen years later I still feel the same way.  While the book has attracted an international readership and its ageless theme of men and women against the sea, of courage in the face of seemingly insuperable obstacles, is universal, its local focus is what still makes it memorable.
The Perfect Storm is a profoundly Gloucester book.  It tells a local story about indigenous people.  It evokes a time and a place in Gloucester’s history.  It is told with precision and candor.  And it doesn’t romanticize the maritime life or mythologize its participants.  Books about the sea often tend to do this, especially if they are fictive.  Melville’s notably did not; neither did Conrad’s or Richard Hughes’.
Closer to home, I find the stories of James B. Connolly, who wrote so prolifically about the lives of Gloucester fishermen, less easy to read than when I was younger.  In contrast, Joe Garland’s books have seemed to ripen with age, as I believe the republication of Lone Voyager in 2000 by Simon and Schuster amply demonstrates.  Connolly’s penchant for “salty” lingo over straight talk has reached the end of its shelf life, while Garland’s Yankee astringency still seems exactly right for its subject.
Yet Connolly, who wrote in The Book of the Gloucester Fishermen (1927) that he’d sailed with Gloucestermen “to the fishing banks, loafed with them ashore, sat with them in their homes,” set a standard for writing about the maritime life here that later writers had to measure up to, including Garland and Kim Bartlett, whose The Finest Kind (1977) is the best account we have of our Italian fleet.  Both succeeded, and beautifully.  As did Geoffrey Moorhouse, an English writer who moved to Gloucester in the 1970s, fished here, and produced his semi-fictional The Boat and the Town,(1979), which documents the pressures on the industry before the establishment of the 200 mile limit, while presenting Gloucester, in the author’s words, as “a paradigm of all the fishing communities in the world.”
These texts, whether he had read them or not, were the models that Sebastian Junger had to write The Perfect Stormagainst, if only in the minds of those natives who knew and lived them.
Are these books, including Junger’s, enough to create a local tradition of writing about the sea?  And is The Perfect Storm part of that company?  In each case, the author has either lived or spent significant time here.  Connolly and Garland had the deepest roots, though Bartlett worked as the Gloucester Times’ waterfront reporter and fished alongside of his subjects.  Junger lived here, too, emerging with a finer understanding of life ashore than many natives.
In 2010, John Morris, the grandson of a dory fisherman lost at sea, published what may well be the definitive history of dory fishing, Alone at Sea: Gloucester in the Age of Dorymen, 1623-1939.  Of this major contribution to Gloucester writing about the sea, Joe Garland wrote:
“John Morris is about to tell you all there is to be told about Gloucestermen and their wives and widows and fatherless kids, and ways of life, and of death by the thousands, of good times and of bad, in a masterpiece that’s been waiting for generations to be told.”
We are fortunate in Gloucester that as this community has evolved there have been people to document in gripping prose the extraordinary quality of its life, what it means, what we stand for, what we must preserve.  In Sebastian Junger’s words, “I love this town, and I really hope that the fishing industry recuperates because that’s the heart of this town.  It isn’t tourism.  It’s not light industry.  It’s fishing, and it would really be a tragedy if business by business, boat by boat, that gets chipped away.”
Junger said this in a 1998 Boston Globeinterview and his words are just as relevant today.  In fact, they speak to our condition even more powerfully.