I am thrilled that Nimbus Publishing is issuing a new edition of Imagining Anne: The Island Scrapbooks of L.M. Montgomery for which I served as editor, selecting pages and commenting on their contexts and arrangements. As with her journals, the scrapbooks invite sleuthing, and I look forward to more of what others detect about Montgomery’s eye and her materials.
This book is called Imagining Anne because I suggest the scrapbook pages give readers a view into how Montgomery’s creativity took shape. Readers today can look at the Island scrapbooks and find Montgomery’s and Anne’s similar pre-occupations: for fashion, natural beauty, a girl’s and woman’s place in the world, for human drama, poetry, ambition, and understanding. Many readers may even discover that Montgomery is more interesting than her best-known character.
I’ve spent years going through the Island scrapbooks and I still marvel each time at Montgomery’s imagination and at her drive to reflect, and to reflect on, the world around her, remaking it as her own. What caught her eye? What made her laugh – or sigh -- so she wanted to look at it again and again? How did she tame and manage certain feelings when she decided it was time to take out the box of bright fragments she collected routinely and compose pages from them or discard them?
The scrapbooks are more than just source books for Montgomery’s writing: here she exercises a vital form of showing rather than telling.
Showing is a demanding way of telling, especially for one who loves words. Maybe showing is also a wonderfully invigorating way of telling for someone who wrote so many words, just as photography (wordlessly) satisfied Montgomery’s need to record and to preserve while also framing and suggesting stories.
I think of the scrapbooks as visual auto-biography. Enjoying creative play with souvenirs and collected images, Montgomery shows something special about who she is. Did she want these scrapbooks preserved and published? She did not destroy them – as she did many personal letters and private papers – and she did visit/edit them over the years, even removing some images and pasting in new ones. What is missing from the scrapbooks? What stories are fixed within the layers of mixed-media collages?
Montgomery’s Red Scrapbook cover featured a young girl talking on a wall-style telephone, suggesting the intimacy of a conversation and connection to a wider world. I love it that this bright red image is now the cover of Imagining Anne, a sturdy paperback, designed to be legible and to be handled frequently. I hope the compact format invites fans and scholars and those curious about Montgomery and scrapbooking to scan quickly and to linger. Enjoy a glimpse into Montgomery’s unique process of imagining and see what mysteries you can solve.
Imagining Anne: The Island Scrapbooks of L.M. Montgomery will be launched on July 25th, 2019, at 2:30-3:30 in the Robertson Library at UPEI. All are welcome!