The single-most influential individual in the creative genesis of Woodstock was Hervey White, whose “Maverick Colony” consisted of artists who didn’t quite starve, traded partners often, and usually departed only after having children, experiencing success, or both.
Today, the last man alive who personally knew Hervey White is local author, retired literature professor and Creative Writing Director for SUNY New Paltz, Anthony Robinson. As a child of the Maverick, he freely and frequently conversed with its legendary founder right up to the day of his death in 1944.
From 2-4pm on August 12th, writer Tad Wise will interview Anthony Robinson at the Historical Society of Woodstock, delving deeply into his eighth novel (copies of which the author will sign): Father of the Man. In it, thinly-disguised characters and episodes from the Maverick are deftly interwoven through an omniscient narration most often channeling the heart and mind of young Billy Darden and his father, Jacob. Jacob Darden being a poet, scholar, and novelist rescued from obscurity by unlikely literary interventions, now more comfortably located at the colony’s edge. These and thousands of other details of a delightful if unflinching remembrance are rooted in actual history. Of course, novelistic inventions intermingle with reportage, and Wise will be eager to distinguish between the two.
In fact, Anthony Robinson’s father was Henry Morton Robinson, who late in his short life (after paying the bills for more than a decade as a “re-write man” for Reader’s Digest) retired to complete a number one best-selling novel, The Cardinal, hailed as “the best book of 1950” by Time magazine. Success, however, did not bring the Robinson family happiness.
The most impressive achievement of Anthony Robinson’s late-in-life, coming of age novel (and there are many) is that we come to understand and deeply care for each of its major characters, despite the patriarch’s moral failings and the fact that father and son are pitted against one another. Although a hard-won love and respect between Billy and Jacob eventually emerges, whether this armistice reflects one that came to exist between Tony Robinson and his father before the latter died tragically at sixty two, or whether this “mellowing” is the product of a life-long rumination on the part of “the son who lived to tell the tale,” will certainly be one of many questions posed by a local historian to a much-admired witness to an era long gone.