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Summer Point by Linda McNutt

Summer Point, Linda McNutt

Linda McNutt

Linda Jane McNutt (playwright, novelist, poet, essayist, director, and professor) was born in 1966 in Fredericton, New Brunswick, and is best known for her novel Summer Point (1997). Her father, Bob McNutt, was an academic who taught mass media at the University of New Brunswick (UNB) and her mother, Bobbie McNutt, was a school principal. Her family moved to England during her third and fourth grades, returned to Fredericton, and then relocated several times to other places such as Alberta, Manitoba, Nova Scotia, and (briefly) Trinidad. As an adult, McNutt continued to live in many places outside of Fredericton (Alberta, Nova Scotia, and Ontario), though she always returned to Fredericton, which she refers to as “homebase” (Personal interview). She currently resides there with her husband and daughter.

McNutt cannot recall a period in her life when she did not write. While in school, she would simultaneously compose poems and record ideas as she took class notes. She did this so voraciously that one of her university professors eventually advised her to split her pages into two columns: one for notes, the other for her creative musings.

She attended Mount Allison University for her Bachelor of Arts in drama and English. There, she first participated in theatre, an interest she would retain throughout her life. This interest, she says, gave her the ability to “play the body of the thing [she] writes about” (Personal interview). This intensely personal activity would later assist with characterization in her creative writing. After graduating in 1988, she worked at the Beaverbrook Art Gallery in Fredericton, where Kent Thompson and Bill Bauer (friends of her father) advised her to apply to the Master of Arts in English and Creative Writing program at UNB. She agreed, completing her degree in 1990.

That same year, out of a desire to “create places with women in them,” she founded the Fredericton Women's Theatre Collective, then a group of ten women who individually wrote short plays related to the experience of being female. These were compiled into a single play, Flights, which McNutt edited and which was later published by Wild East Publications. She also directed the play’s premier, which was staged in March 1990 at UNB’s Memorial Hall Theatre.

The following year was eventful for McNutt. The Women's Theatre Collective, which by then numbered thirteen, wrote another series of plays which were amalgamated into (W)ri(gh)t(e)s. Taking up her directorial position once more, McNutt staged the production at the same theatre and oversaw the play’s publication by the same press. She also published the short story “The Mayfair Tavern: Then and Now” in The Fiddlehead. That same year, she married Kevin Gibson. In 1992, the Women's Theatre Collective wrote its final collaborative play, Women Drivers Room (unpublished).

McNutt returned to UNB to study Shakespeare, acquiring a PhD in 2004. During that time, she gave birth to her daughter and worked as an instructor of creative writing and Shakespearean literature at UNB and St. Thomas University (STU). She also worked as a student advisor in STU's Registrar's Office, as Theatre New Brunswick's Liaison Officer with the Canada Council for the Arts, and for the UNB residence system, all the while directing several plays.

In her first novel, Summer Point (1997), she explores a theme that recurs throughout her work: place. More specifically, she addresses the question “how do you move forward, translate between the past and present?” (Personal interview). This preoccupation with the loss of an identity associated with place stems from feelings of exile as a child who frequently moved. To explore this loss, she set her novel in the Northumberland Straight in New Brunswick, a place with “one foot in the grave, the past, history” (Personal interview). This novel centers on the return of Sarah with her significant other, James, to the cottage of her now-deceased aunt where she spent her childhood summers. Exploring the cottage, its surrounding landscape, and its landmarks makes her realize:

My family has been pulled back into history now, the part of it that summered here is gone, but every board and stone, and the sound of the jangling keys in my hand, brings strong unsorted moments back. Nothing keeps its ordered place. (15)

The story unfolds as a series of memories from her life at the cottage that have affected her development into adulthood: the summer she spent alone with her extended family; her friendship with a local, disreputable girl; the mannerisms, routines, and secrets of her aunts and uncle; and the memory of personal tragedies. McNutt also believes that the intrusion of the past on the present is not negative because it “gives you strength, … a deeper knowledge,” which her character attains through her retrospections (Personal interview). Ultimately, Sarah becomes more secure in herself and her new relationship, allowing her to leave the cottage not as a little girl, but as the new matriarch who is responsible for taking care of the cottage every year. She concludes her narrative with the following assertion: “For the first time as duenna, I rise to wipe my eyes with fingers red from clay, and I put the cottage in the rearview mirror until spring” (157).

Summer Point was well received and praised for its “style and wit,” sense of familiarity, clarity, and the suggestive and quiet manner in which the story is presented (“A Fine Summer”; Dyer 58). However, it was also criticized for not being “bold” enough (Leith).

McNutt's most recently published work, an essay entitled “Furious Hunger,” appeared in 2009 in The Heart Does Break: Canadian Writers on Grief and Mourning. It was later excerpted in 2010 for Reader's Digest. In this essay, McNutt writes about coping with the death of her father and unborn infants, the resulting grief, and the responses and advice of others to her loss. She is currently working on a second novel about the dangers of passivity and defeatism, which is set in a town through which a by-pass is constructed—a development that deeply alters the community.

Her influences, she admits, have been varied. Catherine Bush has shown her “how to take the self more seriously,” while Alice Munro taught her “the psychology of the tiny moment” (Personal interview). However, according to McNutt, her biggest influence was her father. He encouraged her to write, listened when she read her own work as a child, and “treated [her] as a real writer” by giving her constructive criticism. Likewise, Bill Bauer “honed in on things that needed work” and actively encouraged her to attend graduate school (Personal interview).

Cynthia Bouzanne, Winter 2011
St. Thomas University

Bibliography of Primary Sources

McNutt, Linda. “Dad-sleep.” (W)ri(gh)t(e)s. Ed. Linda McNutt, Margaret McLeod, and Joe Blades. Fredericton, NB: Wild East Publications, 1991. 22-3.

---. “Elvis.” Flights. Ed. Linda McNutt, Margaret McLeod, and Joe Blades. Fredericton, NB: Wild East Publications, 1990. 34-6.

---. “Finding Voice.” Rev. of Confidence, by Melanie Little and In the Chambers of the Sea, by Susan Rendell. Canadian Literature 187 (Winter 2005): 145-6.

---. “Flights.” Flights. Ed. Linda McNutt, Margaret McLeod, and Joe Blades. Fredericton, NB: Wild East Publications, 1990. 48-50.

---. “Furious Hunger.” In The Heart Does Break: Canadian Writers on Grief and Mourning. Ed. George Bowering and Jean Baird. Toronto: Random House Canada, 2009.

---. “Guy in the Grocery Store.” (W)ri(gh)t(e)s. Ed. Linda McNutt, Margaret McLeod, and Joe Blades. Fredericton, NB: Wild East Publications, 1991. 55-6.

---. “Lilith.” (W)ri(gh)t(e)s. Ed. Linda McNutt, Margaret McLeod, and Joe Blades. Fredericton, NB: Wild East Publications, 1991. 60.

---. “Mrs. Thrale.” Flights. Ed. Linda McNutt, Margaret McLeod, and Joe Blades. Fredericton, NB: Wild East Publications, 1990. 26-7.

---. Personal interview. 31 Oct. 2011.

---. Summer Point. Dunvegan, ON: Cormorant Books, 1997.

---. “Tapestry IV.” (W)ri(gh)t(e)s. Ed. Linda McNutt, Margaret McLeod, and Joe Blades. Fredericton, NB: Wild East Publications, 1991. 46.

---. “Tapestry V.” (W)ri(gh)t(e)s. Ed. Linda McNutt, Margaret McLeod, and Joe Blades. Fredericton, NB: Wild East Publications, 1991. 48.

---. “Teacups.” Flights. Ed. Linda McNutt, Margaret McLeod, and Joe Blades. Fredericton, NB: Wild East Publications, 1990. 28-30.

---. “The Mayfair Tavern. Then and Now.” The Fiddlehead 169 (1991): 29-32.

McNutt, Linda, Dana McDade Kerr, and Bobbie McNutt. “Tapestry I.”(W)ri(gh)t(e)s. Ed. Linda McNutt, Margaret McLeod, and Joe Blades. Fredericton, NB: Wild East Publications, 1991. 13-4.

McNutt, Linda and Clarissa Hurley. “Tapestry III.” (W)ri(gh)t(e)s. Ed. Linda McNutt, Margaret McLeod, and Joe Blades. Fredericton, NB: Wild East Publications, 1991. 38.

Bibliography of Secondary Sources

Archer, Bert. “A Fine Summer Stint at the Cottage.” Rev. of Summer Point, by Linda McNutt. The Toronto Star 21 June 1997: J18.

Dyer, Hadley. “Summer Point.” Rev. of Summer Point, by Linda McNutt. Quill & Quire 63.6 (1997): 58.

Flaherty, Kathleen. “Fredericton Women’s Theatre Collective. Flights.” Rev. of Flights, by the Fredericton Women’s Theatre Collective. Theatrum’s Stage 1.24 (1991): 7.

---. “Fredericton Women’s Theatre Collective. ((W)ri(gh)t(e)s).” Rev. of (W)ri(gh)t(e)s, by the Fredericton Women’s Theatre Collective. Theatrum’s Stage 1.24 (1991): 7.

Guegeler, Joy. Rev. of Summer Point, by Linda McNutt. The Pottersfield Portfolio 19.1 (Fall 1998): 121-2.

Leith, Linda. “Promising Novelist Does Not Boldly Go.” Rev. of Summer Point, by Linda McNutt. The Globe and Mail [Toronto] 21 June 1997: D12.

Tihanya, Eva. Rev. of Summer Point, by Linda McNutt. Books in Canada 26.7 (1997): 38.