Shattuck draws on Dartmouth roots for short story collection

Jul 9, 2024

WESTPORT – In writing his new book “The History of Sound,” Ben Shattuck said he drew upon his experiences duck hunting, collecting mussels by the shore and walking through hay fields in his hometown of Dartmouth.

“I owe a lot to where we grew up,” he said at a pre-release book talk at the Dedee Shattuck Gallery in Westport on Monday, July 8. 

The book, a collection of short historical fiction, spans 300 years in New England from the late 1600s to present day, said Shattuck. 

According to Shattuck, a unique part of this collection is that every piece has a companion story that solves a mystery or completes a part of another story.

“There’s a duet that happens between the past and the present,” said Shattuck. “That relationship can change over time. When I started writing stories in the past, I thought they were incomplete so I added one to the present.”

While some stories are in “direct conversation,” said Shattuck, others aren’t so directly related. 

Shattuck said this collection is a “celebration of the short story as a form.” The collection “really stretches the definition of a story” with some pieces in the style of a transcription of a fake podcast episode or a fake historical text about a cult in the 1600s. 

“The History of Sound” is Shattuck’s second book. His first, “Six Walks,” was published in 2022 and is about Shattuck retracing the steps of transcendentalist philosopher and writer Henry David Thoreau. 

Transcendentalism is a literary and philosophical movement established in New England in the mid-1800s that finds divinity in nature and humanity. 

According to Shattuck, the themes present in “Six Walks” carry through into “The History of Sound.”

“This is a very transcendentalist book where every character has their greatest changes, revelations, periods of self-discovery when nature is working on that character,” said Shattuck. “When you’re in that marsh, when you see that light … the brooms of rain in the distance of Buzzards Bay – it changes the way you think.”

One short story in the collection – a tale of two men collecting recordings of folk songs on wax cylinders in the early 1900s – was adapted into a to-be-released film directed by Oliver Hermanus and starring Paul Mescal and Josh O'Connor. 

“The History of Sound” was published on Tuesday, July 9. For more information, visit