Robert Sullivan has written over a hundred books as well as articles for Sports Illustrated and Time over the past 30 years, but he got his start in Chelmsford and his latest work recollects his childhood in the Chelmsford area in a format based on Dylan Thomas’ a Child’s Christmas in Wales.
Illustrated by Glenn Wolff, Sullivan says “A Child’s Christmas in New England” echoes the sentiments that the famous author James Joyce put to pen remembering home from a foreign land, although his place away from home is the New York City area.
“This is a very minor league version of what Joyce said about writing on Ireland in Paris. The New York sphere of influence is just as foreign to Chelmsford as Paris is to Ireland, and he said you need to away to be more clear eyed about your homeland,” he says. “Down here in this weird realm of New York, which I’ve enjoyed, it’s put my ideas on New England into a different relief.”
Originally, Sullivan intended the book to be a memento for his children, initially stopping his work on the novel feeling that he was imitating Thomas too closely.
“But then I said, ‘you know what, the idea isn’t bad, just write it from yourself,” he said.
Much of the book looks memories of where Sullivan lived on Main Street and Berklee Drive here in Chelmsford as well as moments such as taking Christmas dinners to firefighters at the Roberts Field Station.
Sullivan’s family maintains roots in town, and he still fondly remembers his days on the 1971 Chelmsford High School football team along with his beginning at the Chelmsford News Weekly following an injury that ended his football career.
“I kind of can’t divorce myself from my own feelings of Chelmsford. If I had a crummy time in Chelmsford, I sure wouldn’t have written this book,” he said.” That’s not what I wanted to do, it really was to capture what about Chelmsford I liked.”
Sullivan will be on hand to sign his book at Barnes in Noble in Nashua on Nov. 22 from 4 to 7 p.m. as well as at the Lowell Historical Society on Nov. 30 at 2 p.m.