Discovering the Real Montauk, on the Page

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By Gianna Volpe

There is much about Montauk that cannot be denied. Chief among such certainties being that the easternmost “End” of Long Island — home to one of the world’s greatest fishing ports, not to mention the country’s first cattle ranch and an iconic lighthouse—has been discovered, for better and for worse, and what its future holds is not quite certain. With rising sea levels, a shoreline in need of nourishment, and investor interest at an all time high, critically thinking, artistically-inclined residents like Celine Keating are intent on keeping the spirit of Montauk alive.

The award-winning author of novels “Layla” and “Play for Me” is not just actively involved in the protection of her favorite place—particularly as a member of the Concerned Citizens of Montauk (CCOM)—Ms. Keating is also the co-editor of the Montauk-inspired anthology, “On Montauk,” designed to pad such protection using all incoming profits from the book’s sale to pay for educational programming planned by CCOM and Third House Nature Center Inc., organizations both known for fighting in favor of Montauk’s preservation.

“We have to subtract the cost of doing the book, but we’re just at the point where now all the profits will go to [CCOM and Third House Nature Center Inc.],” Ms. Keating said of the Harbor Electronic Publishing anthology. More than 50 authors—ranging from well-known locals to some who may have never set foot on Montauk—can be found within the 350 pages of “On Montauk,” along with the words of Perry Duryea III, Timothy Gilmartin, Russell Drumm and Ed Johann.

“I don’t know if [Ireland’s Joseph O’Connor] actually worked on Gosman’s Dock or if he just imagined it, but it’s a great, short little story,” Ms. Keating said of Mr. O’Connor’s piece about a Gosman’s Dock worker. “We had to write to his agent in England and get the permissions [for the story’s use] and he was very gracious because obviously these authors aren’t paid other than getting a copy of the book.”

Ms. Keating said most of the book’s pieces were found through local solicitation for submissions through newspapers, fliers, as well as connections made through local writing groups, Stony Brook Southampton’s writing program and even through the Poetry Street performance series at Blue Duck Bakery Café.

When asked about her favorite pieces, Ms. Keating listed Alice Kaltman’s “Shy Girls Surfing,” drawn from a novel the part-time Montauk resident is currently writing, “Winter Trip” by Captain Dave Krusa and Willa Johann’s childhood memoirs recalling Shakespeare in Park performances on land CCOM helped save from development.

The hamlet’s remaining open spaces are sacred spaces for both Ms. Johann and Ms. Keating, who said her first trip to Montauk occurred when taking a camping trip to Hither Hills with the man who would not only ultimately become her husband, but a photographer for “On Montauk.” When the mountain-loving Mark Levy made a compromise to snag a studio apartment in Montauk with Ms. Keating back in the 1990s, he also began snapping the shots of vanity license plates that now make up the anthology’s front cover collage.

Ms. Keating said moving to Montauk—albeit part-time—has only made the importance of the land more important to her family. She has celebrated an annual camping tradition for the last 35 years at Hither Hills, during which, this year, she said she was happily surprised to learn how well “On Montauk” resounded with residents. “I wanted it to, of course, I wanted it to be something people would enjoy, but I can’t tell you how many people have said, ‘Oh thank you for this book. It really expressed what I love about Montauk,’” Ms. Keating said. “What was most rewarding about putting this book together was the feeling that, ‘Wow, we really did something that’s for everybody, not just the authors.’”

For more information, or to purchase “On Montauk,” visit celinekeating.com/on-montauk-book.

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