Celebrating the life and work of Cape Cod writer, historian and character, Noel Beyle
The four booklets written in 1979—“Cape Cod Off Season,” “6A All The Way,” “The Cape Cod Lampoon” and “The State of Cape Cod”—are marvels of style, wit, and personality. Beyle worked with a number of talented illustrators throughout the years, including James E. Owens and Kathryn M. Meyers. But the accompaniment of William Canty in “Off Season” (and others) is the hilarious literary equivalent of a Frank Sinatra/Nelson Riddle collaboration from their monumental concept albums during the early Capitol years.
There is a lyrical and luminescent quality to Beyle’s writing. Take “6A All the Way,” for instance. It is a kind of whimsical retrospective the way Bob Dylan’s “Highway 61 Revisited” was a metaphorical one. Turn to page 53 and see the Brewster General Store over the course of over 150 years.
A hallmark of his work is that it reflects who we were and what we have become.
Beyle employs a trademark technique that creates a striking impression of time and space and emotion: the recurring interaction of the silly and the serious; the flow of advertisements for local businesses that blend in seamlessly with pictures and graphics. In many ways they are part of the story itself. Evidence of this technique abounds in “Cape Cod to the Rescue.” A 1984 story about the grounded merchant ship Eldia (pages 24-25), it showcases dramatic pictures of the crippled vessel along with recipes for shrimp scampi and ads for a dry cleaner and photography studio. Such an idiosyncratic presentation could have easily degenerated into a hopelessly tangled mashup. But it doesn’t.
Stylistically, Beyle was slightly diabolical. He wrote with a nod to the late classic Cape novelist Joseph C. Lincoln while fusing a reverential pastiche for Monty Python and Mark Twain. Where the conventional lives with the unconventional.
Understandably, Beyle inhabited a universe of black and white images and silent history, but his unique storytelling brought a Technicolor of insight and appreciation to the subject matter. That may explain his appeal. His stories talked back. And laughed back, too.
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