The Idea of Monadnock

In geology, a monadnock is "a single remnant of a former highland, which rises as an isolated rock mass above a plain" (after Mount Monadnock, a 3,165-foot mountain in present-day Cheshire County, New Hampshire). According to Gordon M. Day, the word 'monadnock' derives from the Western Abenaki 'menonadenak' meaning "smooth mountain", although I think it may also carry connotations from 'menadena' meaning "isolated mountain" (see his Western Abenaki Dictionary, 1994).

In the realm of the arts, Mount Monadnock, "like a sapphire cloud against the sky" (Nathaniel Hawthorne, American Notebooks, 31 August 1838), inspired a number of significant writers and artists during the American Renaissance and after, including such luminaries as Hawthorne, Henry David Thoreau, Rudyard Kipling, Mark Twain, Willa Cather, Edwin Arlington Robinson, Abbott Thayer, Ralph Waldo Emerson (who called it "the new Olympus"), and possibly Emily Dickinson.

Elsewhere in reality, the Monadnock Building is a fine example of late nineteenth-century architecture right before the dawn of the skyscaper. The Monadnock Building was designed by John Root, whose partner Daniel Burnham created The Flatiron Building in New York City (one of your editor's favorite structures). A contemporary of John Root said of the Monadnock Building that it "tells its story in the plainest, strongest words and then stops talking". Just the kind of straightforward approach to life we appreciate around here.

Either the mountain or the building (not to mention the example of Frank Lloyd Wright) led Ayn Rand to feature an architectural development called Monadnock Valley in her novel The Fountainhead. It is Rand's description of that development, specifically her use of the phrase joy and reason and meaning, which inspired the founding of the Monadnock Review.

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