Word travels fast in small towns. Sometimes, that means gossip spiraling out of control. Other times, it means a standing-room-only crowd at your book reading.

The latter was true in Westport Monday night, where hundreds gathered to celebrate Dartmouth author Ben Shattuck's new baby, The History of Sound. 

The turnout was evident everywhere near Dedee Shattuck Gallery in Central Village. Cars filled the gallery lot, spilled over into the lot for Partners Village Store and spilled over again onto both sides of Main Road.

Shattuck, taking in the massive audience in his mother's namesake gallery, was moved.

"This is profoundly humbling," he said. "I wish I had more to present to you people than a book."

The book was more than enough for the audience, which included Shattuck's proud parents Dedee and Bill, and the two people to whom the author dedicated his work: his wife Jenny Slate, the talented actress, writer and comedian, and their daughter Ida.

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The History of Sound is 12 interconnected short stories spanning 300 years of New England history. It is officially out July 9 wherever books are sold. It is debuting to rave reviews from critics and fellow authors.

The audiobook boasts an all-star cast of readers, including Chris Cooper, Ed Helms, Nick Offerman and Slate, whose second book Lifeform comes out in October 2024. The title story from The History of Sound is being turned into a feature film for which Shattuck wrote the screenplay.

Phil Devitt/Townsquare Media
Phil Devitt/Townsquare Media

Shattuck is a busy guy. Also the author of Six Walks: In The Footsteps of Henry Davd Thoreau, he owns Davoll's General Store in Dartmouth. Over the last few years, he helped restore the Russells Mills Village landmark's reputation as a warm and inviting community gathering spot selling books, groceries, craft cocktails and cool stuff you didn't know you needed.

Just don't expect to see him around town too much this summer. After launching the book in Westport, Shattuck will embark on a 17-date tour with stops largely in Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Maine. The book jacket description calls The History of Sound Shattuck's love letter to New England.

It's a letter he'll spend the next few weeks delivering in person.

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