Renaissance Woman

by Philip K. Jason

INDIANA-BORN Peg Goldberg Longstreth is a woman with many college degrees and many areas of accomplishment. Trained as a classical musician, she first built a 15-year career in social work and health care administration, helping sexually abused and battered kids. She performed in a dance band and as a duo piano partner. In 1980, she began a new career as a private art dealer. In 1998, shortly after her marriage to Joseph Longstreth — known as a concert harpist, author of award-winning children’s books, and a force in the publishing world — the Longstreths moved to Naples. By year’s end, she and her husband opened the Longstreth Goldberg Art Gallery, the largest contemporary gallery in the area. The gallery moved to 5640 Taylor Rd. on the infamous date of September 11, 2001.

Along the way, Peg Longstreth developed a career as the classics and pops music reviewer for Naples’s daily paper, and more recently as a features columnist for Florida Weekly. She is also involved in charities and animal rescue programs.

And now Peg Longstreth is a book author and publisher.

Peg Longstreth always wanted to write, and she kept journals for years. Because her father managed the Farm Bureau Printing Corporation in Southern Indiana, the smell of ink and the noise of presses was part of her childhood, as was hand-setting type, reading upside down and backwards. Even today, she “gets high on the smell of paper and books.”

Gold Mountain Press started about a year ago, in part out of Longstreth’s frustration in finding an agent and/or publisher to take on the astounding story about a law case involving antique artworks in which she “was inadvertently the central character.” Accepting the fact that “there are some things you have to do,” Longstreth read everything about self-publishing and marketing. Several factors led to postponing the “Icons from Hell” book and beginning with other titles, transforming her press into a niche publishing venture.

A Bear Called Charlie

A Bear Called Charlie, the first Gold Mountain title, grew out of a memoir-fantasy that the publisher’s mother, Isabel Crane Goldberg, began in her late eighties. Peg Longstreth assisted her, completing the book after her mother’s death in 2007.

It concerns a vintage stuffed teddy bear that Isabel rescued at an auction of household junk. Charlie became a good luck charm in his new family and a confidante to his rescuer. The relationship between woman and teddy bear is an accelerated version of the conversations both children and adults have with themselves, deflected into an “imaginary friend” or some other kind of projected partner. In A Bear Called Charlie, readers discover the histories of each character, as told to one another. Charlie becomes very, very real, and the interplay is at once delightful, psychologically profound, and filled with the texture and values of a by-gone era.

A Bear Called Charlie, with cover design and illustrations by Longstreth, came out just before Christmas last year. Says Longstreth, “when the book was completed, Charlie was exhausted.”
4,000 copies later, there is demand for it overseas in several languages. It’s a great book to read to children, and a treat for readers of any age.

Just Bill

Peg Longstreth is Barry Knister’s neighbor in Naples. She was impressed by the quality of his manuscript, and perhaps by his experience. In 1987, Knister had published a paperback thriller called Dating Service with Jove Books. This new book, Just Bill: A Novel, is quite different from the retired college professor’s earlier title.
Its hero is a rescued dog, part Labrador retriever, who towers over the smaller dogs favored by the Naples country club set. In his new environment, he comes into contact with three characters: his master, a troubled and beautiful young widow, and his master’s granddaughter named Glenda. The plot involves a lie by Glenda that forces Bill’s master to turn him over to an animal shelter. Bill’s suffering eventually leads to the restoration of spiritual health for the human characters.

The hook in Knister’s story is getting reader’s to believe that dogs can think like humans do. Bill is the controlling consciousness for much of the novel. In this way, Just Bill is an interesting companion piece to the Goldberg-Longstreth memoir. The story is told with great economy made possible by provocative details that radiate insights without the narrator having to interpret the meaning of what’s going on.

Every Little Thing

Tracey O’Shaughnessy writes copiously and brilliantly about everything. So why is she more or less hidden in a small-market publication, the Waterbury Republican American? Better question: how did those people in that corner of Connecticut get so lucky? Yes, we can find O’Shaughnessy’s work in the online paper and on her website, but it’s still hard to build a national (or international) audience from a local platform.

O’Shaughnessy writes weekly about family life, religion, society and culture. She is a recipient of the Society of Professional Journalists award for her Sunday Reflections column. Her column has won praise from the American Society of Newspaper Editors, the New England Associated Press News Executives Association, the American Academy of Religion and the American Association of Sunday and Features Editors. Her columns on women and on religions have won other significant recognitions. But for all this acclaim, she is hardly a household name.

When Peg Longstreth discovered, through a friend’s recommendation, how fine a writer, both in thought and style, Tracey O’Shaughnessy is, she decided to do something about bringing her a wider audience. In October, Gold Mountain Press released a selection of O’Shaughnessy’s news stories and opinion pieces. Every Little Thing is the name of the book. Subtitled Reflections on Family, Faith, and Friendship, it brings together representative columns covering many years of work.

This is the kind of adventurous independent book publishing that should bring acclaim to Gold Mountain Press as well as to the author.

Icons From Hell

In 1988, Longstreth was searching for a Modigliani nude to offer to one of her private clients. In Amsterdam, she chanced upon information about four mosaic fragments from the ruins of an ancient church in Turkish Cyprus: images of the adolescent Jesus, of two apostles, and of an angel. These fascinated Longstreth, leading her — after a very exacting due diligence regarding provenance — to make a high-risk purchase. The purchase involved increasing her line of credit and bringing in partners, as the cost was quite high.

After returning to Indiana, Longstreth (then still Peg Goldberg) continued investigating the origin and history of the fragments, coming to realize that she had purchased extremely rare items and could possibly double her investment. Sotheby’s, to her amazement, came up with a figure ten times Longstreth’s investment. As she began making arrangements to sell one of the fragments at auction, the door opened into a house haunted by greed and connivance. Soon, Longstreth was plunged into two decades of legal and economic catastrophe. Her purchase of these four fragments became, as she puts it “a one-way ticket to Hell.” In essence, Peg Goldberg Longstreth found herself accused of knowingly buying stolen Christian relics, a totally baseless charge that crippled her reputation and ruined her belief in justice. She has been working to right the record ever since. Among her obstacles is a judge’s ruling that it is immaterial that “the bodies that sued had no standing to sue and that their key witnesses lied.” It has significant legal interest as a “landmark case in which a foreign government lays claim to cultural patrimony.”

Icons from Hell reads like fiction. First written ten years ago by Longstreth and her husband, who died in 2003, it is at once a harrowing personal story and a fascinating exposé of the arts and antiquities industry. Revised and updated, and benefiting from the clarification and resolution of some murky legal issues, it is scheduled to be released in spring of 2010. It is already garnering blockbuster recommendations.

More Gold Mountain Press books are on the way. For more information about Gold Mountain Press or the Longstreth-Goldberg art gallery, call 514-2773. •

from the November-December 2009 issue

and Charlie
Even today,
Peg "gets high
on the smell of
paper and books."