Archive for February, 2008


Saturday, February 23rd, 2008

Finally, I found the nugget in Jar City. The Icelandic database of genealogy and medical history played a part in the story. Remember the good article about it in The New Yorker some years ago? The question, as I recall, was whether Iceland should license this amazing unbroken record of Viking descendants and their medical histories for genetic research by others or keep it and the privacy of those in it for Iceland’s use. I love this. Whereas others follow the money to solve life’s mysteries, I follow the information, and this database is one huge treasure of applicable information. This has nothing to do with Roseledge Books’ customers.

This database excitement lasted long enough for me to start Indridason’s follow up novel, Silence of the Grave. If possible, it is bleaker than Jar City, but I am learning, through Erlendur’s “activities of daily living” (a nurse term) about Reykjavik. Find a buried skeleton, and the police ask if the bones are Viking bones as a matter of course. They don’t ask about Irish bones, at least not to p. 100.

Also, in this second novel, Inspector Erlendur continues reading about “Icelandic missing person scenario[s]” and applies his reading to his work which thoroughly confuses his colleagues (p. 97). I love knowing why someone chooses to read, then use, a particular book or topic.

Then, on p. 229, a little nugget! (I’m working out nugget categories.) He mentions Minneapolis, my winter home. That I live in both Minneapolis and Maine is not enough of a tie to warrant a sure place on Roseledge Books’ shelves, but it’s fun to find and I love living both places.

Indridason, Arnaldur. Silence of the Grave (Reykjavik Murder Mysteries, No. 2). New York: Picador, 2002.


Saturday, February 16th, 2008

Roseledge Books is a very small, very fine, bookstore, open from Memorial Day through Labor Day on Sea Street in Tenants Harbor. The (roughly) 750 paperback books are on shelves and a table on the front porch of Roseledge cottage.


#1 Roseledge from across the road, before the new deck, without the ROSELEDGE sign over the door, and before the flowers blossomed. (Or is white snow on the mountain with gray green leaves next to the road?)*

For twenty years, I’ve offered lawn chairs in the front yard as a fringe benefit for book buyers, et al., but last summer I added a discreet front deck. This is exciting because now, while the reader partner browses, the non-reader partner of a bookstore visiting duo can monitor the harbor from an upper, even better vantage point than the erratically hedged, down-sloping front yard. As one deck-sitter told his partner, “Take your time; I’ve got the best seat in the harbor.” Music to this bookseller’s ears.


#2 Tenants Harbor at high tide with mostly lobster boats in the harbor. This must be in June before the sailboats occupy half of the harbor visible from Roseledge. The closed end of the harbor to the “front line” of boats becomes glorious mudflats as the tide goes out. The garage that used to be across the road, right in front of the cottage was hauled away and put elsewhere by the best neighbors in the world.*

Some first-timers have thought Roseledge Books was hard to find. If you know where to look, you can see the red cottage from the harbor.


#3 Roseledge is the red cottage up the hill as seen from the harbor. Picture was taken by Charlie in a kayak. Sailors have suggested I get a flashing neon rose, raise a rose flag that says BOOKS, or insert not-green insert roof tiles that spell BOOKS so that readers can see a perfect place from the harbor. I love this shot.*

I have a wooden sign attached to a tree at the foot of Sea Street, three houses away down the hill. The trick is finding the tree once you’ve left your dinghy at the public landing. The sign has an aging, red wood tulip and says ROSELEDGE BOOKS, 2-6 pm, with an arrow. I changed the vinyl letters from black to white when an astute observer noted that the old wood of the sign turned as black as the letters when it was wet and were, therefore, unreadable in the rain when readers most often needed more to read. And I asked the chestnut tree owner if I could trim the branches when, one fertile summer, the new growth severely brushed the letters on the sign. Still, one person commented,

“You need to advertise more.”

I have the sign on the tree.”

“You make it hard for people to find what you want to sell.”

It’s the Maine way, I said.

I used to post a suitable post card on the side of the cooler at Hall’s Market. I even got a coveted eye-height site. But Hall’s Market was sold and procedures, floor plan, and now the name changed. I used to post a different, but equally suitable postcard at the post office, but I was declared a for-profit business and therefore no longer eligible to post my postcard at the post office. I pointed out the difference between being for-profit and making a profit, but to no avail. Okay, I need to post postcards in new places. And I may do so. But mostly Roseledge Books draws return customers and is otherwise a word-of-mouth experience.

*The pictures are from son Charlie, who might or might not pay attention to my useful suggestions but who always takes great pictures.


Sunday, February 10th, 2008

Okay, I’ll admit it. Jar City is slow going. Well written, just unintriguing. Maybe I’ve watched too much Law and Order and I already live among Scandinavians, but this police procedural with its “painful inevitability” addresses crimes, criminals, victims, police, and bureaucrats and, so far, sums to ordinary. This makes it lifelike, I know, which is good, but I want more “new,” and the ratio of new to not new favors not new.

One very good point: Inspector Erlander is a reader. From p.17:
“Eventually, [Inspector Erlendur] picked up the book he was reading, which lay open on a table beside the chair. It was from one of his favourite series, describing ordeals and fatalities in the wilderness.
He continued reading where he’d left off in the story called “Lives Lost on Mosfellsheidi” and he was soon in a relentless blizzard that froze young men to death.”

Good grief. I’m still hoping for new nuggets about the Irish/Viking question, sailors’ interests, and, most recently, sheep/yarn life for a knitter friend who is planning another sheep trip.

Nugget reading requires some attention, so I shouldn’t read Jar City only at bedtime, but I’ve begun a different book for mid-day adventures — and I think it is a big time, very exciting, winner.

Damrosch, David. The Buried Book: The Loss and Rediscovery of the Great Epic of Gilgamesh. New York: Henry Holt & Company, 2006.

This is a search book, that is, the search matters more than the finding. I love search books. My favorite is probably Nicholas Clapp’s The Road to Ubar, a search for an ancient city in the empty quarter of the Arabian desert, but this new book continues my efforts to learn about the Near East.

Clapp, Nicholas. The Road to Ubar.

I took a course in Sumerian, the dead language of ancient Iraq, called Sumer, had a great, good time, and learned that history doesn’t change much. Fifty-five hundred years ago, Sumer (Iraq) and Elam (Iran) were fighting over water. Today it’s oil. What are we doing there? But I digress.

To p. 9, the Damrosch book is promising. My only problem, so far, is figuring out how it fits with Roseledge Books, but it’s still early days. The Road to Ubar unexpectedly came up at a summer birthday dinner in Maine. Two of us had read and loved it, and another knew he was missing out. This has to be a classic instance of Tenants Harbor demand, and, ta da, Roseledge Books had its reason for carrying a (mostly) desert adventure.


Thursday, February 7th, 2008

Iceland!? Why books about Iceland?

Because Iceland is part of the North Atlantic, and Tenants Harbor sailors sail the North Atlantic.

You mean the sailors who visit Roseledge Books are on their way to ICELAND?

Well, they might be.

Huh. Pretty thin.

And books about Iceland might have some nugget of information to indicate that the Irish were here before the Vikings because Iceland is a “stepping stone” on the route early sailors took from northern Europe to wherever they were going. Chances of a nugget sighting are remote, I know, but always worth reading a good book to find. The sailors who stop in at Roseledge Books talk sailing and I talk Irish and we have a very good time arguing. Besides, good books sell.

Arghhh. (Which I think means “I almost understand.”) “By the way,” my friend concluded, “I’m reading Silence of the Grave, the later book by Arnaldur Indridason. Let’s talk.”


Monday, February 4th, 2008

Today is a very good day. I found a tie to Tenants Harbor in the last part of the book, Icelander! (Roseledge Books is part of the village of Tenants Harbor, Maine.) This is very exciting because I am ever alert to ties with degrees of separation between a book and TH.

For example, mysteries by Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child set in New York City have forensic work done at the Museum of Natural History, and the first Director of the MNH is Albert Bickmore who lived (or maybe visited relatives) two houses away from Roseledge Books in TH.

In Icelander, on p. 196 I read, “The high wooden walls of [Hrothgar’s Mead Hall] were hung with chalk drawings that depicted the logos of the various available beers. This month’s guest brew was St. George’s Winter Ale, and its logo showed the eponymous saint lounging beneath an apple tree while some sort of dew — presumably Winter Ale — dripped from the fruit and into his yawning mouth. In the background, a white-clad damsel was battling a dragon; she used a hairbrush instead of a sword.” And guess what? Tenants Harbor has an equally unusual St. George and the Dragon, sculpted from discarded metal by former welder, Dan Daniels, and standing very tall on the lawn of the Town Hall! (The village of Tenants Harbor is in the Town of St. George.)

Coincidence, you say? A harsh judgment. Clearly, the book provides, albeit unknowingly, a tie between two places, alike in their harboring unusual St. Georges. Okay, the tie is, well, tenuous, but it’s fun to think about the possibilities as I read the books and live summers in TH. And it usually moves the book’s “buy-rating” up a step, in this case, from “maybe” to “maybe+”. Tie to TH or no, Icelander is one strange book.


Saturday, February 2nd, 2008

It’s halfway to summer in Maine and VERY COLD in Minnesota. Errol Flynn’s swashbuckler, Sea Fever, is nowhere on cable and the televised PGA tour site is not near the ocean. So I’m bored with old snow and missing summer and Roseledge Books people. Clearly, this is the perfect time to start figuring out — with your help — what new titles to add to the shelves of Roseledge Books. I’ll tell you about the new books I’ve heard about, seen, or read, and I’d love to hear what you think.

I’m currently reading Icelander by Dustin Long.

Long, Dustin. Icelander. NY:Grove/McSweeney’s, 2006.

Friend, Millie spotted this title. Iceland, as part of the North Atlantic, is popular among the summer sailors who visit Tenants Harbor, so it looks good. And the book is a murder mystery, another plus. But this is one strange book. “A Nabokovian goof on Agatha Christie” the jacket explains. Ties to Iceland are at least remote. It doesn’t keep me up nights, but I am finishing it. I need more on Iceland because I sold both Haldor Laxness’ Iceland’s Bell and Joanna Kavenna’s The Ice Museum, and I usually only have one or two copies of each title.

Laxness, Haldor. Iceland’s Bell. Translated by Philip Roughton. Vintage, October 14, 2003.

Kavenna, Joanna. The Ice Museum: In Search of the Lost Land of Thule. Penguin (Non-Classics), January 30, 2007.

The chapter on Iceland in Joanna Kavenna’s The Ice Museum is good, in fact the whole book is good, but I sold my only copy last summer, and often good titles are not available a second summer, unless the author publishes a second book. It’s probably wise to keep looking.

And guess what? Next on my reading stack just happens to be Arnaldur Indridason’s Jar City: A Reykjavik Thriller.

Indridason, Arnaldur. Jar City: A Reykjavik Thriller. Translated by Bernard Scudder. NY:Picador, 2000, 2004.

This title could be good. It’s a murder mystery about an interesting place, both pluses. It introduces Inspector Erlendur, and first novels often have something extra. It was well-reviewed in both The Boston Globe, my summer paper, and the Minneapolis Star Tribune. But the reader has to be ready for bleak. Library Journal recommends it especially for fans of Henning Mankell and Karin Fossum, and The Globe review calls it “a dark, haunting novel.” Bleak.