Archive for February, 2010


Sunday, February 21st, 2010

Instead of author interviews, I wish there were reader interviews. My favorite such exchange — and the only one I know of — is Scott Simon’s occasional Saturday morning conversation with the London cabbie on NPR’s Weekend Edition. All it takes is Scott’s “what are you reading?” and the cabbie takes over with what book he’s reading, where he found it, why he chose it, and what he thinks so far. I love it. A reader’s choices may not be the only measure of a person that counts, but it’s WAY up there.

Maybe my favorite reader-commentater is Joe Queenan. He occasionally writes a “reader essay” on the next to back page of the NYTBR . I remember especially one that a) argues for the importance of a book’s cover in choosing which book to read, b) recalls suffering through Thomas Hardy’s Return of the Native to satisfy school’s summer book list and wonders if times have changed (Somewhat.), c) grouses about poorly chosen gift books, and d) argues for never passing up a book that looks good, even if you have twenty-six others started.

Fig.#77.  Settled in for a while yet.

Fig.#77. Settled in for a while yet.

Nina Sankovitch read a book a day for a year (Peter Appleborne, NYT 12/20/09), but she doesn’t say why she chose the books she did.  Charlie noted they must have been short, I figured they were not engaging, Pam thought she had time on her hands, and we are all waiting for the book to come out.  In that spirit, may I recommend  my favorite book about a reader reading: Sara Nelson’s So Many Books, So Little Time: A Year of Passionate Reading.  She chooses a book a week for a year for many, varied, and changeable reasons.  Her choices are timely, serendipitous, and sometimes really wrong; but she tells you why she chose each book and if it works out.  Roseledge Books will have this book next summer (she said, noting that it is out in paperback).  Reader friend Kathy just gave me Murray Browne’s The Book Shopper: A Life in Review, which she loved because she was part of his book choosing. I will let you know.

We are 70 days into at least 6” of snow on the ground in Minnesota. I know it’s time for Maine when I sit for three hours straight to inhale the occasional glimpse of the ocean during the PGA’s Pebble Beach event. Sigh.

Joe Queenan cites:
a) “When Bad Covers Happen to Good Books,“ (NYTBR 12/6/09)

b) “Summer Bummer” (NYTBR 6/3/07)
c) “Wish List: No More Books,” (NYTBR 12/25/05) An aside: once the rant runs thin, think tax break and donate ineptly chosen  gift books to the public library where the right reader will find it at the right time.
d) My personal search time limit of 10 minutes to find something I already know well enough ran out.


Wednesday, February 10th, 2010

What does it mean when oatmeal replaces cinnamon rolls as the measure of a local breakfast spot? The eater is healthier? Wiser? Older? Or, shudder, more boring? Checking out Caribou Coffee’s latest morning lure, Kathy brought over a sampler of their oatmeals with toppings. I liked “classic” best which I hope does not suggest even more boring.

She also brought Laura Miller’s Wall Street Journal essay (January 16-17, 2010) about the “growing appeal [of] Nordic Detectives” in police procedurals. Pride is often unattractive, but Roseledge Books did note this appeal a while ago and linked it to geographic proximity, sailing adventures, RBR comments, winter (Minneapolis) neighbors, and sales. Maybe there is a more subtle reason: author Miller noted that these mysteries “always involve A LOT OF LISTS [emphasis added] and sore feet and late nights with bad office coffee.” Yes, lists. And RB loves lists. (See previous post.)

Figure #75.  Surely these "granite bricks" are a list waiting to happen or maybe I am just looking for an excuse to use one of my favorite pictures.

Figure #75. Surely these "granite bricks" are a list waiting to happen or maybe I am just looking for an excuse to use one of my favorite pictures.

RB loves Nordic authors, too. The WSJ essay mentions Karin Fossum, Henning Mankell, and Stieg Larsson and RB has at least one of each but needs to get the reissued Maj Sjowall and Per Wahloo and, okay, Arnaulder Indridason, even if his bleakness goes beyond “existential malaise.” Kathy, of oatmeal fame, is also a major RB suggester, and after reading these and other Nordic detectives she found in the local (Minneapolis) library and bookstore, she suggests, so RB will order and try, K. O. Dahl, Ake Edwardson, and Hakan Nesser. RB is also going to try Jarkko Sipila’s Helsinki Homicide: Against the Wall and Yrsa Sigurdardottir’s Last Rituals because, if I read the reviews of the latter correctly, this Icelandic author might have a sense of humor! Can it be? And don’t forget Jo Nesbo’s Redbreast, set in Oslo and a RB bestseller last summer.

From a careful reading of the WSJ essay come the following: “…the Scandinavian brand of moroseness can be soothing in hard times.” “…the stern bare-bones simplicity of its problem-solving methods is one of the form’s austere pleasures.” “Their problem-solving methods — determination, humility and endurance — are available to everyone.” Could the italicized characteristics be more revealing? Are Nordic detective books the oatmeal of a bookstore? If so, what are the cinnamon rolls and who of the RB crowd reads which? And does it mean that Roseledge Books, ahead of its time with the Nordic excitement, was early oatmeal?

Otherwise, it’s still snowy days here. I am mostly housebound, trying to get my left knee to behave, walking ever more tenuously maybe, but walking, and not convinced that the kindle or ipad is better than my current one-handed efforts to hold books. Squirrels dash from ash to cottonwood; no rabbit tracks dent the recent snow and I don‘t think it‘s Max‘s fault, though he is out and about; birds chatter away, and large orange cat manages to peer in the window and frolic in the yew without breaking his or its limbs. Life is good, but summer in Maine with you all is better.

Time for the Super Bowl and knitting the last rows of the body of my very bulky and probably overlarge sweator/blanket which will see the dusk of cool days next summer as we try to stretch perfect porch sitting just a little longer at Roseledge.

Figure #76.  Imagine the sweator.

Figure #76. Imagine the sweator.