MORE SENSE OF PLACE, mostly in books

I know I promised to suggest more book titles with a sense of coastal Maine, and I will, but who could pass up a teaser headline like this one:                      

 Hip-Hop Was a Revolution in Music, Made by Librarians.  
And the full title was only slightly less exciting:
Hip-Hop Is the Music of Vinyl Librarians.

This is a great article. It asks  you to think again about who is a librarian? and what does a librarian do?, which are always good things to think about. And, equally exciting, author  Dan Charnas constructs the ladder of giants’ shoulders that hip hop artists have based their later work on, much as Robert Merton did in his book, On the Shoulders of Giants,  wherein he parsed Isaac Newton’s famous statement:

“If I have seen further, it is by standing on the shoulders of Giants”.

No doubt about it, LIBRARIANS RULE!    [Yes, Larry, they do.]

Other news too good to ignore: We have a wonderful new neighbor, Frankie Feetsplinter troll, by Thomas Dambo,  Danish environmental artist, who only uses already-used wood.  Charlie and I went to the Nordic Museum for a meet and greet.  

Frankie and I have no neck, gap-toothed grins, and big tums. Fraternal twins?

Now, as promised, are some favorite books that capture the sense of of place that I found as a summer person on the Coast of Maine.

Frankie’s Place; A Love Story,  by Jim Sterba.  Maybe my favorite sense of place [SOP] read, this book is so much more than charming, though it is that. Its review in the Grove Atlantic says it best. 

The Way Life Should Life Should Be, by Christina Smith Kline.  The novel is about young incomers to Maine, looking for something special, working hard, deciding if Maine Is the place they want to be and, if it is, then figuring out how to become part of the continuing reinvigoration of Coastal Maine.

The author knows Maine, and that matters.  She spent summers  on the Coast as a child, loved it from afar, then when her professor-father retired, she found a clunker of a house on the Maine coast  and, as she continues the story,  ‘It was a complete wreck but on this gorgeous piece of land, so [my parents] bought it. My dad had been a carpenter in his youth, and he fixed it up over the years….  ell, then my other three sisters all bought houses in Southwest Harbor. One of them lives there full time; she’s the town librarian. She married a carpenter, and has four kids aged zero to seven. She does the whole Maine fantasy! And now I am the last one to the party, having recently bought a place there too.  We’re all no more than five minutes away from each other.’

Spoonhandle by Ruth Moore.  A classic tale of Maine coast, which, the author argued, is a story  that could be set anywhere, like Fauklner’s stories, some critics said.  But, luckily, it was set on the coast of Maine, and so, incorporated an islander’s ways.  And Spoonhandle was made into a film titled ‘Deep Water’, which was fun to watch. I’ve just ordered her Cold as a Dog and Other Stories: Poems and Ballads from the Coast of Maine for Poetry Club possibilities.  I usually find a poem I like, then figure out how to make it fit whatever assignment Gary sets.  Even better, Foksinger Gordon Bok. a Maine treasure,  recorded an album based on Ruth Moore’s ballads.  One of his deep bass notes into his sea shanties, and I’m sitting on my porch, overlooking the harbor again.  [Aside   My  neighbors and I are part of the ‘Waltzing with Bears’ chorus that Gordon Bok, recorded during a Minneapolis concert,  which is very exciting, but his ‘Turning Toward the Morning’ is more Maine.  Both are on You Tube.]  

 One Man’s Meat by E.B. White.  A classic  example of someone who lived two places, which is true of several other authors on my list, which suggests that by living two places, they may bring a KEENER awareness of their sense of Maine.

Time for a break, and Frankie the troll calls.

 Charlie wants in. Half-brother?  I recall fondly the tryst with the tree.

The Snoring Bird: My Family’s Journey Through a A Century of Biology by  Bernd Heinrich.  I love this book.  While a kid, Bernd Heinrich fled Germany as the Russians were invading and after about 5  years of living in the forests, he,  with his family, settled on a farm in the Maine woods   From there, he became a runner, a naturalist, a retired UVT professor, and a writer, who lives in the Maine woods. His book, A Naturalist At Large; The Best Essays of Bernd Heinrich, which the NYT Review er describes as “Passionate observations [that] superbly mix memoir and science,” is near the top of my ‘to read next’ pile.  Rachel Carson’s Sea Trilogy is important, but more for its addressing coastal conservation than  for her sense of Maine. 

Paintings of Maine, edited by Arnold Skolnick.  Painters abound on the coast of Maine, and though the memories or understandings the pictures evoke and the stories they provoke vary with each appreciator, together they are the Maine I know, even though I had a John Marin print on my office wall 4 years before I had ever stepped foot in Maine, I like him still and love Maine more these 50 years later. During my Roseledge Books’ days, a good daughter extolled the virtues of this book’s ability to make her mother, who has dementia, smile and talk with her about the good times and sense of Maine she was recalling.  A trip to the Farnsworth Art Museum is always good, too, but sometimes not as flexible. 

Old Books and Rare Friends  by Madeline Stern and Leona Rostenberg.  I’m sure that towards the end of this book about two grand old women, their place in Maine is mentioned.  But even if I’m wrong, which is rare, these two women are SO worth a read and would clearly fit in the Maine I love. 

What I have learned so far is you not only have to have been or to be there, though that’s  a necessary beginning [Thanks, Jim.], but you have to understand and appreciate that there’s a story with variations behind everything that happens, then figure out how to fit into and/or add to those stories.  It helps if you’re subtle or Irish

King County Public Poetry Contest, entry option #2

Coghlan Castle: family lore, national landmark, but sense of NoDak?

My family built a fieldstone castle, on North Dakota’s plains.
My dad read books and herded sheep from the turret ‘midst the grains.
‘There were no sheep,’ the farmer said, ‘and the windows were too high,’
So my dad was a reader, who embellished a bit.  He’s an Irish guy.  

And, in case you missed it, here is my King County Public Poetry Contest entry option #1, which just might be my version of Gloria Gaynor’s, ‘I Will Survive’.

Bald spot is a nuisance in search of  flowers, until it’ a tonsure.

The top of my head is round and bald, like tonsured monks of old.
Theirs were perfect, mine is not, with wiggles and bumps, I’m told.
I’ll learn from the monks, who with the nuns, will one day coed-mix,
And I’ll be ever ready, as their new day ABBETRIX. 


That’s all there is, folks — for now and probably for a couple of weeks. I love your comments and am finally figuring out the difference between a reply and a comment. Forgive the grammar.  I can’t reach across my keyboard, and the shift key is only on one side, which means colons, parentheses, question marks and quotation marks are trouble. Okay, we users of colons and parentheses may be rare, but users of question marks and quotation marks are still plenty, and if they are not, ever more information-related misunderstandings will prevail, just another reason to know and be happy  that LIBRARIANS RULE!   

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2 Responses to MORE SENSE OF PLACE, mostly in books

  1. Sara Hoppe says:

    You are so thorough, Colleen. I get tired thinking about all the research and critique that you do. I read a book last week,
    Actually I have been keeping up with MN writers: Wm. Kent Kruger, of course, David Housewright, and others: Elly Griffith, David Rosenfeld,, Louise Erdrich (The Sentence)
    So I will keep on. Glad to read your stuff.

  2. Leah says:

    I have a lovely picture of my son, his 2 month old son, and Bob sitting together with their lovely bald heads. 🙂

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