Tuesday, November 13, 2007


Another bookwoman's holiday

I took the long weekend off, it being one of the last of which I could still get plants into the nearly-frozen ground. Despite being away from the shop for three days, I managed to buy books somewhere on each of those three days. Quite a feat! Saturday we visited a local antiques mall and bought a series of handwritten journals from 1905-1917 for twenty-five bucks. Ryan's been reading them, they were written by a Maine carpenter. Sunday we were passing by the Big Chicken Barn, which I've mentioned before, and couldn't help but stop in. We emerged two hours later with a grocery bag full of books and a wrought-iron hinge for the cellar door. And last night we picked up a few actual groceries in nearby Searsport, and before getting in the car we saw that the little new-book store across the street was still open, so we popped in there for a quick look around. It occupies a renovated bank building and is truly one of the most darling little bookstores anywhere, Left Bank Books:Bought a collected poems of Sarah Orne Jewett and a few postcards of the shop. At the Chicken Barn, which really is a huge old renovated chicken barn, I picked up Joseph Blumenthal's The Printed Book in America, Trollope's Autobiography, a history of The Bodley Head publishers, a 1931 memoir by Ernest Rhys (editor of the Everyman's Library) entitled Everyman Remembers, and a bunch of books for general stock. So much for my days off.

Seriously, though, despite spending some time around books, I did spend many hours in the garden, getting more bulbs in and taking an inventory of the garden beds before everything completely shuts down for winter. I even drew little maps, so I can keep track of what's where, and who has given me which plants. I'm already reading seed catalogues and thinking about what to plant next year.

Besides seed catalogues, the ongoing free-form home reading program continues - I took a break from Montaigne and instead finished Louise Andrews Kent's book Mrs. Appleyard's Kitchen (Houghton Mifflin 1942), and then immediately started one of the books Kent co-authored with her daughter Elizabeth, entitled The Summer Kitchen (Houghton Mifflin 1957). Interesting note: I think when I was reading Ron Padgett's memoir of Joe Brainard last year (Joe), he mentioned that Louise Andrews Kent was a summertime neighbor in Vermont, and yes indeed, I find that The Summer Kitchen is in fact dedicated to her friend John Treville Latouche, who was once the partner of Kenward Elmslie, who, a decade after Latouche died (in 1956 of heart failure, hence the dedication), became the long-time partner of Joe Brainard. They, and the Padgetts all summered (or still summer) in the town of Calais, Vermont (and one of its villages, Kents Corner). The Summer Kitchen is obviously a roman à clef during its non-recipe-related pieces of prose, which often describe dinner parties and picnics with gregarious and much-loved (and often gay, though this remains unsaid in this book) musicians, artists, and poets. I think this means I'll have to remove Kent from the cookery section at home and reshelve her with my Elmslie and Padgett and Brainard books. I like to shelve friends near each other. Nonscientific, I know. All intertwining connections aside, it's a great book as it stands and I can't wait to track down its companion volume, The Winter Kitchen. More appropriate to this season, anyway.

I'm sad to report the literary heart of the western landscape appears to be all forgotten, overlooked, under-appreciated, or unrecognizable by it's modern day citizens. I attended a book signing last night at the Tattered Cover in downtown Denver to see and hear the thought provoking stories of Montana writer, Oregon native, William Kittredge. On my western regional reading list, Kittredge falls just below that of Wallace Stegner and Ivan Doig. Between myself and Kittredge, there was no one else in the room at presentation time. A population of over 3 million, and I'm the only one to greet him?!! As Dickens would say, "It was the best of times, it was the worst of times."

Here is an excerpt from his beautiful memoir 'Hole In The Sky':

"They say we are created by by our language, that we live immersed in language and cannot escape; they say language stands as a scrim between us and what we think of as 'real,' and that we have to name things before we can actually know them. As a result we can never know what is 'actual.' All we can know is names, stories."

I've been to readings and book-signings with very few people present, but never one where I was the only person in the audience. I hope you took the opportunity to tell the author what a great writer you think he is. One satisfied, moved, thinking reader means that the author has been heard, which is what most authors wish for most, isn't it. Good for you for being the one person to go!
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