“A cup of coffee would save my life!”*: an ode to coffee in literature

In honor of Jane Cullen, my Great Diamond Island coffee buddy

October 1st is International Coffee Day, and what better month, with our crisp weather which makes us crave hot drinks, to pay tribute to … coffee! Although an inveterate tea drinker, these past few years I’ve fallen in love with café society, especially in Portland, with its plethora of coffee venues. What better place, especially on a cool autumn day, to hang out with a good book in places like Arabica, Bard, or Higher Grounds, while waiting for the ferry. By tradition, coffee houses are a place to gather, whether in the 1960s beatnik era or the 16th century Middle East, and thankfully that tradition has not waned. Coffee is alive and well today, whether you like your coffee as a cappuccino, espresso or latte! (or just regular old fashioned coffee)

As far as coffee in literature, who can resist non-fiction titles such as

The coffee lover’s diet : change your coffee, change your life

Coffee for one : how the new way to make your morning brew became a tempest in a coffee pod

Coffee: a dark history

Fun fiction titles include cozy mystery titles, such as these by Cleo Coyle: Holiday Buzz, Murder by Mocha, and Murder Most Frothy. And then there are these great titles by Alex Erickson: Death by Coffee, Death by Vanilla Latte, Death by Espresso, etc. Sandra Balzo also jumped on the coffee house bandwagon with her mystery series, which includes Murder on the Orient Espresso, Uncommon Grounds, and To the Last Drop.

And just as I was about to write this blog, “Signature,” a literary website, tempted me with this list of “best coffee books for coffee lovers”
(Which just goes to show I’m on the right track with these coffee books)

So, while my first love is tea (see this blog for October 2016), I hope you enjoyed my ode to coffee!

*Excerpt from Blood and thunder: an epic of the American West, by Hampton Sides. Description of a French trapper, hovering near death: “The men has more or less written off the poor fellow, who in his death agonies kept hallucinating that he smelled coffee – a luxury no one traveling with Kearny had seen or tasted in months. ‘Don’t you smell it?’ Robideaux beseeched them. ‘A cup of coffee would save my life!’” eventually someone did make him a cup of coffee, and poured “’this precious draught into the waning body of our friend Robideaux. His warmth returned, and with it hopes of life.’

Two women, two countries – American wives abroad in the mid-20th century

One of my favorite places to acquire books is in the free book box in front of Maine Charitable Mechanic Association – these books, weeded from the MCMA book collection, are ripe for the picking, and often include many wonderful travel books written in the mid-20th century. Two of these books caught my eye, and I enjoyed reading each one, savoring stories of women living abroad, with their husbands leading the way.


One of the books was Amalia Lindal’s “Ripples from Iceland,” published in 1962. Amalia met her Icelandic husband in college, married him, and moved to Iceland, where she proceeded to have 4 children, all boys (and apparently there was a 5th child born after the book was published). The book covers the years 1949 to 1961, and Amalia’s perspective alternates between personal stories of her life there, and her general insight and opinions about Icelandic life. The photo on the back shows her with her husband and four young boys – although she has a smile on her face, she appears somewhat exhausted, and for good reason! Not only raising children and running a household, but also negotiating a difficult language and foreign culture, not to mention very traditional women’s roles – fortunately her good humor probably saved her. As usual, after I finished the book, I wanted to know what happened to her. Sadly, rather than spending the rest of her life in Iceland, as she intended, she left in 1972 – divorced her husband, moved to Toronto, and remarried. She instructed “Short Story Writing” at the University of Toronto, and was a free-lance writer. She died sometime before 1985.

The second book I picked up was Elizabeth Warnock Fernea’s “A view from the Nile” published in 1970. In this case, Elizabeth, or “B.J.” married an American man, Robert A. Fernea, an anthropologist – they initially lived in Iraq, while he was working on his doctorate. This book was written about their life in Egypt – she is pregnant in the beginning of the book, and by the end of the book she has had three children. She has less general observations about Egyptian life than Amalia about Icelandic life, but the impressions of local life are quite interesting and entertaining. B.J. knew this was a temporary part of her life, which may have made it a more special time. They came home to America in 1965, and she went on to become “an influential writer and filmmaker who spent much of her life in the field producing numerous ethnographies and films that capture the struggles and turmoil of African and Middle Eastern cultures” (Wikipedia). She died in 2008.

Both these books offer an interesting perspective on what life was like in these vastly different countries, and how these women negotiated marriage and motherhood while living in places totally foreign to their usual lives at home in America.

LICL Summer 2018 Book Group

What is a perfect summer read? How about “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn”? Jean Murley is returning to our island to lead this book group in August. Jean, the daughter of Penny and Curt Murley, is a an associate professor of English at Queensborough Community College in New York.

Come join us this month on Tuesday evenings (Aug. 7, 14, and 21, from 7-8 p.m.) at the Long Island Community Library small meeting room, for what promises to be a fun and scintillating conversation about one of America’s best loved books (and also on the banned book list)

 

Art and Soul July 21 2018

The Long Island Community Library is in the midst of preparing for this year’s library fundraiser: Art and Soul. Yesterday a group of us sorted books into categories in one of the classrooms – categories include gardening, travel, cookbooks and food, biographies, history, children’s books, puzzles, and self-help books. Baskets are being created for raffling off. Annie is working away on gathering delicious food items to sell. Jeanne is hanging some beautiful artwork for the silent auction. So, mark your calendars! and come support your favorite island library.

Comic artists: exhibit at Portland Public Library this month

There is a fabulous comic exhibit at the Portland Public Library this month, up for a few more days – if you have a chance stop by! Here is more information about it:

June 1 – 23, 2018:
30×30: Comic Artists
Held in conjunction with the Maine Comic Arts Festival
Portland Public Library and Casablanca Comics celebrate the comic arts in our June 2018 exhibit, 30”x30”. Artists’ panels will be enlarged to an exaggerated size to amplify the expression and detail of each unique work, creating the experience of a giant comic strip throughout the Lewis Gallery. Though the works are non-sequential, each artist has submitted their comic book vision of a library scene—a visual love letter to libraries everywhere. 30”x30” premiers in conjunction with the Maine Comic Arts Festival (MeCAF) at Portland Public Library, a day-long celebration of comics arts and creators (held June 2nd)

Authors on the bay: Anne Weber

This month I’m introducing a new book by Anne Weber, a resident of Great Diamond Island: Constabulary Tales, short stories based on Anne’s experience as the island constable. Extremely well-written, entertaining, and funny, these stories give a glimpse into island life, especially on an island where locals and summer folk blend in an intricate dance. I asked Anne about her book:

How did this book come about?
I’ve journaled on and off for many years, so I’d been writing. When I joined a writing group through ‘senior college’, I began to put some of my experiences as constable down on paper as stories with a beginning, a middle and end.

Obviously although it is fiction, it is based on truth – what percentage, roughly, would you say is based on reality?
While the stories began as memoir – a half-sister to truth, I realized the Constable had far more patience and understanding than I ever had. Once I realized she was so non-judgmental, I knew I was writing fiction. To answer your question, I would say 15%.

How has your community responded to the book?
So far anyone who has commented to me has liked it. The book was available in late fall so I suspect many summer residents haven’t seen it yet. Guess the jury is still out.

Is there still no Constable?
That is correct. We live in a lawless land.

How is island life conducive to writing?
The island provides peace and solitude but the writer still has to provide the discipline.

If someone wanted to buy a copy of your book, what is the best way?
The Long Island Store has copies for sale, as does Ports of Call on Commercial St. It’s available on amazon.com and I seem to carry a few copies with me at all times.

What are you working on now?
I have several projects going. I’m working on another play for the GDI reader’s theater. A novella about an island woman who gets involved in mayhem and mischief is on the shelf. Then there’s my biography of artist John Mulvany, a relative. I’ve been working on this for twenty years.

Although Anne would love for you to buy her book, it is also available to read through the Long Island Community Library.

Great American Read

The Great American Read begins tonight on PBS at 8 p.m. I’ll be watching it – how about you? I’ve already chosen my “my favorite” from the 100 books  (not sure about my choice, as there were a few great options.) Anyway, here is more (from the website):

THE GREAT AMERICAN READ is an eight-part series that explores and celebrates the power of reading, told through the prism of America’s 100 best-loved novels (as chosen in a national survey). It investigates how and why writers create their fictional worlds, how we as readers are affected by these stories, and what these 100 different books have to say about our diverse nation and our shared human experience.

For more information:

http://www.pbs.org/the-great-american-read/about/show/

You can also go through Maine PBS and vote for your favorite there:

http://mainepublic.org/post/welcome-great-american-read#stream/0

Enjoy!

 

 

Illustration Institute

 

I am a big fan of illustration, whether N.C. Wyeth or Barbara Cooney, Arthur Rackham or Beatrice Potter. So how lucky are we in Casco Bay to have an Illustration Institute on our neighboring island of Peaks Island! Co-founded by illustrators Scott Nash and Nancy Gibson-Nash, the Illustration Institute offers lectures and workshops, and artist residencies. From time to time they also sponsor exhibitions. The 2018 exhibition is held at the Curtis Memorial Library in Brunswick and features Garth Williams’s original art: “Garth Williams, Illustrator of The Century”  – many will recognize his works if they have read Stuart Little, Bedtime for Francis, A Cricket In Times Square and Charlotte’s Web. The exhibition, held from May 1 to July 31, 2018,  includes over 100 works and will be complimented by lectures and workshops provided by the Illustration Institute.

For more information see: http://www.illustrationinstitute.org/

 

Authors on the Bay – Charlie Adams

This month I’m introducing a new occasional series for the blog:

Authors on the Bay

Many of us have been fortunate over the years to receive e-mails from Charlie Adams, a teacher who is a long time summer resident of Long Island, from the various countries he’s taught at in the last few decades. So many times I would ask Charlie, “When is your book coming out?” Now, we’re finally able to read Charlie’s book, “My Amazing Twelve Year Adventure in Russia.” It makes for fascinating reading, between his wonderful stories and anecdotes, as well as personal information (in case you were wondering, as many of us do, “How Charlie met Helen”).
I was able to correspond with Charlie, who winters in Florida, and ask him a few questions for this blog.

1. Did you keep a journal or is your book based on memory?
The vast majority of the book is based on memory and a rather large collection of photographs.

2. What was the hardest part about writing your book and what was the easiest part?
a. The most difficult part was having to write about the break-up of my first family. It is something I did not want to do. I had no idea that Elaine was going to ask for a divorce.

b. The easiest part was writing about the travels with my sons, because they were such enjoyable experiences.

3. Your book is not exactly chronological – how did you decide to arrange your book?
The only thing I tried to do was to separate the Soviet times from the non-Soviet times. In many cases this was difficult to do. It was the dates that gave me the most trouble, as I wasn’t sure about them. Fortunately, my sons helped me with many of them. A friend who was editing for me said I really needed the dates, so I did the best that I could.

4. Did your sons inherit your sense of humor and love of travel? How do they view their time in Russia/Soviet Union?
My sons use to tease me about my sense of humor, saying things like, “that sounds like a Dad joke.” However, they both have healthy senses of humor. As you know, the three of us did a substantial amount of traveling during our time in Russia. However, family life seems to have kept them close to home. At the beginning, Moscow was the last place on earth that they wanted to be. However, they really enjoyed their life in Moscow and were sad when it was time to leave.

5. Briefly, what are your views of Russia today and how it’s changed for the better or worse since your days there?
In a way it was sad for me to witness the downfall of the Soviet Union. Part of this is selfishness on my part, because I had been living the life of a wealthy person up until then. The saddest part, however, was that the elderly were no longer taken care of, and life became much more difficult for them, including having pension checks delayed for months. That was true for teachers as well. Today, I see a leader who is trying desperately to reinstate Russia as a world power. It frustrates me that I don’t know to what degree Mr. Putin is guilty of the many charges that have been leveled against him. I honestly believe that Crimea should be part of Russia. I visited it many times. Eighty plus percent of the people who live there are Russian. It was Russian blood that was shed during the Crimean War. Also, it was being economically neglected by Kiev.
I am not convinced that things are much better now. It use to be that “things” were simply not available to the people. Now, they are available, but many people cannot afford them.

6. Do you have any more books you’d like to write, perhaps about some of the other countries you’ve lived in since Russia?
I actually started to write a second book about my life in other countries; however, after a couple of attempts, it just wasn’t there. Maybe that will change. As you know, I wrote many letters about my experiences in these countries and sent them to friends. Maybe that was enough.

If you are interested in purchasing a book from Charlie, you can send him a check for $23.50 (the 3.50 is for shipping):

Charlie Adams

4104 S Atlantic Ave. #4

Port Orange, FL

32127

or wait until Charlie arrives on the island at the end of June.

Tribute to Connie Brayley


Last month we lost a beloved former island librarian, Connie Brayley. For many years Connie was our Library Director, and one could often find her behind the desk on Saturday mornings. She and her husband Warren (“Dout”) were on the board for many years, assisting in any way that they could, from technical support to Art and Soul, the island’s big summer fundraiser. They were both involved in creating our island’s current library, serving on the planning committee. When Connie retired the library board named the new library’s circulation desk for her. Connie was a real lover of books, and was part of the island’s classic book group for years, including a subsidiary book group we started of classic women writers. She will be dearly missed by all of us on Long Island, and especially her fellow library and book lovers.

A small library on an island on the coast of Maine