Portland, ME -- August 29, 2007

Reading The Candle of Distant Earth, by Alan Dean Foster.

He just got the book (and these other two)

from the library across the street, and is loving it. It’s about a wisecracking guy and a talking dog saving the world from…from what? He doesn’t care from what, from whom, if it’s got a talking dog he’s going to read it.

His favorite book of all time—Shogun, by James Clavell (check out People Reading in San Francisco entry about couple who fell in love over Shogun) –it’s one of the best. And, anything by John D. McDonald.

Shogun is about East meets West, a Dutch navigator stranded in fourteenth century feudal Japan. There’s a romance, it’s historical, and there’s fighting. He’s read it three times to pick up on nuances he hadn’t gotten before.

Another favorite—Prince of Tides, by Pat Conroy. The author is so lyrical and he can relate because he grew up in South Carolina around where the book is set—marshes and oceans. It’s historically interesting and, though there are no talking dogs, there are dysfunctional people. The South, he says takes disfunctionality to an art form. Every family has some to keep lively. In Maine, in the north, people don’t share their disfunctionality, …that’s crazy Aunt Matilda. In the South, they would take her and trot her out, she can be crazy in front of everyone.

His own book? He’s writing one and is two-thirds of the way through. It’s set in Costa Rica and has a romance …he likes people who have decided to forget the world and then reality kicks in, and they get drawn back by something, be it romance or someone needing help. We can’t be an island, whether we like it or not.

He’s gotten to the point where the guy gets the girl but is at a stalling point. Winter, he said, is a good time to get into writing.

He grew up in all parts of the South. When people came and went the books were always there. He would take books and go up to the top of a lighthouse in Virginia Beach and feel warm and secure when he was ten or twelve. Books like Sir Walter Raleigh’s escapades, books about dauntless heroes and heroes defending, saving, about 15 – 16 century England and the Civil and Revolutionary war, and by the author Thomas B. Costain, who wrote The Silver Chalice--good books for young males.

What’s great about Portland—a connection with the land, environment, shapes the people so much. A strong core of self reliance and independence. In the old days had to be hardy to survive so Mainers are extremely adept and self sustaining. Don’t particularly welcome outsiders. He married one and now he’s here.

He goes to the library every ten days and gets three books. Sometimes he has to hunt for them and sometimes they just find him.

Portland, he said, has been settled, abandoned, settled, abandoned, about two blocks from where we were sitting there was a French/Indian massacre--held out for six days, couldn’t break in, offered a truce and when they came out, they slaughtered them anyway. The women and children were sold as slaves. Many years later, unable to escape karma, there was a meat packing plant on that ground, and now it’s something else. Doesn’t know what.

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