Friday, June 30, 2017

Now reading at the Green Hand: Night Marchers by Daniel Braum!

Hello everyone -- here is the latest weekly report on what the heck I'm reading when I'm not doing hard labor in the bookmines.

In spite of the books already in my current reading pile, I set everything aside this week when my copy of Daniel Braum's The Night Marchers arrived.  I started reading, curious to find out what he'd been up to.  A couple stories in, I was pleasantly surprised.  Now, seven stories in, more than halfway through, I am CONVINCED.  This is a fantastic book.

Whether it's the glorious but haunting hues of ghostfish appearing in the dark corners of the room, or the burning aftermath of grief, or strange death slithering through the thatched jungle roof, there is something in each of these stories that makes it impossible to stop reading them. 

But what something is that?

Maybe it's the way the reader finds themselves so immediately immersed in each new story.  The entry is sharp and complete and vivid, a spell only the best short stories are able to snare us with. 

Maybe it is the voice of each character, crystal clear in the reader's mind, so clear that no matter what they are telling the reader, it is immediately real, no matter how strange or unfamiliar.  This is because no matter how fantastical the details, the human element at the heart of the story is so strong it pervades everything within.

Maybe it is the velocity of each story, a living current that sweeps the reader along -- you are caught, you are part of that moment in that world, you are led into the jungle, the ratty apartment building, the ocean, the burning building.

Whatever these dark and magical ingredients are that he's been playing with to achieve this wondrous collection of tales, Daniel Braum has succeeded in mixing them in new and different combinations that surprise and captivate, startle and thrill.

I'll be getting copies of the book into the shop soon, but if you're not in the Portland, Maine area and you would like to order from the publisher, it's easy to check out The Night Marchers and a bunch of other titles in the Grey Matter Press shop online:

Alright, I've gotta go -- more stories to read before I'm done!!!

Friday, June 23, 2017

Now reading at the Green Hand, No.2

Picture This! READ IT!!!
There are some books that do something that no other books will do for you, personally.

Lynda Barry has rescued me in times of need more than once.  I puzzled over her Marlys/Ernie Pook comic strips in the Casco Bay Weekly over 2 decades ago.  I found the characters annoying, but couldn't stop reading them week after week.  I eventually grew to love them.

Several years ago a certain someone bought me a copy of Lynda Barry's What It Is, and I loved it.  Then a couple of years ago I bought myself her next book, Picture This.  "Learn how to ART with the Near-Sighted Monkey!"  Who could resist?  Not me. 

Time and time again, Lynda Barry saves my bacon and puts it back in the creative fire.  There is something about the way she thinks/writes/draws that my deep-down brain understands, even when it is at its most broken (hello, the last 12 months).
Lynda Barry on the wilfulness of monsters and our need for their unpredictability.

There is an air of the dream-logic to her pages.  It makes sense to the part of your brain that you can't talk to directly.

Besides all that, she is absolutely, heartbreakingly funny.

If you are a creative-minded person (I don't care how long it is since you've done "art" -- maybe even since you were a kid -- you know you have a creative brain regardless), do yourself a favor and pick up one of her books the next time you have a chance!

 💘  I promise, you won't regret it.

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Coming soon... SUMMER HOURS!

YEAH THAT'S RIGHT!!!  Starting June 27th, we will be open 6 days a week again!  FINALLY!!!  Whohooooo!!!!!
Tues-Thurs 11:00-5:00
Fridays 11:00-6:00
Saturdays 11:00-7:00
Sundays 12:00-5:00

soon soon soon!  😃

Friday, June 16, 2017

Now reading at the Green Hand!

Hi folks!  I'm going to try something new.  While I don't read as much as folks imagine I read ("...because when you're at the shop you just sit there and read, right?"), I do make a serious effort to at least chip away at a few of the many books on my to-read shelf on a regular basis.  So I thought it might be fun to just jot down a couple of the most recent books I'm reading each week, in case some of you are curious about them.  Most of these are in-process reads, so -- no spoilers in the comments please!  😉

I'm inaugurating this feature on the blog in honor of going back to a regular full-time schedule at the shop starting the last week in June.  Hooray!  Cheers to you, cheers to reading, and cheers to books and writing!!!  ...and HAPPY SUMMER!

1.  Charmed Life by Diana Wynne Jones
Last year at ReaderCon, the posthumous Guest of Honor was Diana Wynne Jones.  I had never read any of her books, but knew her work from a gazillion recommendations from friends and customers, and watching Miyazaki's adaptation of Howl's Moving Castle.  One of the things I love about ReaderCon is being able to go to panel discussions about authors I haven't read yet -- it's like getting an inside window into the author and their work from people who a) really love them and (if you're lucky) b) people that actually know them in person.  It's a phenomenal alchemy that occurs when one of these panels takes off like a rocket, and the Diana Wynne Jones discussion was one of these. 

This is now the 4th* Diana Wynne Jones book I've read since last summer, and once again I am charmed.  The cool thing about these books, though, is that it is not a treacly charm -- she writes smart, she writes witty, she writes delightfully absurd in the most unexpected places.  Throughout the book, the story and characters are compelling, and I find myself really wanting to know what happens next at every page.

*:  I started with Howl's Moving Castle (even more to love than the movie!), moved onto Deep Secret (a very ReaderCon-ish setting!), then Witch Week (good witch? bad witch? which witch?).

2.  The Comedians by Graham Greene
Graham Greene is another author I have waffled about reading for years now.  Not waffled about reading him, you understand -- I waffled about what book to start with.  Then a copy of The Comedians came across my desk, and suddenly it clicked.  Voodoo?  Haiti during the shadowy period of the Tontons Macoute?  A tale wound between characters with commitment and those with none, those who "if they die, they die by accident." 

So far the novel is excellent.  Sparse prose that paints a foreign scene, and introduces characters without belabored exposition.  Greene drops in details as deftly as any artist with a brush -- here a dab, there a wash, and gradually the foreground and background are filled in.  There is a stunning poignancy in the world painted through the people in this story, told with deceptive simplicity, revealed moment by moment, year by year, painless except for in sudden moments of surprise when Greene catches at you intentionally. 

Here is where I started with Graham Greene.  I think I'll read Travels with My Aunt next. 

Thanks for reading along with me!  Hope your summer reading is going as well as mine is!

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Lend me your ears

Nancy Grayson - Maine Historical archives

Those of you who are used book enthusiasts and longtime Portlanders might well remember Cunningham Books, which shared The Green Hand’s view of Longfellow Square from the other side of the intersection at 188 State Street, in the location where LFK and Miyake are now.

Nancy Grayson, the owner of Cunningham Books, closed the store when she retired at the end of 2010, a year after I opened The Green Hand Bookshop. She told me, “It’s okay – now that you’ve been safely open for a year, I don’t have to worry about leaving this corner without a bookshop on it.”

When the shop was hosting its rousing closing sale, upon which booklovers descended in hordes, The Forecaster’s Randy Billings stopped by to do a story. When he asked her for an interview, Nancy said she wasn’t interested. “I don’t like touchy-feely stories about businesses closing,” she said. [“Closing the books: Longtime Portland bookstore shutting its doors,” October 12, 2010]

This was Nancy to a T. She knew her own mind, and had no problems letting you know what she thought if you couldn’t help asking.

In true Nancy style, Cunningham Books launched two new book ventures with her own closing (that I know of! Maybe there are more…?), my shop across the way and the delicious mystery-lovers’ haven, Mainely Murders (, run by our mutual friends Paula and Ann down in Kennebunk.

Nancy Grayson has always been a woman of few words but of great influence. She was my mentor.

I have known Nancy since I was a teenager, when my life-long used book buying addiction began in earnest. For the usual inexplicable reasons, we hit it off early on, and that friendship only became deeper as the years went on.

In case you don’t know it, dear reader, the book trade is a business one must be mad to partake of. When it became clear that I was a lost cause, unable to stay away from bookbuying, she added to my self-taught experience by adding her own. She advised me on how to pick out better books, showed me how to clean up books that needed help, and encouraged me in thinking and researching for myself.

She ran a tight ship, upholding tremendously high standards for herself and everyone else.
As another friend recently said, it doesn’t matter how much time your have with someone you care about. It is always going to seem like the time was too short when that person is suddenly gone.

Cowards die many times before their deaths;
The valiant never taste of death but once.
Of all the wonders that I yet have heard,
It seems to me most strange that men should fear,
Seeing that death, a necessary end,
Will come when it will come.
--William Shakespeare, Julius Caesar (II, ii, 32-37)

Nancy passed from this mortal plane in the early minutes of the Ides of March, opera echoing in the shadows of the room.

There will be no memorial service, no burial service, no obituary in the local paper, because that’s how Nancy wanted it. But in the spirit of our friendship, it seems only right that I mark her journey’s departure with words. Just enough words.

I’m sure she knew I was going to do this little write-up. She knew me well.

So fare thee well, Nancy, until we meet again. It’s been one hell of a good wild ride, but as you replied on a cold rainy March evening, the last time I saw you, “It’s only the beginning.”

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Holiday Hours 2016!

Hey everyone! For the holiday season we will be open some extra days the week before Christmas!!! We will be open Tues-Fri 11:00-6:00 from Dec 20th on through the holiday. Yay!!! :D

Saturday, Christmas Eve, we will be open 11:00 until 7:00 as usual.

We will be closed Christmas Day, December 25th. We wish you all a merry holiday season!
(image from Tolkien's wonderful "Father Christmas Letters")

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Digging up Portland's gravestone history with Ron Romano


For those of you who don't yet have this book in your gravestone-loving hands, let me tell you -- you do NOT want to miss it. Ron Romano has outdone himself. After following Bartlett's career, and giving tour after tour in Portland's Eastern Cemetery highlighting his stonework, Romano was encouraged to write his account of Bartlett's life and craft. Luckily for us, he really did it!

It is a fascinating story from start to finish, and interwoven as it is with Romano's account of his search for the tale, it had me wanting to go out and search out Bartlett's signature in Maine's graveyards myself ASAP.

This is the gauge of quality of Romano's work -- he explains the finer points of gravestone studies in a way that makes you want to join in the gathering, and at the same time paints a picture of Bartlett's own life and times that brings them to life in your mind's eye.

This is a rare thing in a history book. I recommend you buy it and experience this for yourself.