A city of books and bridges, roses and almost ripe tomatoes, turning from green to gold to orange to a bright sweet red I won’t get to see. I’m not (and if I’ve seen you in the past week, I’ve told you this) a crier, but Portland’s a hard city to leave, and it’s hard for me to tell if it’s worse this time than when I moved away from that other city with the same name, but I can tell this much: it’s wrenching.
It’s not just the people, nor the restaurants and shoe shops, the famous bookstore or my favorite grocery store; it’s not anything I can define or describe, just the last eight years of my life. But this isn’t really a personal blog, so I won’t go on for long. I’m reading Nicholson Baker, and he writes about himself in a way that’s more compelling than my own self-description could ever be. It makes me want to try, but I do think it’s dangerous to dip too far into that sort of blogging. It’s just not the kind of thing a girl like me ought to do.
Last time I was in Maine, I spent the night at a lakeside cottage, playing Scrabble and drinking wine and eating pasta tossed with olive oil and mushrooms gathered from the neighbors’ yard. In the morning, we swam in the lake between turns of a slow and lazy Scrabble game, and talked about local politics. At some point my hostess made passing reference to a friend of hers who lived nearby, a man she’d just seen at town meeting, her friend Nick Baker. And then she asked me if I’d ever read any of his stuff. I was so starstruck that I think I actually gasped. Audibly.
I realized less than halfway through the book I read before this one (Elizabeth Hand’s Saffron and Brimstone), that its author is from Maine, too. Though I do admit that sometimes, due to a perverse kind of home state pride, I seek out Maine writers, this was just a happy accident. I’d like to ascribe this to some kind of regional magic, some brilliance imbued upon Maine residents by the rocky coast and nasty weather, or some unconscious kinship that makes me pick these books by instinct, but I can’t. All I can say is that it is an indisputably nice thing. And maybe, a few years from now, I’ll find an abundance of Oregonians popping up on my bookshelf. It’s hard to say.