COURAGE: A Novel of the Sea. By Alan Littell, Illustrated. St. Martin’s Press. 148 pages. $16.95.
It surely was not Vineyard Haven harbor waters lapping the beach near the Mary Guerin Inn in Eastville that inspiredthis thrilling sea tale. But its author, Alan Littell, spent childhood summers there. More likely, his later years as a merchant mariner provided the background for this story of the dangers of the enthralling sea.
THAT OLD CAPE MAGIC. By Richard Russo. Alfred A. Knopf, New York. 261 pages. $25.95.
O ne afternoon two friends happened to drop by my house. The first arrived in a little sports convertible. When the second showed up in his VW bus he walked inside and said, “It looks like a middle-aged meltdown out there.”
SKUNK NIGHT SONNETS. By Daniel Waters. Bright Hill Press, Treadwell, N.Y. 2009. 38 pages. Softcover, $10.
One of my favorite booths at the West Tisbury Artisans’ Fair is that of poet Daniel Waters. It is a wellspring of words! And not just any words, but the crisp, intuitive, fun-filled wordplay of Mr. Waters’ short poems, many of which are displayed on his distinctive hand-carved blockprint greeting cards.
Witness to the Rise of the Taliban in Afghanistan, by Barbara Bick, The Feminist Press, $14.99.
History has left us the chronicles of a number of intrepid women of the West who have traversed the Near and Middle East. In this tradition, but surpassing it in many ways, Barbara Bick of Vineyard Haven has written Walking the Precipice: Witness to the Rise of the Taliban in Afghanistan, a testimony for our time. It is a lucid, passionate and at times harrowing political book written on behalf of the women of Afghanistan.
The book is called Poems from the Gray Bar Hotel. The title refers to the nickname that inmates have given to the Edgartown House of Correction, where West Tisbury poet laureate Fan Ogilvie held poetry classes last winter. But Mrs. Ogilvie said the jail is more like a revolving door for prisoners with haunted pasts who often can’t seem to get out of their own way.
If you look up libraries on Wikipedia, you’ll learn that a golden age arose from 1600 to 1700 when cities all over the world had to erect a big, baroque building for books. If there’s ever been a new claim for a golden age, it’s right here, right now, involving our Island libraries, all of them, where circulation is up as never before (25 per cent at the Edgartown library alone), and community participation is off the charts.
FOUR FISH: The Future of the Last Wild Food. By Paul Greenberg. Penguin Press, New York, N.Y. July 2010. 304 pages. $25.95, hardcover.
The title is too narrow. Don’t think for a moment this is a book only about salmon, cod, bass and tuna. The book goes beyond the history and plight of four fish, to our hunger for fresh fish of all kinds. For anyone who wonders where the swordfish went, how we emerged from the collapse of the whale fishery, or simply which fish is safe to order at the restaurant, Four Fish offers much.
Atlantic: Great Sea Battles, Heroic Discoveries, Titanic Storms, and a Vast Ocean of a Million Stories, by Simon Winchester, HarperCollins Publishers, 496 pages, illustrated. $27.99.
It would be hard to live on the Vineyard and not have an interest in the Atlantic Ocean. So much of the Island has been colored and shaped by the sea. You can smell the ocean here and feel it all around you.
A new book, Atlantic, is a biography of the ocean. What is most striking about this long book is its scope.