Friday, November 21, 2008


I went with a couple friends to a book reading in Baltic, CT, which is somewhere beyond Norwich, with a town center that consisted of churches, a convenience store and an unlabeled diner sandwiched between miles of ready-made two-family houses.

The reading, by a psychologist-science writer, Gary Greenberg, was in the diner - his daily breakfast joint - with a warm-up reading by his fellow local author breakfast companion, Glenn Cheney. (Glenn wrote the sole Amazon comment on Gary's book so far, giving it five stars: "This is a good book for anyone who needs something new to think about. For others, well, there's always hallucinogens and TV.")

Here is Gary's invitation e-mail:

Most of you know by now--because I've told you, maybe more than once—that my book, The Noble Lie, came out this fall. It's a series of stories about what happens when doctors turn moral dilemmas into medical problems and then try to diagnose away our confusion. Which—not to ruin the end or anything—is usually not pretty, but is often funny.

I thought about having a big celebrity- studded book party, but I couldn't round up a shirt that takes studs. So I settled for a couple of fellow writers who don't even own cummerbunds. We're going to have a Book Event at Fred's News in Baltic, CT, the town the Parker Bros. had in mind when they made Baltic Ave the second-cheapest property in Monopoly.

The evening will be cleverly timed to coincide with the beginning of the holiday shopping season--Friday, Nov. 21st. The doors (actually, there's only one) will open at 630, and by the time it's all over, it will be 830 or 9. There will be food and drink. There will be music. There will be reading. There will be autographing. There will not be oil, but there will be books. The event is a benefit. If you buy any books—and I certainly hope you will—profits will be donated to the Covenant Soup Kitchen in Willimantic.

The other writers are Penny Newbury and Glenn Cheney. Penny is the author of the recently released short story collection Remember Me. Most of her stories take place near New London and Groton, where she grew up, or the countries she lived in before she came to work in, of all places, Baltic. She'd never heard of it before either.

Glenn has just published his twentieth book, Thanksgiving: The Pilgrims' First Year in America. It covers just about every known fact about what happened between the landing of the Mayflower and the famous harvest feast celebrated the following fall (and that will be celebrated again, speaking of clever coincidences, on the Thursday following the reading). It's easily the funniest book ever written on the subject of people who flee persecution, brave a horrific ocean crossing on a tiny, germ-infested boat, and then find themselves in a hostile wilderness with absolutely no idea of what they are doing.

Excerpts from both Glenn's and Penny's books are available at You can read excerpts from The Noble Lie at, which is an abbreviated address for the amazon page.

Fred's News, which, by the way, no longer sells newspapers and has never been owned by anyone named Fred, is at 51 W. Main Street (Rt. 207) in Baltic. There's no Fred's News sign, but there are a couple of outside lights and an awning, which, even though it's nighttime, I'll ask them to unfurl for your convenience. Fred's is on the north side of the road a few hundred yards from the intersection with Rt. 97, and directly opposite a building that if it were twenty stories taller, a lot prettier, and filled with well-dressed young publishing executives, would be a dead ringer for the Flatiron in New York. There's not a surplus of parking along the street, but there is a Methodist church and a phone company office on the other side of W. Main Street, each of which has a parking lot behind it; a big Catholic church a couple hundred yards farther west on Rt. 207 that has a large lot; and, to the east of Fred's, just around the corner on Rt. 97, a stone building called the Grist Mill, which houses the Sprague public library, and which has, you guessed it, a large parking lot. So, by the way, does the Baltic Convenience/Package Store, conveniently located right on the 97/207 corner. Not that I'm telling you to park in any of those places, but I can assure you that the streets of Baltic are safe and that the tow truck drivers probably don't know where it is either.

If you let me know if you're coming, then we can make sure to have enough food and drink. Any questions, email me.

He does not mention that Fred's News is the localest of local joints, with a large open griddle, cluttered sports and vintage advertisement paraphernalia and, as my friend noted, Tiffany-style lamps whose porcelain shades depicted Nascar drivers (they turned on by touching the lamp base). Also that Glenn's book is a day-by-day rundown of life in Plymouth that's unintentionally hilarious. It's full of tidbits like, "The captain died, and then the rest of us observed the Sabbath day of rest; they were sick and running out of beer." On and on and on.

When Glenn finally stopped recounting minutiae of the first winter in the New World, Gary stepped back to the microphone and quipped, "If they were Jewish, that would be the Haggadah."


  1. You just inspired me to look up book readings here. I doubt any will be as picturesque, however.

  2. Wow. That's an amazing invitation.