Time: Is it true you own a bookstore?
Letham: Yeah. I'm part proprietor of a small used-book store in Maine. I don't
really own the building. I guess I sort of own the books until someone
comes along and buys them. I'm like the junior partner in a very funky
clubhouse of a used-book store. It's something that makes me very happy.
It seems like a defiantly optimistic thing to do these days, when all anyone can talk about is the decline of the printed form.
It seems like it should be that kind of gesture, but it never crossed
my mind that it was an expression of defiance. If it's taken as that,
that's great. I did it for the pleasure. It didn't have to do anything
with my career or the Internet or the publishing world. It was just to
be handling the books. I worked in used-book stores for 15 years on and
off. That was the only work I ever had before becoming a full-time
writer. I have a lot of osmotic book knowledge just from handling books
I didn't ever read. Turning them over in my hands, trying to figure out
where they came from and why they exist and whether they should be
priced at $4 or $6.
How do you figure out how to price a used book?
I'm supposed to say something like, "If I told you, I'd have to kill you." It can't be explained. You just have to know.
According to the Interweb intelligence, the store is Red Gap, in Blue Hill, Maine. It's alleged to have great espresso. The name comes from the 1935 film, Ruggles of Red Gap. Another part-owner is reported to be novelist Marjorie Kernan. [Unverified rumor-mongering sources: Puggy's Hill and The Stranger.]
Red Gap is the store's name, based on the 1935 film, Ruggles of Red
Gap, beloved by Jonathan and the other owners. The espresso machine
makes the best coffee in town, hands down.