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The Siege of Salt Cove: A Novel Paperback – May 17, 2005
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From Publishers Weekly
Weller (TheGarden of the Peacocks, etc.) spins a simple premise into gold in this delightfully written, darkly comic novel. Salt Cove, an old fishing port an hour north of Boston, has everything a classic New England beach village should: a picturesque cove with bobbing sailboats, austere granite outcroppings, stone beaches and traditional architecture, including a dilapidated but still lovely 19th-century wooden pedestrian bridge. When the Massachusetts Department of Public Works decides the bridge must be replaced by a saferand far uglier"concrete structure," the Salines vow to fight. After a period of failed negotiation and escalating conflicts, the villagers decide their only option is to secede from the United States. Weller lets the tale unfold through 31 individual characters, each of whom narrate one or more first-person chapters. The chief historian and chronicler is Jessica Stoddard, an older longtime resident whose notes and comments provide the novel's sturdy backbone. The hero and leader of the rebellion is Toby Auberon, a reclusive ex-lawyer who lives in the local lighthouse and is obsessed with constructing "the greatest pinball machine ever created." The conflict escalates after Salt Cove secedes, and the villagers scramble to arm themselves and figure out why the state is so determined to tear down their bridge. The novel's time is fluid, slipping easily between past, present and future, and Weller adds a touch of magic realism as he allows several characters to speak from beyond the grave. While this all might sound confusing, it isn't. Weller is in complete control of his material, a master conductor creating a symphony out of what would have been, in lesser hands, a simple melody.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
This appears to be a satiric tale about a small Massachusetts town whose residents, faced with the state-ordered destruction of their beloved wooden bridge, decide to secede from the U.S. The story, told by an assortment of townsfolk, is humorous, even borderline silly--and that's before one even considers the allusions to Shakespeare and classical mythology. One of the novel's central characters is Toby Auberon, a former lawyer (often mistaken for the town drunk) who's now living in a lighthouse, working on a mysterious invention. Is he a combination of Shakespeare's Oberon, from A Midsummer Night's Dream, and Sir Toby Belch, the drunk from Twelfth Night, and if so, what does it all mean? And what about another of the book's narrators, former porn star Clitemnestra? Why the allusion to Clytemnestra from Greek mythology? This is a very strange book but a splendid one, too--surreal, weird, utterly playful. Literary types will enjoy the comedy, and they will have a good time figuring out what, if anything, is going on beneath the surface. David Pitt
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Top Customer Reviews
New novel tells an old Alaskan story
by Geo Beach
Sure, Alaska is in the Americas. But, united with other states? That's a matter of opinion. And that's one reason why Anthony Weller's The Siege of Salt Cove is the summer's salient book. As well as the funniest and most poignant, a Far Side farce come true.
When Anthony Weller and I met in high school he was already a good writer. The son of George Weller, a Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter posted to overseas assignments, Anthony consequently grew up largely in correspondence with his father, a childhood mapped out on onionskin, Par Avion tricolors to and fro across oceans.
That will sharpen your eye, and your pen.
After college, Anthony himself began a colorful career as a foreign correspondent, writing for The New York Times Magazine, Esquire, Playboy, and National Geographic. Then he started writing books - about the Caribbean, where he spent summers; Eastern Europe, where he played jazz; and the Indian subcontinent, where he traversed miles and millennia toe-to-tip on the Grand Trunk Road.
Weller has returned to the United States for the locale of his new novel, and just in time.
America seems like another country now, in need of a well-traveled perspective to accurately report it. It's someplace else. Alaskans have long understood that - "Outside" is anyplace that's not Alaska, without distinction between the US and other foreign countries. And Weller understands - he knows Lower-48ers think their America is someplace else now too.
Salt Cove is a New England village with a problem. The state has decreed the demolition of a 200-year-old wooden bridge, intending to replace it with a concrete monstrosity. The villagers attempt negotiation; the bureaucrats are intransigent. So in brave desperation, Salt Cove secedes from the Commonwealth and the Union.
When The Sals (Outsiders call them Saltines) persist in their opposition to diktat, the government brings in SWAT teams and the National Guard. Big guns are deployed, lives lost, little won.
Sound familiar? The US Navy shelled the villages of Kake and Wrangell in 1869 and destroyed Angoon in 1882. And since statehood, many Alaskans have felt in a perpetual state of siege to the alphanumerics of federal government, from ANCSA's d-2 lands to ANWR's 1002 Area.
But Salt Cove doesn't echo just ancient history. These days, Girdwood talks about seceding from the Municipality of Anchorage. In the Kenai Peninsula Borough, Homer freethinkers ponder whether to secede and form their own Kachemak Country Borough. And statewide, the Alaskan Independence Party was built upon the rough-cut plank of secession from the US. Venitie went to the Supreme Court declaring itself Indian Country, a sovereign nation.
The memory of secession in The States is wrapped in the racism of the war between them. But there was that earlier, brighter history - The Declaration of Secession that will be celebrated again on the Fourth of July.
And The Siege of Salt Cove celebrates independence with a marvelous teapartytime sensibility - half Boston Patriots, half Mad Hatters. Weller unleashes a chorus of 39 narrative voices, so Salt Cove shouts and whispers like a small town meeting. As in life, you have to determine where truth lies.
Weller knows, "from Alaska to Long Island's South Fork to Cherokee Nation, an island in the Rio Grande, and multiple Indian protests on Martha's Vineyard, in Vermont, in Maine... Everyone wants his own country."
Since the passage of the Patriot Act, lots of Americans have decided they just want their own country back. More than 250 towns, including Anchorage, have passed resolutions against the Pat Act, with its erosion of representative government and civil liberties. And so have four states - Yankee Maine and Vermont, plus Hawaii and Alaska.
Despite being bullied, regular folks in small towns are standing up to intrusive big government - and Weller is master here. His dark satire conveys a moving humanity - lives, loves, loss, laughter - exposing truths about domestic enemies as his father did about foreign threats. Today, though, the real story isn't on the front page, it's between the hardcovers of well-wrought fiction.
Whether you're reading on the back deck of a boat or in the backyard deck chair, The Siege of Salt Cove is a manual for modern Alaskans - Americans who have always been more than summer soldiers and sunshine patriots.
Independent journalist Geo Beach writes for Anchorage Daily News, National Public Radio, History TV, and TomPaine.com. [Original column published July 2004]
Recording the events is Jessica Stoddard, a 73-year-old spinster and life-long resident of Salt Cove. Fiesty and independent, Jessica fears no one and tolerates no nonsense. Directing the rebellion is a quiet man in his early forties named Toby Auberon, a relative newcomer to the village, regarded as a hippie, who has leased the now-automated lighthouse and, until now, has kept his legal background a secret. Jessica, Toby, and an additional thirty (or more) characters narrate their own versions of the events in Salt Cove, each of these beautifully realized voices unique and easily recognizable, and many of them hilarious. Quirky imagery combines with these singlar voices to create especially memorable pictures of people and events.
Told with tongue in cheek and a good deal of mild satire, this is a loving picture of village life by an author who respects his characters and sees them in the context of a wider world. And however implausible the developing love story may seem between Jessica and the much younger Toby, Weller makes us understand and appreciate its sweetness, especially in contrast to the outside events. As the government escalates the siege to include Humvees, National Guard tanks, underwater demolition experts, the FBI, and SWAT teams, Salt Cove counters with its tireless citizens, a crazy militia unit from Missouri, a missile found in a fishing net, and plastique explosives. The inevitable bloodshed is a jarring event, a harsh blow which comes just when the reader is loving the characters and smiling at their actions. Full of New England eccentrics who willingly risk all, the novel realistically depicts governmental insensitivity to locally important landmarks but ultimately leaves the reader smiling. (4.5 stars) Mary Whipple
Also recommended: The Last Convertible - A Man in Full - Boy's Life - Mila 18 - Plum Island - The Charm School - Rookery Blues - Shipping News - Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood - Pillars of the Earth - Ladder of Years - Summer of Night - Salem Falls