Reading

Looking for things in books, and not quite remembering

I would like to have a Kindle (or other eReader) with all the books that I have ever read, for search purposes. Then I could search through the entire collection and know that I’ll find the reference I’m looking for. This option, to search through my entire collection, is available on my Kindle 1.0 (with a screen that is not touch-sensitive). It doesn’t seem to be available on the Kindle App for phone or computer, and it’s certainly not available for my disorganized book collection, distributed through most rooms in the house in no particular order.

Since the weekend I have been trying to remember where I read about a man who couldn’t say “I love you”, even to his future wife. Someone suggests a way around the problem. He can say “Isle of Man” or “Isle of Wight”. So just imagine that there’s somewhere called “Isle of Yew” and say that instead. He does, and although he still can’t say “I love you”, the phrase “Isle of Yew” is close enough. And they all live happily ever, I think.

I thought that it was in a biography of Ivor Novello by Paul Webb, which I read about five years ago. In my mind it’s from a stage show with songs by Novello but I’ve been back through the book over the last 24 hours and the story isn’t there.

62 books on my Kindle contain the phrase “Isle of” and it wasn’t in any of them. And Google Searches haven’t revealed where it came from either. There are various songs called “Isle of Yew” and “Isle of You” but none of them is familiar. So I know that I’ve read it somewhere but don’t know where.

Last year I wanted to find a favourite quote from a Julian Barnes book, where a character is playing the Patsy Cline song “Two cigarettes in an ashtray”. He plays it to a friend, and (as I recall) the lyrics are quoted: “Two cigarettes in an ashtray / My love and I, in a small café / Then a stranger came along / And everything went wrong / Now there’s three cigarettes in the ashtray”

His friend’s comment is something like “I don’t think that ashtray is a very good rhyme for … ashtray”.

I picked up what I thought was the right book, “Love Etc.” and had got most of the way through it, flicking through it and re-reading parts of it before I realized that it’s in “Talking it over”, the book to which “Love Etc” is, essentially, a sequel. And I haven’t tracked down my copy of “Talking it over” to check.

And many years ago I mis-remembered a reference from a Douglas Coupland book, about how to mask the smell of a decomposing corpse. (This isn’t the place to tell you exactly why I wanted to remember the reference.) In the story some of the characters live in an apartment block with many elderly residents, many of whom have no friends or family. Whenever one of these elderly residents dies it could be weeks before they’re discovered, and only then because of the smell. And when that happens the lobby is filled with the smell of, as I recalled it, fake strawberry. But I re-read most of Douglas Coupland’s books in 2011 and discovered that it’s fake cinnamon, which the book claims is the most effective product for masking the smell of a decomposing corpse. I’m no longer sure which Douglas Coupland book it’s in, “Girlfriend in a coma” I think. And I have no idea whether fake cinnamon really has that effect.

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