Here the cursed Soviet legacy is actually blessed, because the Soviet legacy is what puts Tallinn on the map, allowing it to rise above other expat havens like Paris or Prague or wherever those no good traitors mill about these days. Ooh, you've got your haute couture and your bustling sex industry, but we've got our Soviet legacy. Estonia is indisputably the most successful of the republics once under direct Soviet control. Number three on the Press Freedom Index, baby! And it sits right beside scary Russia, which means a faint whiff of danger is always in the air. Russia is a dormant dike. You never know when it could burst.
The Estonian foreign community has always been plagued by Baltic solidarity. That is, it never made economic sense to have an English-language newspaper solely for foreigners living in Estonia. It always had to be peddled down the Baltic route, a "pan-Baltic" newspaper or magazine or online news resource, which meant that so much effort and print had to go in to constructing a Baltic identity ("What do Balts think about each other?") or comparing the three countries ("How are Lithuanian wines different from Estonian wines?") That's what I want to know.
Fortunately, the community now has its own used bookshop. It's called Slothrop's and it's in the Old Town of Tallinn, located at Müürivahe 19. I believe the effort is a month old. I am unsure of the origin of the name. I am guessing it is in homage to a character in Thomas Pynchon's Gravity's Rainbow, which I never read but my college roommate adored. He even befriended a homeless saxophone player who had dreads and paint on his face who called himself Gravity's Rainbow. "Gravity" and my roommate would sit around playing music and talking about Thomas Pynchon. Gravity liked to drift between Mexico City and Washington, DC, which, being a street person, he said was the most dangerous city in which he had lived: "People in Mexico City will rob you," he was fond of saying, "But in DC they will kill you."
Here I have a faint memory of jogging over a bridge at night near a memorial for the USS Maine and looking down to see two homeless men groaning in a heap of garbage.
But enough of this digression. Slothrop's is open from 11:00 - 18:00, Monday through Saturday. "We also are looking to buy books from you!" the shop claims on its website. "If you have English-language books, bring them by and we'll take a look. We are especially interested in non-fiction." Fine. I've got loads of books I'd like to unload on any willing taker. And, I'm told, I can get rid of them in exchange for store credit. This means that I might not have to stock up on books in the US or pay exorbitant prices for English-language titles at one of Estonia's larger book chains.
As everyone says in Estonia everyday Eesti on nii väike - Estonia is so small. So it's going to take more than bored vodka tourists to make this thing turn. It's going to take you, and me, and Mingus, and Scott Abel, and Kris Rikken, and Flasher T, and that guy next to Balti Jaam who is throwing up on himself as I type this. Come on, The Sound and the Fury is only €5. You get stream of consciousness for €5! I think I'll take it. But what we really need is a Slothrop's imprint, something along the lines of the Obelisk Press. If only I had some contacts in the publishing world.