Monday, March 20, 2006


There's noooothing gooooing oooooooon

Life at the shop is soooo sloooooow at the moment. Lots of time to read! I'm sorry I haven't been blogging much over the past few weeks, dear readers. It's March, in near-rural Maine. No library sales until next month. No housecalls lately. Not many customers, for that matter. It's a month for chasing bits of paper for my accountant (that would be Ryan), spring cleaning (is the snow really over for the year? is it safe to mop the hardwood floors? do my plants need pruning? are those bookshelves just too dusty or can I wait another few weeks?), getting ready for the upcoming season (my business was down overall this year, I find from doing my taxes, what will the year ahead bring?). All these compelling *compelling I say* subjects I could write about at length in this forum, but I am convinced if I did so I'd lose the three readers I have. So. Things will pick up soon. Back to the books.

I just finished The Art Spirit by painter and art teacher Robert Henri. He says this about reading:

"We read books. They make us think. It matters very little whether we agree with the books or not." (p.188)

I don't know if I agree with that last bit or not, I'll have to think about it. And then there's this:

"There are many kinds of study. Those whose study is of the real and rare kind get the habit. They can't throw it off. It's too good. They go on studying all their lives, and they have wonderful lives." (p.198)

And finally this:

"I have just laid down a book and the caress of my hand was for the man who wrote it, for the great human sympathy of the man and his revealing gift to me through the book. I have never seen the man, do not know his outside, but I am intimately acquainted with him." (p.113)

A lovely description of how books work, from author to reader. As I read, I keep a small running list of quotations I want to copy out of the book when I'm done reading a particular book - I note the page number and first word or two. This list doubles as a bookmark. Then once a week or so I go through all the books I've been reading and copy the quotations into my commonplace book/journal. I like being able to look back over the years and see what I was reading when, and what I copied out, what I thought was important enough at that time to take note of, literally. I can look back on things like this, my favorite passage in the Henri book:

"A tree growing out of the ground is as wonderful today as it ever was. It does not need to adopt new and startling methods." (p.49)

Books - as good as they ever were. I'm headed home for a quiet evening of reading.

March is such a midpoint month,I don't blame you for lack of blogging(we do miss you when you're quiet,tho). Your commonplace book sounds so nice-the most I do to keep track of my reading is to make lists of what I should read.

Usually,less than half of my intended titles actually get started or finished(hangs head in shame).
My approach is the unrecommended practice of dog-earing pages of note, except in the case of old and expensive books. I rarely write in books, but I love to come across comments from previous owners.

For some reason, I do write down passages containing the word tryst. This started nearly thirty years ago, who knows why. And I do keep a monthly list of the books I finished.

Thanks, again, for the recommendation of The Seven Stairs by Stuart Brent. I enjoyed that, including his list of books in the final chapter. The funniest line to me was his noticing at some point that there were eight steps to his shop.

Dear l.t., thanks for your kind words. About reading lists, I don't keep lists of what I should read (in fact, when someone tells me I *should* read something, I tend to bristle), but I instead have teetering piles of books at home (the to-be-read-next piles, before the books become integrated into my bookcases). I end up reading perhaps half of these. This happens to us all. Have no shame! Read on!

Dan, I suppose a dog-eared page is not the worst book-crime I've ever seen perpetrated.
Tryst, hmmm. We tend to think of this as clandestine in nature, but my dictionary tells me it is a form of "trust." That's great - I love hearing about people's inexplicable bookish obsessions...

Glad you enjoyed Stuart Brent. He captures what it really feels like to run a shop. I love the section where he talks about how embarassing it is to take money from people for your books. Sounds strange, but it's true.

More on commonplace books soon...
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