Monday, March 19, 2007


Winding down

Blogger tells me that in a week I'll hit the three-hundred-post mark. For me, another milestone, and one that's made me think about continuing, and finally ceasing. Spring is a time for changeover, isn't it. More milestones this weekend: water came into the bookshop for several hours on Saturday, during a raging tempest of snow, ice, and finally a few inches of rain which overwhelmed the roof drain. I can't believe I didn't lose any books, but I didn't - the water streamed down from the ceiling by the big front window. My intrepid landlady and her son-in-law shoveled off the roof, unclogged the drain, and the water eased up. Next, I came back in to check on everything Sunday morning, and one of the light fixtures in the hallway must have been filled with water, because when I flicked it on it - what - snapped, crackled, and popped, I think the bulb blew, and I started to smell the frighteningly distinct and pungent odor of burned wiring. So, after standing around in the dark, waiting for a bit, staring at the ceiling, and getting more and more nervous, I called the fire department. The hall light is set into a tin ceiling, so if there was a fire starting behind the fixture, I could not know it for a long time. I know nothing about wiring, and couldn't take a chance. The guys from the fire department were burly, handsome, funny, and reassuring, everything you'd want fire fighters to be. Everything is ok - the shop is still here, and still fine. More or less, because next, Ryan finished doing our income tax this weekend, and it's official, I lost money last year. So that's two years in a row. All that, on top of some pressing personal issues which I won't get into here but which demand my immediate attention, is causing me to rethink pretty much everything. Some days it really does seem as if the sky is falling, and today is one of those days.

So, for the coming week I'll continue posting a few favorite books from my collection, then this blog will be on hiatus for a while. I may be back, I may not, I don't know yet. I can't say thank you enough to YOU, the folks who've been reading since I started, or at least since whatever little click of the mouse brought you here. I need to simplify everything and make some decisions about what's next, and I'm sorry, but I must take a break at least for a while. Onward: today's book, a little gem from who else, Christopher Morley, and it's a fitting one since all I do on this blog is talk about my own preoccupations: Apologia Pro Sua Preoccupatione (The Foundry Press, R.C. Rimington, New York 1930). First comes the front cover, blue cloth spine with gilt lettering, decorative paper-covered boards, and a blue paper label on the front (it comes in a slipcase, not pictured, which is why the book looks so fresh and clean); the book is quite thin and measures about six by eight inches:

Next, we have the title page, with a lovely swashbuckling ink signature by Morley himself (I've seen his signature many times, and I've always loved his ascenders and descenders), and below it, again in the same periwinkle blue of the cover label, the standard of The Three Hours for Lunch Club, which Morley founded with some of his friends. It's three small hourglasses on a flag, in case it's not coming out clearly. Please note that the sun is just over the yardarm, and is smiling, presumably happy to be so. I also like the printing of the street address of the publisher/printer - a nice touch appropriate to a little keepsake book such as this, printed in small numbers and distributed among friends:

Finally, the text of the book is divided into two sections, marked by massive blue numbers; below appears the first page of the first section. Part one of the book is Morley's explanation for his love for the Old Rialto in Hoboken, the theater in which he and his friends staged plays until they, of course, ran out of money. Same old story. Part two is about his affection for a little speakeasy he frequented. Here is the lovely huge opener for part one (look at that type! how beautifully brave and crazy!):

Part two of the book ends with a quote from Conrad (whose work Morley championed throughout his long career in publishing and journalism), and reading it today, it exactly matches how I'm feeling, and makes me think of Morley himself. I've taken the liberty of eliminating the pronouns to include more of us than not. Here it is (p.36)

"...Conrad wrote of the artist in general - '(The artist) appeals to that part of our being which is not dependent on wisdom; to that in us which is a gift and not an acquisition. (The artist) speaks to our capacity for delight and wonder, to the sense of mystery surrounding our lives; to our sense of pity, and beauty, and pain.'

That's it for today. Please email in and let me know if there's anything you'd like to see (book-wise) or hear more about (again, books, books, books) before I sign off for a time.

Dear Sarah,

Thanks for your many posts, which have been a joy to read. I'm sorry to hear of the shop worries- physical and financial- and hope you're not too stressed by them.

If you decide to end the blog, I (and many others) will miss it, but you need to take care of yourself first. I feel privileged to have been able to read so many of your posts.

I'll end with a Christopher Morley poem (from The Middle Kingdom).

In a Second-Hand Bookshop

What waits me on these shelves? I cannot guess,
But feel the sure foreboding; there will cry
A voice of human laughter or distress,
A word that no one needs as much as I.

For always where old books are sold and bought
There comes that twinge of dreadful subtlety-
These words were actual, and they were thought
By someone who was once alive, like me.

Dan, books are as close to immortality as many of us will ever get, aren't they... Until someone decides to burn down the library, I suppose. Alexandria comes to mind. Still. Thanks for the Morley poem, I know it well and the last two lines get me every time. Thanks also for all the good book-talk over the past year and a half. I've read (*OR STILL INTEND TO READ*) many of the books you've told me about, and it's been a pleasure to exchange ideas with a like mind -
Sarah, thanks for making me feel better--I lost money, too.

I hope you do return.

You'll be missed.
Dear Sarah,
I've enjoyed reading your posts each day, and will miss them. But you're right to make the decision to take a break from this & to decide for yourself what you want to do (whether with blogging, books, etc.). I'm glad you're taking the time off to think & meditate.

What would I like to see here? Well, someone posted a link to miniature books, I believe a site at the University of Iowa, where a donor gave her lifetime collection of miniature books to them. Sounds fabulous, but I don't know much about miniature books. Do you? Do you have any?

And by any chance do you have books about dogs in your collection? Curious about those too.

Thanks much for sharing your bookselling and artistic life with us.
Thanks for commenting - I think (like MacArthur? how strange...) that I will return at some point. I just need some extra brain space for a while - I've got too many projects going and I need to focus in order to complete the few that are most pressing to me. If I have any good news I will share it here again, don't worry about that.

Quillhill - sorry to hear that you are in the red, too - I'm not by much, but it's discouraging. I know what to do to turn it around, I'm just dragging my feet a bit first. I'm stubborn... I hope you stick with it and can make it work.

Ed - I'll still be checking in on your blog! Thanks -

Kim, thanks for reading for so long - blogs are so interesting because they take place in real time - and one never knows what will come next. From the thrilling to the banal. The shop could burn down! I could have a chicken salad sandwich for lunch!

Check out today's post for a bit about miniature books. I don't collect dog books, but god knows I do have people always asking for Albert Payson Terhune books, again and again. And "Lassie Come Home" moved me to tears every time I read it as a child - in fact I had it out of the library so often that the librarian eventually gave it to me. I still have it - a dark yellow cloth cover. Tattered, simply in shreds. I think I read it to death...
Dear Sarah,

Fiddlesticks! I always enjoy your posts, whether they are about your store, your favorite authors or books, your art or just life in general.

I'm about to open a new chapter in my life, leaving the legal profession after 20 years to open a brick and mortar bookstore in a small Washington State town about 20 miles south of Seattle. It may be the craziest thing I've ever done, or it may be successful, but it is something I feel I have to do. (When the store is up and running, probably November of this year, I'd love to email you my website URL and invite you to visit if you are ever out in our neck of the woods. We have a wonderful wilderness coast out here also, with lots of wonderful mountain and forest trails.)

I wish you the best and hope that things will work out. I certainly hope you'll continue to blog eventually, as it is always a highlight of my day.

Dear Sarah;
I have just started reading your blog and have enjoyed every minute of it. I am saddened by the loss of so many independent bookstores and hope that you will continue on and prosper. Whatever you decide please know that I have truly enjoyed your thoughts and thank you so much for sharing them. I have been introduced to books that I never would have known about because of you. I wish I lived closer because I would love to visit your store! Take care!

Just joining in with everyone else to wish you the best of luck and to thank you for a lovely blog. I only lately discovered it, and will miss it very much!

Will you still be attending the Portland book fair in June?

Tim, please let me know how it goes - I wish you the very best with your shop, and can only encourage you to jump in with both feet. I know why my sales are down, and I know what I need to do to turn things around, it's just a question of doing it. And lord knows I am a do-er, so don't fret. For god's sake, give up being a lawyer so you can be a bookseller. More people should do this, the world would become a saner and happier place. Thanks for keeping in touch - I'd love to visit the west coast someday, and your shop too, of course.

Robin, that was my original intent with this blog - to share my love of books, borh general and specific. If you take even one reading suggestion I've offered here, I will be very happy. Promotion and enthusiasm for one's favorite authors and books is one of this business's chief joys.

Anne, I hate to say this, but I probably will not do the bookfair in June. I've got some things going on I must attend to... my pal Ian may be disappointed upon reading this, but what can I say. I've done the show for eight? years in a row, or more? and I am taking a break there too. Still, come north and visit!
I do hope you decide to keep posting after your hiatus! I just started reading your blog and I love it!
Thanks, K - I just checked out your great blog and I realized I must now eat lunch. NOW. Do you do take-out?


I will come back if I find I have more to say. I've GOT to get some other stuff done, though. Projects! Languishing!
I wish you the best and feelso sorry I hadn't discovered your blog until now. I have a small used bookshop in Alturas, California. We are at half a year now and doing well. I hope everything straightens out for you. My old blog was feral You'll find a link there to a little sub-blog about setting up my shop last year. I had another blog at blogspot until December or so. Now I share blogspace with Miriam, a Santa Fe, NM, reference librarian, at Many an Afternoon.

I'll check back to see how you're faring.
Hm. We are at a year and a half, not half a year. You can see how shopownership addles the brain.
Thanks for the kind words, Sam - I'll check out your site(s). Yes, shop-keeping does addle the brain. Six years here, and six selling elsewhere before that, and nearly seven working at a new-book store. I fear it's done permanent damage.
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