Thursday, February 07, 2008


The dilemma of creation

When someone makes something - anything, but let's take a book as an example - it then takes on a life of its own, and the one who made it is sidelined somewhat. I struggle with this, regarding my writing, paintings, and even the shop, so last night near the end of Patrick Leigh Fermor's book Roumeli I practically shouted in agreement when he wrote in a footnote (p.192):

"Reluctantly, dreading lest the reader, daunted by pages of italics, should skip them, I have lifted most of the Boliaric glossary to the end of book. It would be a shame if this curious secret language should vanish unrecorded. So there it is, in Appendix II. I long for the reader to turn to it at once but I am in no position to insist."

Yes, of course I turned to it! I felt like he was asking me to! Boliaric is a kind of beggars' cant, originating in the Krevara region of northern Greece. Leigh Fermor was fascinated by the place, and now so am I, thanks to his book. He'll use a sentence with five place names and three ethnicities and perhaps two other nouns I've never even heard of. But in spite of the obvious erudition he comes across as the perpetual wondering curious traveler, and he includes us, the readers, in his journeys. He's not exclusive or elitist; he's got a sense of humor and humility. More, more please! I've read somewhere that the third volume of his European walking journey trilogy is going to be published someday (because the journals do actually exist in space and time). But when?

Today, I'm cleaning up the shop - working on this particular creation with a life of its own. I like to rearrange sections, clean shelves, pare away some of the deadwood, take a good hard look at my small stock. Anything I don't want to have on the shelf any more? Anything that, given I've had it priced at four dollars for six years and it hasn't sold yet, I think will never sell? Get rid of it! So far I've weeded out a big pile of odd stuff, most of which I've had since I opened the shop. Or before. Time for these to go! I've got a fairly small inventory, and now it's getting even smaller. I've always wanted a little jewel box of a bookshop, and as I keep paring, and keep getting more and more selective about what and when I buy, that seems to be finally happening. I just have to be careful not to end up with no inventory. Some days I miss working in a new bookstore - being able to order the good stuff (if it's still in print) and always have it on hand. The next best thing is to be able to find the good old stuff. Trouble is, all my good old Patrick Leigh Fermor books are at home in my book room. Not for sale at my shop. Does this keep me up at night? No.

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