Thursday, March 06, 2008


Bookshops, they're everywhere

Stayed home yesterday because of the snow/sleet/ice/rain storm (in that order). Where is spring. Just wondering. Any time now would be fine. Before I left the shop on Tuesday evening I grabbed a newish novel to read, on a whim, feeling like I needed something contemporary and anonymous and unknown-to-me: Three Junes by Julia Glass (Anchor 2003). Actually, I grabbed it because I liked the cover and the blurbs looked good. As did the National Book Award Winner medallion on the front. A what-the-hell selection for me, because I knew the storm was on its way and I'd have a long stretch of time the next day to read and read and read.

Of course, the man who turns out to be the main character of the book owns a bookshop. I swear I had no idea. I liked him, an overly-self-conscious but aware-of-the-fact ex-pat Scottish gay man who runs a bookshop in the Village. I liked the interweaving story lines, the author's careful description and characterization. The only part I didn't like was that the book turned out to be, finally, about New Yorkers who love to live in New York, not my favorite theme in contemporary fiction (or tv or movies). New York is a great city. Lots of people live there. Lots of people live elsewhere. The latter do not necessarily always want to be entertained by stories about the former. I'll stop now, with that tepid generalization.

In retrospect the book really reminds me of Maupin's Tales of the City: lots of good characters - straight, gay, parents, children, in-laws, friends, lovers, ex-lovers, would-be lovers - and several interweaving plots, but with an east coast setting and more fully fleshed-out writing. If the author's next novel comes my way (The Whole World Over 2006), I'll read it, but I don't know if I'll actively seek it out. I started The Hall of a Thousand Columns last night after supper, it's wonderful! His next book I will pounce on.

Yes, I read that one a while ago too. I was a little irritated by the scenes in Scotland - the dialogue sounded false, the descriptions of the farm were a little twee. But all in all I agree, a good enough read that was vaguely reminiscent of Maupin.
Twee, yes. And too careful sometimes. I was aware of the author a lot in this book. In one way, regarding how the novel was constructed - she kept switching tenses in different blocks of text, to tell the story of the past and the story unfolding in the present, almost at the same time. Back and forth, back and forth. Must have taken a lot of decision-making to come up with this complex construction. Once I got used to it and expected it, I liked it. It kept the suspense going, vs. having a plain old linear storyline, and it fit with the multitude of characters. But I was lifted out of the story somewhat, in noticing how she put it together and adjusting to it as I read.
Sarah, you and your bookseller friends get me in such trouble! Again I had to order another book (this time: THREE JUNES) based on your blog and others' subsequent comments. Wish there was some way for you people to earn commissions. I have spent so much money on books lately after learning about them from you. I thank you for the insight, though. My wallet may be crying, but I am smiling from the discoveries.
Yes, that's my evil plan, to SELL BOOKS! Mwaaahaha!


Don't worry about a commission for me. But here's an idea: if you buy a brand new copy of the book, the author will get paid. That seems eminently more fair to me.
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