Thursday, February 26, 2009


Tired old February

Sorry I've been quiet here for a while. I'm busy at home painting, reading (of course), and feeling a bit mournful about my bookshop, at the same time that I'm so grateful to no longer be sitting there, mostly customerless, during a tough time of year in any economy, not least the current one. The good news: we finished our taxes, and I actually made money last year in the book business. This was largely due to the fact that I had a few tremendous individual sales, on top of paying much less overhead for the year. I wish I had more bookish news to report, but sadly, it's slow around here and I'd rather be silent if I have nothing of note to say.

I will mention that I read Three Cups of Tea a few weeks ago, during my month-long literary sojourn in Persia and Afghanistan. And then I found out that the co-author/subject of the book, Greg Mortenson, is giving the commencement address this spring at nearby Colby College. I think I'll go, just to hear him speak. This book, his life story, is such that after reading it, you think to yourself, This is living greatness. This is a person who starts with next to nothing and an idea and ends up creating new worlds for other people. Now, geniuses do this all the time, in all kinds of fields. But Mortenson does so selflessly, with no self-aggrandizing agenda, in a dangerous area, to help children, and specifically to help female children. During this contemplative slow time (winter in rural Maine - beautiful but getting old), this book about taking action in life was just what I needed. Apparently a lot of other people need it too, since I see it's been on the New York Times bestseller list for 107 weeks to date.

Another bit of good news - I sold my first few paintings thanks to my website. Just out of curiosity, if anyone is still reading this, I'd like to ask who among you has art on display in your home? Caveat - art not created and given to you by a close relative. Paintings, sculpture, illuminated manuscript pages (sigh...), objects for no other reasons than beauty and love. What do you have and why?

I have several oils, mostly by Iranian artists, that I inherited from my parents, along with two illuminated leaves from a 17th century Perisan Shāhnāmé, in my living room. I'd love to add one of yours!
Hey now, that's a nice thing to say...

I have a few paintings from my parents, too, and prints I've purchased, and several paintings I've traded for with friends whose work I admire. I do love to barter. And the paintings remind me of the people, and how lucky I am to know them.

I used to sell books at a local flea market (years ago, pre-bookshop, pre-eBay, when stuff at such places was often very good), and of course before the place officially opened all the dealers would be scouring each other's tables... one early morning there I bought a lovely old framed pastel of Mount Desert Island. Unsigned, but it was only $18, and has quality. I still love it. It hangs in the downstairs hall.
I have some prints, and a few smaller paintings. I've also bought a few photos, but the ones I've taken while traveling and blown up outweigh all the rest by far. I would love to buy some large works, but due to costs and frequent moves I haven't done that, yet. Hopefully, I'll find some things over the next few years.
Hi, Sarah. We've got a couple oil paintings picked up here and there, a couple framed photos; I've got a classic red Poppet (Lisa Snellings), a small painting my son brought back from India, and a tiny frog I got in Mexico at a conference.

Speaking of trips, I'm off tomorrow for my almost-annual three days in Wells, ME. Looking forward to it and the timing is right- between two snow events.

I posted about the pictures on our walls a while ago: Peregrinations: The pictures on our walls
I'd like to buy more.
Lesley, I'd like to buy more, too... there are a few painters in this area whose work I admire positively to distraction.

Dan - I'm glad you have art as well as good books. Speaking of which, did you find any at Harding's...?

Thanks for your comment, J. Part of me loves old-fashioned stuff, antiques, etc., another part of me longs for a big modern space with room for very large paintings on the walls. And an Eames chair. Can't have it all.
Well, since you asked, here's what I got at Harding's:

Travel Letters- Lady Mary Wortley Montagu
Democracy- Henry Adams
Poems- Rupert Brooke
Seven Men- Max Beerbohm
Tales of the Pampas- W.H. Hudson
Ancestors- William Maxwell
Country Neighborhood- Elizabeth Coatsworth
An Ocean Tramp- William McFee
The Semi-Detached House- Emily Eden
Collected Poems- Emily Wylie
Deephaven- Sarah Orne Jewett
Short Stories- Saki
Memoir from Antproof Case- Mark Helprin
The Happiness of Getting It Down Right- Frank O'Connor & William Maxwell

Dan, do you actually have bookshelf space for this grocery sack of books...?

What a great list! Hudson, Helprin, Jewett, Lady Mary - you have hours and hours of reading bliss ahead of you. I've never read anything by either of the two Emilys - I'll have to find something, now.

I made space, by double shelving- hiding one row behind another.

You may recognize several of the choices among Christopher Morley's 85 Golden Florins. Those by Rupert Brooke, Max Beerbohm, Elinor Wylie (I mistakenly called her Emily), and Saki were directly suggested by him, while Hudson and McFee are certainly in the family.

I brought along Morely's list, as well as Noel Perrin's in his Reader's Delight and Herbert Faulkner West's 100 Modern Books. Both of the latter recommended Henry Adams and Perrin pumped for Emily Eden. I have you to thank for Helprin, of course.

I even managed to think for myself with the rest: I love William Maxwell and Sarah Orne Jewett and recently enjoyed a history of Hingham by Elizabeth Coatsworth (wife of Henry Beston); Lady Mary was an impulsive buy. I'm greatly looking forward to going through them all, which will take me forever.
Dan, I really enjoyed Elizabeth Coatsworth's autobiograpy "Personal Geography" - and Lady Mary W. M. is great, one of the original bluestockings.

Double-shelving, eh? I have yet to resort to that, and in fact I can't, because we built most of our bookcases out of 1" x 8" pine. Not deep enough. One good advantage of this size, though, is that it leaves little room for dust to collect behind the books.
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