Wednesday, November 30, 2011


Falling in love again

I think Black Friday should be renamed Book Friday. Maybe some clever marketing person has already done such a thing, I haven't searched to find out. I wasn't planning on doing any shopping last Friday but somehow ended up at a bookshop. Funny how that keeps happening to me, whenever I leave the house. Anyway, Left Bank Books on Main Street in Searsport was having a sale, and I wanted to order a book from them, so I stopped in. And you know, walking in through the door of this really fine little new-book shop that simply radiates bookishness, it's just as good as it ever was. I tumble into book-love all over again. I immediately see new books I feel I must read, I encounter old friends on the shelves too, alongside entire subjects that do not tempt me in the least, yet I still appreciate their solidity and presence and everything they stand for.

The contents of my wallet would not allow me to get everything. The whole store. Which I love. So I ordered the book I needed for a gift, and practiced great restraint by only buying two others. The first:

The Journals of Spalding Gray, edited by Nell Casey (Knopf 2011). I read it over the weekend. Hoo boy. Difficult to say the least, and sad beyond words, but worthwhile. Reminded me of reading the big biography of Bruce Chatwin a few years back - it contains a similar kind of pain - that of seeing a writer and artist you've admired and even loved for years spiral downward to finally meet death. Not an easy death, either, if there ever is such a thing. A very dark book and I'm glad I was able to read it through.

The second purchase, not yet begun but next in the to-be-read pile, a real beauty of a book:

My Faraway One: Selected Letters of Georgia O'Keeffe and Alfred Stieglitz, edited by Sarah Greenough (Yale 2011). Nearly 900 pages, a bit oversize, warm pink in color (in contrast to the black and gray of the other), a real book lover's book. And it's only Volume One! A brief look-through is most promising. I see passion and art and travel and fascinating people, and can't wait to start reading. Which I will do as soon as I finish what I am currently reading, a secondhand copy of Germaine Greer's The Obstacle Race: The Fortunes of Women Painters and Their Work (Farrar Straus Giroux 1979), which I picked up at the Big Chicken Barn this weekend (see, I can't leave the house without buying books, I tell you again). Such a utterly compelling book, peopled with a few hundred painters I've never heard of, ever, alongside the many I have. Whatever happened to the female satellites of famous male artists? Including their spouses and children, who were often also painters? How did women manage to make art at all, much less masterpieces, given the circumstances Greer lays out so thoroughly? A book I can't believe I've never read until now, and one I can't believe my art teachers in school never pushed my way, or even mentioned. Where are the great female painters in history, and why are the great ones we do know about often considered "minor" characters in the canon? Read this book and weep.

See what I do when painting doesn't come easily and I need a break? I read about painting. It helps. I'll leave you today with one more image, of the bookshop in Searsport. What a truly great place. How lucky am I to live just a few miles down the road.

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