Thursday, November 30, 2006


A lackluster week

I'm always happy to be able to pay my rent and bills every month. Hallelujah, here it is the last day of November, and I can do it once again. But once in a while a bit more than that would be just fine. Seems like everyone coming in this past week has mentioned in passing that they shouldn't even be in a bookshop, because they are trying to avoid temptation, and they really shouldn't buy any books anyway, they already have so many at home. There they are, standing in my bookshop, telling me they're here, but don't plan to buy anything. Free! The books are free today! I want to holler, Just take 'em! The kind woman yesterday who walked around and stacked up a bunch of ten- and fifteen-dollar books and bought them with a smile was one of the exceptions this week, bless her.

So, question of the day: why are books such guilty pleasures for so many people? I consider books as essential - crucial - to a good life, not peripheral in the way other forms of entertainment are, such as movies, or perhaps (for those that partake) booze, or even buying food or furniture. Well, perhaps food, but books are at least as essential as food, right? So it's fine to buy some books now and again, and in fact the cost should be a line item of its own in the monthly budget. Rationalization? Perhaps. But this is self-education we're talking about here, and more than that, joy. I suspect that these same people who tell me they really shouldn't buy any more books are kissing cousins to the same folks that tell me they never have any time to read. I mean really. People tell me this, and I ask them if they watch the evening news, or read a newspaper or two a day. Or if they commute (books on tape!). Oh dear, yesterday I said how unbecoming rants are, and here's one now. Guess I'm feeling a bit anxious going into winter with few people around here wanting to buy books. But it happens every year, and I have to remind myself of it every time. One of the realities of doing business. I usually start to offer more for sale online this time of year, to make up for fewer people in the shop. Gotta get busy.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006


Music for bookshops

Wherever I go Christmas music is playing and it isn't even December yet. This was also true several weeks ago, when I made the rounds of local department stores in search of a new audio system for the shop. It's maddening (but mustn't rant, most unbecoming). Instead, how about a few music suggestions for bookshops: the song When I write the book (about my love...) by Nick Lowe, or the EP Books by Belle & Sebastian, and of course Every Day I Write the Book by Elvis Costello. Can anyone think of others?

I always have something playing, either the radio or a cd, not too loud. I don't want to have one of those quiet shops - you know, you go in and it's TOO QUIET and you're nervous about the floorboards creaking or chatting with your friend or picking up a book or even sniffing. Background music helps. Customers feel like they can settle in and be comfortable, that this isn't a library. I spend some time putting together cds to play at work - I still love making music mixes (a throwback to the radio show in college, I think, which I had with two friends). I've been in the throes of a love for alt-country (old-timey, twang, hellbilly, call it what you will) for several years now, so much of what I play is of that persuasion. I'll even put on some Christmas music, a week before Christmas, if there's snow on the ground and I'm feeling the spirit. I've got a great old jazzy/bluesy collection of holiday tunes from the thirties and forties (has the classic Swingin' them Jingle Bells on it). Also Christmas records by Dwight Yoakam, and of course Elvis. I just put up some twinkle lights around the shop, in the big window up front and in the back room, which tends to be a little dark. I'll get some mini candy canes next time I drop by the market. The weather forecast says snow this weekend. In spite of the rampant commercialism, I still love this time of year.

Back to the theme at hand, though - music in bookshops - for or against? Likes and dislikes? I've been in all kinds of bookshops, from dead silent to string quartets to blaring punk. I've seen those classical music compilations for booklovers, but I don't know (speaking of commercialism). I like a little Haydn now and then, and I like a little Johnny Cash, too.

Monday, November 27, 2006


As if I haven't said enough...

...about Alain de Botton this year, here's a bit more: Bookslut has an interview with him this month. And I don't think I followed up after finishing his new book The Architecture of Happiness. Yes, it's about the promise and failings of architecture, but it's more about how we are drawn to beautiful spaces (and beautiful objects of all kinds) because they promise happiness and contentment. He has a wonderful sympathy for inanimate objects and what they bring to our lives. This book of his is, in fact, another philosophy book about how to recognize one's own feelings about things, how to figure it all out. Much of the book is made up of his gentle observations about our lives:

"Our jobs make relentless calls on a narrow band of our faculties, reducing our chances of achieving rounded personalities and leaving us to suspect (often in the gathering darkness of a Sunday evening) that much of who we are, or could be, has gone unexplored." (p.157)

"It is books, poems and paintings which often give us the confidence to take seriously feelings in ourselves that we might otherwise never have thought to acknowledge." (p.262)

He could write a book about pencils (oh, wait, it's already been done...) and I would shut all the doors, pull the shades down, unplug the phone, turn on my reading lamp, and read it straight through. He speaks my language when he talks about what's important in life: beauty, generosity, modesty, comfort, melancholy, tenderness. As if that's not enough about him, he was on Talk of the Nation in October (for half an hour), and All Things Considered a few weeks ago (five minutes). And I keep hearing that his new three-part series will be on PBS sometime soon, but I can't find any listings for it yet. One more quote from the book, to finish:

"As we write, so we build: to keep a record of what matters to us." (p.123)

Friday, November 24, 2006


So much for plans

Never make plans. Wing it. Much easier to adjust when things go awry. I'm here in the shop after all. I did hold hands with my family around the table yesterday, and gave great thanks, but other travel plans went end over teakettle when our car broke down. The mechanic across the street from my sister's house now has possession, and we limped back to Bangor in a spare family vehicle we cadged for the weekend. So no island-hopping, and good thing - we heard from my dad after the ferry ride and apparently the sea was rocking and rolling this morning, and many folks on the boat were busy divesting themselves of much of that good food from the day before. On that happy note, for those of us who celebrated yesterday, what dish were you most proud of? We had an organic turkey and trimmings. I brought carrots with ginger and honey, and a creamed leeks and onions dish that my mother is especially fond of. My brother-in-law made a spectacular squash pie, my other sister made swiss chard and garlic. I didn't overeat, and am now looking forward to a leftover turkey/stuffing/cranberry sauce sandwich for supper - my sister made me up a great little sampler pack to bring home. A reward, after (hopefully) after selling a raft of books this afternoon.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006


More evidence regarding poor business practices

I won't continue arguing with folks about what a poor businessperson I am, I will simply offer another tattered shred of evidence: I am about to close up for the long weekend and traipse off, first to my sister's, then to a Maine island, until Sunday. Yes, that's right, I will close the shop for several of the busiest shopping days of the year. This while knowing I don't quite have enough money to pay the rent in December (without a bit of, shall we say, creative shuffling of funds). Maybe I should leave the shop open and leave a tea tin of money on the counter for people to make their own change from. Bookbuyers are an honest bunch, in my experience, I bet it would work.

Happy Thanksgiving, dear readers and friends. I'll talk with you again on Monday.

Monday, November 20, 2006


More London Bookshops

Volume one of The London Bookshop came in the mail today (Richard Brown and Stanley Brett, Private Libraries Association 1971). It's just as good as volume two. I add another photo here, of E.H. Dring at Quaritch, because it reminds me of that famous print called The Bookworm, but here the bookworm has come to life and is turning off his ladder towards us, perhaps to help us find a book we're looking for:
He even looks friendly! Volume one contains sections about James Bain Ltd, Andrew Block, Louis W. Bondy, Stanley Crowe, H.M. Fletcher, Harold Mortlake & Co, Bertram Rota Ltd, Charles J. Sawyer, Stanley Smith, Suckling & Co, and last but certainly not least, Bernard Quaritch Ltd. The book also has a chatty introduction and reminiscence by bookman Percy Muir, icing on the cake. So I'm avoiding my problems today, sitting lost in a book, not getting anything done. Just how I like it. Books really are the ultimate escapism, aren't they. (That is a rhetorical question, hence no question mark.)

Saturday, November 18, 2006


The book awards keep on coming

More awards! It's positively relentless - the number of new books each year that I suspect I will never read, even though they sure do look good. Read read read, I'm reading as fast as I can! Sometimes, though, I do end up reading stray award-winners. Albeit a year or two (or more) after the time they actually win. Sad, but there it is. Right now I'm in the middle of volume one of Hickey's memoirs and am more concerned about his embezzlement of office funds (to pay for his rakehell habits), which has just resulted in his father packing him off to a regiment in India. Love the late eighteenth century. Not to say that I'm not thrilled for the latest award-winners - imagine writing a book and receiving national recognition for it. I'm sure all authors have. Imagined it, that is.

Friday, November 17, 2006


Bad business

It's confirmed, I am a bad businesswoman. Pathetic, really. A gentleman called earlier today to inquire if the book on my blog (see last post) is for sale. No, it's not. It's mine, ALL MINE! He didn't think it actually was for sale, but was kind enough to check with me before he bought a copy elsewhere. I had to tell him that I didn't think I'd ever offered a book for sale on this blog, and I don't think I ever will. I just like to share the cool (to my mind) books that I've found with a few other people who might give a damn. Who might even want their own copies. Anyway, no sale, but at least someone else is hot-footing out after this deeply wonderful book, and a hapless used bookseller somewhere will benefit from it. Meanwhile, I'm working on a new painting today and otherwise taking it easy, because no customers are interrupting me. None. Oop - I spoke too soon. People approaching.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006


Booksellers' back rooms

Today I've been rootling around in my back room, the place I store books destined for home (since I can't fit more books on my shelves at home, they accumulate here instead, in towers and windrows), books destined for the Goodwill, books I am hoarding for the next bookfair, books I don't know what to do with, books awaiting further research, book catalogues, book shipping supplies, and at least one of everything else. I have to walk through this area to get to my washroom, so every few weeks when things have piled up to the point that I can no longer walk to the washroom without serious contortion or fear of knocking over a pile of books, I have to clean it out. Trash, empty boxes to break down into flat pieces of shipping cardboard, books to somehow find a place for at home, some general neatening, and I'm fine for another few weeks, or at least until I buy another batch of books and it fills back up.

Whenever I clean out, I inevitably come across books I'd forgotten I bought. It's like buying them all over again, but even better because of course I haven't had to spend the money twice! The find of the day, bought last spring in Massachusetts, and sitting in a pile since then: The London Bookshop: Being Part Two of a Pictorial Record of the Antiquarian Book Trade: Portraits & Premises by Richard Brown and Stanley Brett (Private Libraries Association 1977). It consists primarily of black and white photographs of booksellers and their natural habitats. Here, for example, is one of the back rooms at Maggs Brothers Ltd at their old Berkeley Square building:
The other photos of the shop proper are much more orderly, but this one reflected to me the soul of the shop, and the soul of most shops - no matter how tidy and polished the sales floor is, there must be a room like this behind it, because this is the gentle chaos of the used book world.

When I rediscovered this terrific book, I immediately sat down and re-read it, which brought further cleaning to a halt, and then I remembered that when I bought it (at Titcomb's on Cape Cod) I intended to find a copy of volume one, which was published a few years prior to this one. Which I then did - the internet is so good for finding the specific object, is it not, much as we love to browse in actual shops. I can't wait to see volume one, if it's as good as volume two I'll be happy. Volume two has sections on Francis Edwards Ltd, Frank Hollings, E. Joseph, Maggs, Marks & Co (of 84, Charing Cross Road fame), Henry Southeran Ltd, Henry Southeran Ltd, Harold T. Storey, and Thomas Thorp. Each section contains a brief history of the firm (a few paragraphs at most) then five or so photos of the owners and/or establishment, with plenty of views of rooms positively bulging with old books. Which we love, don't we - if we can't go back in time to look at the books themselves, a book about old bookshops is hard to beat.

I wonder what else is back there...?

Tuesday, November 14, 2006


A few items of note

Another blogging bookseller: Michael Lieberman at Book Patrol. Interesting bits on book arts and bookselling. I look forward to reading more.

And a site I stumbled across somehow: The Neglected Books Page. Their whole concept makes me happy, and I particularly like the sidebar entries for the Common Reader reprints (The Common Reader catalogue is sadly no more), and the NYRB Editions.


The rain is coming down in buckets

And the rain is also coming down into buckets. Buckets standing in the hallway at home. Buckets under the section of wall coming out from the large window in the lightwell in the ceiling. Needless to say I do not keep any books or other objects of value in the hallway. We've notified our landlords many times about this natural phenomenon, to no avail. Water near books makes me deeply unhappy. Water near my books. Luckily today Ryan has the day off, and he's checking in at home from time to time to make sure none of the other rooms are exhibiting signs of leaks.

Despite the torrential rain we set out this morning to visit my good pal Gary, one of the remaining true old-time bookmen in this state. He lives twenty minutes south of Bangor and although he does have a sign in his yard saying he's a bookseller, someone driving by would never suspect that he has twenty thousand books in the ell on his farmhouse. Nice books, too - good solid old hardcovers. I bought (among other things) a compact OED from him, with the magnifying glass and slipcase. I thought the price said thirty dollars. He said, when I asked him if that really was the price, "Oh no, that's three hundred dollars, but you can have it for thirty." (He was kidding, it really was thirty.) I also picked up a very nice four-volume set of the Memoirs of William Hickey 1749-1809 (Knopf 1921). Given my penchant for reading published diaries, I'm thinking I will eat this up. It begins thusly:

"Returning from a very busy and laborious life, in India, to comparatively absolute idleness, in England, and having fixed my abode in a country village, with a very limited society, I there experienced the truth of an observation I had frequently heard, - viz. that want of employment is one of the greatest miseries that can be attached to a mind not altogether inactive." (p.ix)

I love flowing comfortable English sentences such as these; they lull me into a happy bookish stupor and I imagine that the "limited society" he encountered was Austen-esque. His memoirs apparently cover his early years in London, his life in India, a long trip to China, and various, shall we say, amorous escapades throughout his life. I will attempt to disregard the rain falling at home, and distract myself by starting to read this evening.

Monday, November 13, 2006


I wonder...

...if I can make it through a single post without mentioning books? Oops, guess not. Monday in the shop: I hooked up my new little stereo system (finally found one I could bear the looks of - yes, that's right, the books - oops again - I do mean the LOOKS, a very important consideration when purchasing electronics), tried in vain to program in radio stations (failed, still can't figure out the written instructions as they actually relate to the machine in front of me), by accident found the extra bass for the subwoofer (after thinking for an hour that the sound was good but the overall volume really was quite strangely low), disregarded setting the clock completely, discovered that if I can figure out (once again, a big IF) how to do it I can actually store 99 music tracks in this machine. Didn't know that when I bought it (and no, I don't have an iPod, and in fact I have come very very close to returning to vinyl lately, so I am looking firmly backwards in time, and in fact this machine does have a place I could plug a turntable into).

So on the new cd player today: Hank Williams (Hank I and Hank III), Dwight Yoakam, Bill Monroe, Wayne Hancock, The Be Good Tanyas, Volebeats, Teddy Thompson, and Alison Krauss and Union Station. I stuck most of the sound system in and around an old wooden apple crate, so these alt-country bumpkins should feel right at home. A customer just asked what I was listening to, she wanted to buy a copy. I had to tell her that I don't think I'll be getting into the cd piracy business any time soon. The book (again!) piracy business keeps me busy enough.

Saturday, November 11, 2006


Veterans Day... also Armistice Day. To commemorate the end of World War I the poet and memoirist Siegfried Sassoon wrote a gem of a poem entitled Everyone Sang, a prayer about the feeling of the hard-won peace that follows a long ugly war. Written after the Armistice and published in an early book of his, Picture Show (1919). Worth reading today. I thought about him as I stood outside in the sun a block up the street from my shop this morning and watched the Veteran's Day parade go by. Bangor had it all, high school bands, Shriners on little mini-vehicles doing figure-eights down Main Street, a flyover by a huge military refueling jet, and rows and rows and rows of men and women who served or who were about to serve. Those high school ROTC kids break my heart. The veterans I think of most are those I know best: a few friends who served, some classmates from high school, many relatives. But the ones I realize I know best are those long gone, like Sassoon, whose heart was in his poetry, and everything else was in his diaries and memoirs, all which I've read and re-read. Sassoon died a few months before I was born but his writings go on speaking to me about all the same old important human themes (those don't change much, do they): peace, war, love, death, living a good life in spite of everything.

After the parade ended I came back in and wanted to put my head down on the desk and cry. Anyone who reads books knows that we humans will never stop going to war against other humans. It just goes on and on, century after century. This from a person whose birth parents were pacifists... On that happy note, this is becoming dangerously lachrymose, so onward. I spent a day hiking by the ocean yesterday, and that always makes me particularly sensitive to Life's (Largely Unanswerable) Big Questions.

Back to the small stuff. Unrelated business of the day: I've switched over to the new blogger, which looks just the same as the old blogger, happy to say. And I finally figured out how to update my links in the sidebar; I've added a few folks there whose blogs/sites I visit regularly. The list is short because other fine folks (Bibliophile Bullpen for example) already have huge blogrolls worth diving into. I've spent the rest of the day doing computer clean-up stuff and even selling a few books here and there. Business as usual.

p.s. The Misplaced Apostrophe Nut (me), cannot decide if Veteran's Day or Veterans Day is correct. Or Veterans' Day. I just checked my Concise Oxford, which says Veterans' Day. Google is all over the place about it.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006


Linksfest 2006

Several folks have emailed recently with interesting links, and I've added a few more I thought were well worth checking out. I'm cleaning out my inbox today, so here they are:

The eccentric bookshop I'll never forget from Charlie in Madison. Love it. I have a bookshop, but nothing here is actually for sale! Get out!

Vicky sends word that last week's issue of The New Yorker was extremely bookish (cover, articles, cartoons). I missed it, but hope others caught it ( is now not the time to go into the sad fact that I do not get through most of the magazines I already subscribe to...)?

Richard at AbeBooks pointed me to this article about The Haunted Bookshop. Not the Morley book, an actual haunted bookshop. The ghost's name is Claire.

I'm on the mailing list over at McSweeney's and they are looking to drum up business so they can keep their publications pouring forth. Gotta love The Believer (great articles, AND entirely advertisement-free, which is a relief and a delight), and Dave Eggers has a new book out. Early Christmas-list fodder for bookish hipsters.

Speaking of bookish hipsters (and I mean that term in the kindest of ways), I have new neighbors here in Bangor: Sasha and Mike (mild language alert). It's official, we now have the coolest building in town.

Finally I must mention that I enjoy Scott's blog over at Fine Books & Collections. Reading it makes me feel like I'm involved with the antiquarian book world at large (as does reading the magazine), rather than being holed up in my little shop in Maine, dreaming of Gutenberg Bibles. If I ever get around to figuring out how to update my miniscule blogroll over to the left, his will appear there. That's it for now.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006


Patriotic duty - do it!

I forgot to mention I'll be voting after work this evening. Let's do our duty and get out and vote today! I was talking politics with a friend the other day who thought it should be the law that citizens of this country must vote (as you must have a social security number, or even license your dog, or have a license to drive). Interesting to think about, even if far-fetched. I'm inclined to agree with him. Vote vote vote. Just a reminder.


What a week

And it's only Tuesday. Busy busy busy. Everywhere but at the shop. I spent the weekend visiting my family in the southern half of the great state of Maine, returned on Sunday, then kept my shop closed for most of the day yesterday so I could attend the semi-annual meeting of the Maine Antiquarian Booksellers' Association. This time around we held the meeting at the Bangor Public Library, two blocks from my shop, so there really was NO EXCUSE not to go (though I usually go anyway, unless I have an inescapable conflict). Over the past several years our group has had a few active and exemplary presidents (Jim! Barrie!) who have arranged not only tasty lunches and the business meetings, but the added enticements of special events we can attend. This time around we had an informal talk with the special collections librarian at Bangor Public, Bill, who gave us an overview of the library's history and holdings, and showed us some of their papery treasures. Much of Bangor burned down in 1911, including the library and the historical society, and after this devastation our local citizenry stepped up and donated many wonderful things to rebuild the collections. Bangor was then one of the lumbering and shipping capitals of the U.S., and its wealthier citizens and robber barons were very active in raising the cultural bar around here. Since then, of course, those industries have crashed and burned, however their endowments and gifts linger.

One of the shocking things that Bill told us was that prior to his hiring, the library had never had a special collections person per se, so one of his earliest jobs was to sift through the entire collection and begin to decide what needed to remain in general circulation and what was too valuable to allow being checked out. He showed us a first U.S. edition of Moby Dick, a lovely scarce Richard Burton first edition, rare military handbooks (one used during the French and Indian wars) and books on arms and armor, the earliest printed book in the collection (from 1475, Thomas Aquinas), some manuscript material including an account ledger from 1778 from a trading post in Machias, an account book from Moses Greenleaf, Greenleaf's hand-drawn map of Maine (unbelievable! beautiful! the holy grail of early maps of this area), and an early 19th-century handwritten account of a trip down a river on the Maine/New Hampshire border, with incredible illustrations and hand-lettering by the author. Other treasures too, but those stand out. It was a real treat. We even heard about a known book thief who had been slicing maps and plates out of books when Bill was first hired at the library; he was caught and around 75% of the material was eventually recovered. Bill also filled us in on what the library is interested in acquiring, so we can quote items to him in the future.

Next came lunch and our business meeting, at which we hashed out the details of our annual statewide directory of dealers, the one antiquarian bookfair held in Maine, our slate of officers, new members, and various other odds and ends. I like these meetings because my colleagues are a bunch of the neatest people you'd ever want to meet - we all know that used bookshop owners and book dealers are quirky and interesting (but really, fill in your own adjective here, almost any will do), but get a group of us together and the effect is magnified. I get to see my pal Gary fairly often (though never enough) so it's always great to hang out with him for a while, and it was of course a blast to chat with the always-charming Ian for a few hours at my shop after the meeting. Ian has the bibliomania BAD, bad I say. He flushes pink when he's rhapsodizing about particular books he's handled - it is most endearing.

Now I'm settling back in to life at the shop, watering my plants, balancing the checkbooks, hoping for some customers, and trying not to think about the fact that this was the week that Ryan was going to be sent to San Francisco for work, and I was going to go along to visit bookshops (and good friends, and redwoods, and more warm weather, and even the Pirate Supply Store). But the trip was cancelled two weeks ago, so no SF in SF. I will not, WILL NOT, let this get me down. How will I do this? I will think of all the money we saved by not going, and go out and buy some books. And read them.

Friday, November 03, 2006


New and Improved?

I myself prefer old and rickety. I don't want to switch to the new version of blogger, but I suspect I will shortly be forced to. I haven't been able to sign in to post most days this week. Anyway, it's been slow here at the shop, so not much to report, and I'm heading out for the weekend. I've sold some good books here and there over the past week, including some Noam Chomsky, a nice old book about John Winthrop, Manguel's A History of Reading, Ellman's biography of James Joyce, James Baldwin's The Fire Next Time, a history of the Ottoman Empire, a copy of one of my all-time favorite leisure reading books, which whenever I see I always buy so I can have copies in the shop, How To Do Things Right: The Revelations of a Fussy Man (thanks to Godine for reprinting it, thanks to Sue for buying it), many others. Not that many, though. This is an inbetween-time here in Maine - the fall tourists are gone, the locals are struggling to get their wood in and finish their construction projects before any snow flies, and no one's really Christmas shopping yet, though you'd never know it by the look of the stores around here. Halloween and Thanksgiving have been bypassed completely in favor of Christmas tchotchkes. I ususally put out a few holiday books, and some white lights, and maybe a bucket of candy canes, but not until Thanksgiving weekend. Lest this dissolve into a rant, let's move on.

I've been reading about the bookish Edmund Gosse this week - his fine memoir Father and Son, published anonymously in 1907, and now The Life and Letters of Sir Edmund Gosse, 1931. In Father and Son he presents an unflinching and absolutely pity-free view of his childhood and relationship with his ruthlessly evangelical Purtitan minister/creationist/naturalist parent. The glimmers of life throughout the book are inevitably Gosse's encounters with books, as in this passage:

"I persuaded myself that, if I could only discover the proper words to say or the proper passes to make, I could induce the gorgeous birds and butterflies in my Father's illustrated manuals to come to life, and fly out of the book, leaving holes behind them." (p.43)

Metaphorically speaking, this is what he eventually does, because he ends up moving to London to work as a clerk at the British Library, then becomes a famous writer and friend to practically anyone who was anyone in the Victorian and World War I literary scenes. The memoir ends with his escape and individuation from his beloved but tyrannical parent, and then the Life and Letters offers a view of his later life, and his close friendships with and letters to Swinburne, Robert Louis Stevenson, Austin Dobson, Maurice Baring, Max Beerbohm, William Dean Howells, Thomas Hardy, Henry James, and Siegfried Sassoon, among others.

Gosse's first spoken word was book. This endears me to him no end, and as his memoir and letters unfold, he further endears - he comes across as a struggling poet, a generous booklover who inspires lifelong friendships, an essayist and true man of letters. In Father and Son one of my favorite passages describes the first time he reads an actual work of fiction (he hadn't been allowed to read any children's stories, fables, tales (anything made up being anti-scripture, apparently) - it's too long to quote here, but shows the excitement and passion that books inspire, and foreshadows his later life. I'm halfway through the second book, and am now thinking that he's the kind of writer who can become a window onto an entire age. And what a pleasure to read about the wide world he grew into, one of adulthood and free will, after escaping from the narrow, stunting, dogmatical box of his childhood. I have several more of his books at home; I think his Gossip in a Library is next. Though I also have a book about the books in his personal library - that might not wait.

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