Saturday, December 30, 2006


See you next year

I'm outta here until 2007. Holy mackerel, 2007! I've only got one more year as a thirtysomething! Damn the Torpedoes! Don't Give Up the Ship! Time to get cracking on my resolutions! To wit: I gritted my teeth and finished reading The Iliad last night. It was so crushing, so shattering, that I don't want to discuss it, other than to say how torrid the Fagles translation is - the blood and gore, the pure poetry of it all, even (particularly?) the brutality - and above all the living speed of the narrative - I feel like I flew through it. On to The Odyssey. But first, I took refuge in more of Rural Rides this morning. More words of wisdom from Cobbett:

"It is odd enough how differently one is affected by the same sight, under different circumstances. At the 'Holly Bush' (inn) at Headley there was a room full of fellows in white smock frocks, drinking and smoking and talking, and I, who was then dry and warm, moralised within myself on their folly in spending their time in such a way. But when I got down from Hindhead to the public-house at Road Lane, with my skin soaking and my teeth chattering, I thought just such another group, whom I saw through the window sitting round a good fire with pipes in their mouths, the wisest assembly I had ever set my eyes on. A real Collective Wisdom." (p.143)

Are we fools and knaves or a wise assembly? Both? Happy New Year, particularly to my friend Brian, who enlivened my day to no end with a holiday gift of rare perfection and elegance. What was it? A book, of course.

Friday, December 29, 2006


Who knew?

Oxford University Press has a blog. Love it, even though I didn't do so well on their recent quizzes - a few correct here and there, but overall, pathetic. Lesson: never assume you are well-read. You're (I'm) not. But the blog sure is nice.


Fussy Friday

TGIF? Notes from the desk:

I am awash in receipts and sales slips today as I assemble year-end paperwork. Order is slowly emerging from the chaos.

Last night I dreamed that customers came into the shop to return all the books they bought last week. And in fact this morning I received an email from an unhappy internet customer - I forgot to mention a remainder stripe along the bottom edge of the book he purchased from me online. I should have included it in the book description, he's absolutely right. Arg. I try to be so careful, so accurate, and this got by me.

My mailman drove away right after I opened the shop (he's been coming by earlier than usual this fall) and I'm expecting a package that I just know he has in his little truck. How someone can deliver mail before ten a.m. to a street on which most of the businesses open at ten a.m. is beyond me.

HOWEVER, fussiness aside, the sun is shining and there's no snow to shovel, Ryan picked me up a copy of the new TLS, my only piece of junk mail at home yesterday was from Harvard University Press (Buy the entire Loeb Classics set for 25% off! I'd love to!! They even include an engraved pen and pencil set...), a friends-of-the-library sale is only a week away, and I believe we'll get a healthy tax refund this year. Oh, and my dear pal Gary visited yesterday and brought me a first edition of No Art Without Craft: The Life of Theodore Low De Vinne, Printer by Irene Tichenor (Godine 2005). God, it's a lovely book - Godine's books always are - a full cloth binding, nice paper, lovely design, and what looks to be great content. I'll be reading it later today. Yet another book to keep me from finishing The Iliad. I simply must persevere.

Thursday, December 28, 2006


What I haven't said

I've been thinking about the year just past, and mulling over whether or not to write a long post about all the things that happened that I never mentioned once on this blog. Events that took up major amounts of my brain space, not to mention hours in the day. Well, I decided I won't. Some things truly are too personal, or mean too much to air in public, and that's what my handwritten journal is for. Plus this keeps the mystery alive, as it were - sometimes it's better not to know too much about someone! As I've read other people's blogs this year I've thought a lot about how writers craft their personas, their voices, and what makes up a good online persona. Authenticity is the number one trait, I find - people being themselves, with all their opinions and good humor and pronouncements, are very interesting. But enough introspection for now. This persona has to get back to the books.

Last night I started reading Rural Rides by William Cobbett, in the Everyman edition (Dent 1925). The book was originally published in 1853, and covers Cobbett's perambulations around the English countryside in the 1820s and early 1830s, with an eye to landscape, husbandry, farming, and especially politics. In the introduction Edward Thomas says of Cobbett's writing style, "...what a thing that style is! What descriptions, what opinions, what campaigns of words!" (p.x) Many of his political diatribes I am skimming over because they mean little to me without an British political dictionary handy, but there are gems of description throughout that are worth lingering on, and fine passages such as this: "I passed through that villainous hole, Cricklade, about two hours ago; and, certainly, a more rascally looking place I never set my eyes on. I wished to avoid it, but could get along no other way." (p.17) He's certainly opinionated and it makes for great reading. I picked this up because I've had it sitting around on the to-be-read stacks for a year. I took it home from the shop because I love travel narratives and this little two-volume set is very attractive, and because I'm avoiding finishing The Iliad. Two books to go and I can't seem to sit down and get it done. And The Odyssey looms. So I am lost in Rural Rides instead - plus the day after Christmas I spent hours on the couch re-reading Rumer Godden's novel China Court, which I dearly love (stick with it, it's bookish), instead of finishing The Iliad. My goal is to finish it by the new year. Rural Rides will not help me accomplish this goal. I'm only halfway through volume one. Well, if this is my only difficulty, life sure is good.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006


I must've been good this year

Santa sure brought me some great gifts (his elves shopped at Levenger and turned up a pair of Boston Athenaeum bookends). And a few days off were mighty welcome too, after working six days a week since Thanksgiving. Now I'm back in the shop, and the giving hasn't stopped - more booksellers' tickets arrived in the mail this morning and subsequently the day's work is out the window. Obsessions come first - that's the rule around here! Work, HA! A big thanks to Don in California for winging them my way. I do love those little tickets so. Don's also been sending me email updates about his systematic ransacking of Acres of Books in Long Beach, and I wish I was out there too, searching the shelves for sleepers (and for tickets).

As 2007 approaches, I'm pondering the year ahead and wondering what to do next. Writing this blog has been a lot of fun, and I've managed to do it and keep my other writing projects moving forward at the same time, so I'll continue. Besides the general goals of writing more, painting more, and minding the shop, I'm thinking that my specific number one priority right now is to restock shelves. I sold a lot of books this month (and last Saturday was a banner day - If only every day was like that...!) and some of the sections at the shop are woefully empty. In other words, let's go shopping - I know of one small library sale in early January, and two other winter madness sales in February, and I'm hoping for a few housecalls. I could also take a bit of my holiday sales money and order bookish remainders from Daedalus, and visit a few local bookshops where I can always find some good books with room for a healthy markup. I'm feeling optimistic because I actually have enough money to pay next month's bills and send in my sales tax (the past six months' worth), and even have something left over to buy more books with. It's dazzling. I won't let it go to my head, however - I'll be bargain-hunting all the way.

Saturday, December 23, 2006


Merry merry

Happy happy. I sold a nice little book to a local Buddhist yesterday, and as he was leaving the shop he said, "Happy... have a good... whatever it is for you!" I've had the same problem myself recently, when wishing someone a happy Christmas / Hanukkah / Solstice / insert name of secular or pagan holiday here. I want to wish people well, no matter what their faith or tradition or lack thereof, but what does one say? Happy holidays covers it, I suppose, but I don't find that to be particularly warm.

Erring on the side of the nonsecular: today's book cover is this little sweetie, Christmas Poems, edited by Amy Neally (E.P. Dutton & Company 1897). The book contains many of the usual suspects, such as "The Night Before Christmas" by Clement C. Moore, but most of the text is scarcer stuff, such as "The Christmas Carol" - no author known, and the caption reads "The earliest Christmas carol known was discovered on a blank leaf of manuscript preserved in the British Museum, and is undoubtedly the product of the 13th century." The book also contains verses by Robert Herrick, Milton, Henry Vaughan, Christina Rossetti, Shakespeare, Aubrey de Vere, and Charles Wesley. Fine traditional reading. But of course I post this book here because of the cover - the designer's initials appear near the bottom, the mysterious "JF." I particularly like the single gilded mistletoe berries on the spine, a nice touch, and the white ribbon on the front.

Here's the last stanza of one of the anonymous poems from the book (p.93):

"Gone are the days of summer, long and fair,
Dark are the evenings now, and chill the air,
As from my fireside unto thine I send
A Christmas greeting from a summer's friend."

I'm off until the middle of the week. Joyeux Noël.

Friday, December 22, 2006


Holidays plus retail...

...equals the tenth circle of hell (Dante forgot that one somehow). I'm taking a quick break to return to admiring Christmas books. Last year around this time I posted a picture of The Christmas Bookman for 1928; at the bookshop next door I just found a copy of the 1925 issue:

It's a hardcover in very good condition, with a lovely paper labels on the front cover and spine. The advertisements make me long to go back in time and go shopping. Scribner offers Maxfield Parrish's The Knave of Hearts at ten dollars, and The Great Gatsby at two dollars (with the blurb "Heywood Broun says this is the only novel in six months which has completely satisfied him."). Little, Brown & Company lists Francis Parkman's The Oregon Trail (illustrations by Frederic Remington and N.C. Wyeth) for six dollars. Albert & Charles Boni proudly splash an ad for a scholarly yet readable edition of The Jesuit Relations, edited by Edna Kenton. Five dollars. And the so-dear Doubleday, Page & Co. has this full-page ad for the recent Christopher Morley book, Thunder on the Left (I show it here because I think this page is so visually striking, also, well, I do love that Christopher Morley so. He's rather like Santa Claus, isn't he?):

The fine print says "That exactly solves that Christmas present problem of yours." This pleased me. As did a few other items of note in this issue. The subscription page, for example, which lists a new series of essays by popular philosopher Irwin Edman: "Rapture for the Reasonable," "Politics for the Exquisite," "Culture for the Efficient," "Efficiency for the Erratic," and "Manners for the Emancipated." Another nice bit - part of the note from the editor John Farrar reads: "Generous is the term that I should like best to have readers apply to The Bookman..." and "The finest thought of the world has been through books. With books as a starting point it is possible to survey all phases of human life." (p.v) Amen.

Most of the issue is taken up with bookish articles, essays, stories, poems, and prints. Aldous Huxley's travel essay "In a Tunisian Oasis" looks great. So does "Literary Treasure" by Stephen Vincent Benet - a long essay which begins, "I went looking for Christmas, the other day, in a vast and singular treasure chest." The treasure chest is the J.P. Morgan Library in New York City. Another long article is entitled "The Gossip Shop" and mentions strolling around New York shopping for books.

Of course there are also many reviews, ads, and blurbs for books which now languish in the dollar bins at used bookshops. A short capsule for one such novel reads, "Another picture of middle western farm life which does not differ radically from its dun-colored predecessors." Ouch! Another reads, "Interesting but not significant." (both p.484) Double ouch!

I think my favorite section, however, is near the end of the issue - "The Collector's Guide" for announcements and ads from dealers in rare books. One tiny ad catches my eye: Elizabeth Pusey offers "Books for Steamer Gifts.... We Specialize in Personal Selections." My love of steamship books is documented on this blog elsewhere. Enough for now? I'll post one more Christmas book tomorrow.

Thursday, December 21, 2006


The joy of holiday books

What with buying and wrapping gifts, preparing food for a friend's solstice pot-luck tonight, being struck with car trouble (and we're supposed to travel this weekend), arranging who-goes-where-when with multiple family groups for Christmas, and generally rush rush rushing, I haven't been feeling the spirit. Unless the spirit is a grumpy spirit. So this morning I took some quiet time when I opened the shop to sit and look through a few favorite Christmas books. Many people collect holiday-themed books, and I never meant to, but I ended up with a small shelf of favorites anyway. My middle name is Noël and this time of year has always felt special for that reason. Other reasons, too.

A few years ago at a library sale I picked up a copy of The Angel Tree: A Celebration by Linn Howard and Mary Jane Pool, photographs by Elliott Erwitt (Abrams 1993). I wasn't sure what it was as I put it in my tote bag that day, but when I got back to the shop and had time to look it over, I truly was enchanted. The book has biblical quotations throughout, and the stars of the book are the incredible photographs of the collection of eighteenth-century Neapolitan crèche figurines at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Every year the Met displays the figurines on and around a huge blue spruce tree. The heads of the figurines are made of sculpted terra cotta with polychrome, their bodies of carved wood, hemp, and wire, and they remain dressed in their original clothing. Many of my favorite figures are from the group of angels on the tree - they are individual and alive in the way that old Meissen porcelain figurines are, and they speak to me of the eighteenth century. They are the antithesis of the contemporary plastic versions available at the local cheap-mart. They are beautiful and they fuel my soul like old carols do. A detail from one of the photographs:

In a 1960s article about the acquisition of the collection, a director at the Met wrote that the angels were "...clad in swirling pastel draperies, their hair knotted by a mystical wind, their cheeks flustered by a sweet celestial emotion..." (p.73) Collector Loretta Hines Howard gave 150 of these figurines to the Met for its permanent collection and they are on display there right now. If I was in New York, I'd go see them! But at least I have the book. I'm feeling better. More about holiday books tomorrow.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006


What a week

Interesting folks coming in this week. Exhibit A: one fellow asked me, point-blank, after walking around for a while, silent, "How do you make a living?" I looked back at him, thought about a fitting reply, and after a long pause said, "How do you make a living?" He started a little, and said, "I'm a surgeon." I said, "Great! I'm a bookseller." We talked for a while about poverty. He left without buying any books. Exhibit B: a patchouli-drenched guy who browsed a long time, bought a few books, and left his scent behind for hours, in every nook and cranny of the shop. Exhibit C: a woman bought books but we were chatting at the checkout, and she forgot to give me her check and I forgot to ask her for it. She came back, bless her. That's enough customer stories - for the most part, they've been calm, patient, happy, and lots of good books have gone out the door this week. I tell people that a good rule of thumb is "Buy one for a gift, and one for yourself; one for a gift, two for yourself; one for a gift, three..."

So what does one buy the booklover, if not a book? Well, here's one of my birthday gifts from Ryan - a perfect choice! Thanks, dear! I had a great birthday - made a new painting, kept shop, and at the end of the day my neighbors brought me a cake with books on it (I wish I had taken a picture of it, but instead, we ate it). In the evening I went on a date with my husband - lobstah chowdah and Christmas-lights gazing by the ocean. Growing older isn't so bad. Back to the books.

Monday, December 18, 2006


The year in review

This is a time of year for taking stock. The solstice approaches, not to mention Christmas, also my birthday is imminent and I'm feeling like I got far too much accomplished this year. Although not everything I planned to - fate saw to that, as she usually does. Anyway, next year I plan to relax a lot more: beachcomb, gaze out to sea, take long looks at interesting tree bark, read a few hundred books purely for pleasure (though really, is there any other way to read?), bake a lot of pies, doodle with watercolors, and generally have my feet up on the desk at the bookshop a heck of a lot more often. Right now, however, I'm concerned with the ghost of Christmas past, so I'm taking a look back through my old journals from this year. Here are a few of the books I'm happiest to have encountered. Some of these I've blogged about this year, some not:

The Oxford Book of Literary Anecdotes. Do I need to say more than that?

The Complete Stylist by Sheridan Baker. My friend Sue recommended this to me as a good basic writing guide. Paired with The Elements of Style, I couldn't ask for better. Bonus: a few illustrative passages in the text describe used bookshops.

The Eclogues of Virgil translated by David Ferry. "Time takes all we have away from us; /I remember when I was a boy I used to sing /Every long day of summer down to darkness, /And now I am forgetting all my songs;..." (p.75)

The Education of Henry Adams.

Anagrams by Lorrie Moore.

Consider the Lobster by David Foster Wallace.

The Art Spirit by Robert Henri. I read this every year. "We must paint only what is important to us, must not respond to outside demands. They do not know what they want, or what we have to give." (p.43)

U & I by Nicholson Baker.

Stop-Time by Frank Conroy.

Fever Pitch by Nick Hornby.

Table-Talk by William Hazlitt. "'Fine words butter no parsnips,' says the proverb." (p.198)

Book Business by Jason Epstein. "I am skeptical of progress. My instincts are archaeological. I favor the god Janus, who faces backward and forward at once." (pp.7-8)

Embers by Sandor Marai. The best novel I read this year. Could not put it down.

The Big House by George Howe Colt.

Tender is the Night by F. Scott Fitzgerald.

Living Well is the Best Revenge by Calvin Tomkins.

Dreamthorp by Alexander Smith (thanks, Dan, it is indeed beautiful).

You Can Go Home Again by Gene Logsdon.

Brat Farrar by Josephine Tey.

Labels by Evelyn Waugh. "...Fortune is the last capricious of deities, and arranges things on the just and rigid system that no one shall be very happy for very long." (p.168)

I Remember by Joe Brainard.

The Letters of James Schuyler to Frank O'Hara edited by William Corbett. "I've been working on a sort of a thing but if I don't see any large, or any, design in it, I don't much care. As long as a fellow keeps up his plain-sewing and hem-stitching there's bound to be something in his hope chest some day..." (p.9)

Joe: A Memoir of Joe Brainard by Ron Padgett.

On Painting by Leon Battista Alberti.

The Joy of Reading by Charles Van Doren.

The Architecture of Happiness by Alain de Botton. Can't have a book list without mentioning him.

Ellis Island by Mark Helprin. Ditto.

A Poetry Handbook by Mary Oliver. "This I have always known - that if I did not live my life immersed in the one activity which suits me, and which also, to tell the truth, keeps me utterly happy and intrigued, I could come someday to bitter and mortal regret." (p.120)

Father and Son by Edmund Gosse.

England Have My Bones by T.H. White. I hesitate to add this, because it takes the cake as the strangest book I've read this year. It has so many beautiful, lyrical passages. Some of them happen to be about shooting rabbits in the head. I gritted my teeth and read on, and didn't regret it. One bit about this unclassifiable book: his and his brother's pet cats are named Chatsworth and Chatterley.

I've got to wrap this up. I'm in the middle of the Robert Fagles translation of The Iliad right now. Bloody and grim, but beautiful. I'm waiting for a copy of The Cloudspotter's Guide by Gavin Pretor-Pinney to arrive in the mail. I hoped to finish the Pepys Diaries and didn't. This year I read many other books I haven't mentioned here, some memorable and some not, along with a ton or two of poetry, including books by Raymond Carver, Frank O'Hara, James Schuyler, William Corbett, Mary Oliver, Emily Dickinson, and Anne Porter.

A few of the best bookish experiences this year were of course seeing Mary Oliver and Augusten Burroughs. My one great regret of the year was not finding out that Bill Berkson was speaking in Maine until a full month after his talk (at the Skowhegan School, only an hour or two away). Rats rats and double rats.

I'll end for now with a few goofy highlights from my journals in general: best bingo this year in a Scrabble game was Ryan's use of the word squishy; best two bits of junk mail received were the numerous credit card solicitations addressed to Sarah S. Books and a flyer for a seminar entitled "Dealing with Difficult People" (I received this on a day when I had been doing just that and nothing else); best book found for a buck was a scarce Stephen King first edition in dust jacket in the dollar book bin at the supermarket (Ryan found it, and says "Vigilance!").

Okay, readers and friends, what books were your favorites during the year just past? Bookish experiences? Anyone actually read the new Pyncheon novel? What have I missed?

Friday, December 15, 2006


Amusing myself

I've been unable to blog much this week - too busy with other activities (selling books being but one) - but here are a few quick items of note from the blogosphere:

The Guardian has a nice bit about the Hergé show about to open in Paris. I love Tintin, I have since I was about ten. And I still read Tintin whenever I want something familiar and dependably terrific.

Jonathan always makes me smile, and this post is no exception. Ah, Richard Scarry (I always identified with Lowly Worm, myself).

Straying away from the bookish for but a moment, I must direct folks once again to my friend Sasha and her wheat-free cooking blog. I myself am not wheat-free, but my lord with food like this I'd never miss it. Looks like delicious comes first.

And speaking of good food, the Chowhound site has got to be one of the best resources for the hungry traveler. If you visit the site, click on the boards, and your region of the country or world to find out who considers what eateries truly worth visiting (and where the locals eat). I post here from time to time about food in Maine. There are foodies, and then there are chowhounds.

That's it for now - I'm busily (don't you just love adverbs!) selling books, and after work tonight I head out for a holiday dinner with two of my favorite bookdealers. Like we don't spend enough time talking about books as it is.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006


Book reviews and gift-giving

I've been reading the year's best reviews and lists over the last few days, and a few things caught my attention in The New York Review of Books. The first item jumped out at me from a big red full-page Houghton Mifflin holiday ad: the book at the top of the page is Richard Dawkins's The God Delusion (the blurb quotes The Economist review, "...a particularly comprehensive case against religion."). An interesting choice for gift-giving, I must say, at this most non-secular time of year. I haven't seen the book itself, so I can't comment on its contents, I can only conjur up an image of the dying dinosaur of the old scientific paradigm. I don't think I'd care to receive this in my stocking on the 25th; it seems more like a late-January or early-February book, when a bit of nihilism is standard fare.

Interestingly, I think, another ad from Houghton Mifflin a few pages later (this one in black and white, and smaller) leads off with Lee Smolin's The Trouble with Physics: The Rise of String Theory, the Fall of Science, and What Comes Next. And follows with Robert Richardson's biography of William James. Those I might want to read.

Toward the back of the same issue, I see a sidebar ad for those very classy NYRB classics. The good folks there have reprinted several of the works of Patrick Leigh Fermor, and heading the list are my very favorites, A Time of Gifts and Between the Woods and the Water, about his walking journey across Europe. I think these would be a fine addition to one's Christmas list. The NYRB site even has them listed for 25% off.

I realize that I'm noticing and recommending books from the ads, rather than from the reviews. I can only come to this humbling conclusion: the ads have pictures of books. Which I like. I am so simple.

On to The New York Times Book Review, which has a big fat sidebar ad for the complete OED, "Now only $895.00" - I'll take two dozen! The OED for all my friends!

Later, I see a few books I'd like to read, should they ever cross my desk: A.N. Wilson's biography of John Betjeman (a real review), E.H. Gombrich's A Little History of the World (another ad), The Ode Less Travelled by Stephen Fry (ad), a new book about Winslow Homer (review, but there's a picture of the actual book in it), and for curiosity's sake, Sound Bites by Alex Kapranous, the lead guy in the band Franz Ferdinand, about the food he eats on tour around the world (review, quite good, and I do like to read about food adventures).

I never did find an issue of the year-in-review TLS, sadly. I assume it came and went at the local Borders. The poor harassed clerk looked at me and said, "I just don't know, and no, no one else here knows either," when I asked her when it came in every week. I didn't have the heart to argue with her (Someone must know!) No other bookstore within reasonable driving distance carries it. I really must break down and subscribe one of these days. Even though it doesn't usually have lots of pictures of books in it.

Almost finished with my holiday shopping, such as it is - a few books left to go.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006


Booksellers' tickets revisited yet again

Over a year ago I began this blog, and one of my earliest entries featured a few of my favorite booksellers' tickets (labels, marks, call them what you will, I've always known them as tickets so that is my fallback term). Little did I know that that post would cause me to meet other people who collect these little gems, and a year later, that I would have traded tickets with several folks around the globe. This is apropos of the package I received yesterday from Don in California, who has already supplied Greg with many many tickets, and Don saw fit to send me a batch of his duplicates, bless him. Here are a few I found particularly pleasing:

I now have packets of duplicates set aside to send a few other collectors. Thanks, Don - your largesse truly made my day yesterday (and continues to...). I sat around the shop for hours with a table covered with tickets of all shapes, sizes, colors, locales. Customers came in, the phone rang, books and cash changed hands, other things did happen, but it's mostly a blur, because all I wanted to do was organize these new tickets. Bliss.

After a year of blogging, I'd say that readers have found the blog and contacted me the most because of two passions of mine, which they (you) share: collecting these tickets, and admiring the writing of Christopher Morley. And these two pursuits share common characteristics, do they not - they are bookish, gentle, unique, often precious or fey or belles-lettrish (whatever the adjective is to describe Morley's unique blend of humor and highmindedness, and these tickets' quirkiness and tiny beauty). A close third is the topic of used bookshop-keeping, as in, How do you do it, and how can I do it too?? Be bookish, gentle, unique...

Saturday, December 09, 2006


There are book lists

And then there are book lists. I must extend thanks to dear friend-in-books Vicky for a holiday gift, early - she dropped in a few days ago and left me this, after saying, "I have never seen a book more Sarah than this one...":

Published by Dodd, Mead & Company, 1900, this is a lovely old journal for keeping track of those books one has read and wishes to remember. This copy is half-filled with the notes of a Miss Batchelder of Peabody, Massachusetts. Here is a sample of her copious note-taking - this entry is for a two-volume Goethe set (Ticknor 1867) she read in 1911:

It appears that she had good intentions from 1908 through 1916, then she took a long break and finally noted a few more books read in the 1940s (the ascenders and descenders in the handwriting look the same to me, so I'll assume it's the same person). Tucked in are several small sheets of paper with more even bookish notes, obviously intended to be written in this journal at some later date, which never arrived. The best of these notes are these:

As we can see, Miss Batchelder read, or meant to read, Sunwise Turn: A Human Comedy of Bookselling, about the Sunwise Turn bookshop in New York City. A hopelessly idealistic memoir, one which I dearly love. "Think always ceaselessly. This is the only duty - the only happiness..." Read always ceaselessly, we could extend this fine thought. There's nothing so sweetly ephemeral as ephemera such as this.

Friday, December 08, 2006


Hopelessly behind the times...

...and that's just how I like it. This thought is prompted by a look at the little page that blogger/google tacks on to my screen when I start a new blog entry - today's has a bit on it about the next new thing, videoblogging. Dear oh dear. This, I do not think I am capable of. In actuality, I want to return to the days of empty cans and string. Or even better, scratchy quill pens and foolscap. Anyhow, I realized this week that I've been blogging for over a year now, which must be at least ten years in web-time, so I'm feeling kind of with it. Despite the fact that (Oh how Strunk hated that phrase...) I do not carry a cellphone, don't have an ipod, have a rotary-dial phone at the bookshop, and have a fondness for metal type and vinyl records, I feel quite modern. Retro-modern.

A good week here at the shop - fairly busy, selling an interesting selection of books, hence refilling the coffers somewhat. Most folks seem to be buying books for themselves, rather than for gifts, a classic used bookshop problem. My pal Micah said that his family has hinted that they don't want any books this year from him. Ingrates!

I am literally hoping to be behind the Times this evening - after closing I'm going out to the local Borders (Yes, yes, I know) in search of the year's best reading issue of the TLS. It arrives in Maine around five days after publication. I'm thinking about holiday gift recommendations, and my own year's best books. More on those topics soon.

Thursday, December 07, 2006


Another reader from the far side of the world

I heard last night from Antony, in Grevena, Greece, who says he's reading, and further endears himself to me by quoting Christopher Morley:

"He had the true passions of the book-lover, which are not allotted to many. He read hungrily, enjoying chiefly those magical draughts of prose which linger in the mind…. and he loved, above all, those writers who can present truth with a faint tang of acid flavour, the gooseberry jam of literature, as it were."

We do enjoy the bittersweet, in books, do we not? How happy I am to know that someone in Greece cares who Christopher Morley is. I'm pink with pleasure. Thanks, Antony.

An unrelated note - I am currently unable to post comments on my own blog. So Dan, and Cy, I'm not ignoring you, and in fact wish to respond, but my comments window simply will not open. I understand that others using blogger beta are also experiencing difficulties in this matter. Apologies to anyone who has tried to comment recently and has been unable to. I assume blogger is working frantically to correct this problem, while I sit here with my feet up, browsing a few new books, remaining sanguine.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006


Music for bookshops II

A completely unlooked-for consequence of my last post on this subject: I've received several music mixes from various sources and I have say thanks, guys, for the fine new tunes. I can now play the stiff little fingers version of White Christmas, or This Time of Year by The Mighty Mighty Bosstones, or some dance music from Scissor Sisters, should the need arise. Meanwhile, I'm surprised that no one commented below about being assailed by music in bookshops - as in "I can't browse when there's music playing and I prefer a hushed, quiet atmosphere," or even, "Music is an art form that deserves one's complete attention (at its best) and to have good music playing as background music is an insult to the music." I myself hope that good music contributes to the overall atmosphere of a shop - and as most used bookshops I know of are quirky affairs, each one reflecting the style of the proprietor, music only serves to further that impression of said style. Playing today: Nickel Creek, The Be Good Tanyas, and Mekons. And my new mixes of course (shades of High Fidelity). Rock on, booklovers.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006


And another site to see

One of the most interesting things about blogging is hearing from people thousands of miles away, entire continents away, while I sit here in my provincial little shop - it makes the world seem much smaller, and a heck of a lot friendlier. I say this because I received a very kind email from Leonard, who lives in Goa, India, about my blog and his new business endeavor. He's set up an eBay-ish/Amazon-ish site, Dogears Etc., the first of its kind in India. People can list their books for sale, or enter their want lists (this strikes me as a great way for first edition collectors or completists to find Indian-published versions of their favorite authors, certainly a difficult task before now). Leonard will be blogging, too. Very cool.


Altered books alert - a site to see

My sweet pal Marisa emailed this to me yesterday. Take a look, and let the slide show play for a while - some of these altered books make me want to run to the library to interlibrary loan them up here so I can get my bookish paws on them, and some, well, not so much. I like the concept of the project, overall - I've always felt sorry for old library discards, unloved and unread and ultimately unbought leftovers at friends-of-the-libray book sales, so it's interesting to see them reborn in this way, no matter how one feels about the subject of altered books in general.

Monday, December 04, 2006


Snow is falling today, white and quiet

This is the time of year when people around here joke about global warming being a hoax: today, the white stuff careening out of the sky at us, sideways, the painfully cold wind, and knowing we have months of this ahead. At the same time, everyone I know says, and I say too, "The winters aren't as bad as they used to be!" and we're right. I remember snow up to the eaves of my grammar school roof, and that hasn't happened around here in a long long time. To wit: last night I finally watched Al Gore's film An Inconvenient Truth and this morning I found myself angrily eyeing the local fleet of SUVs and monster trucks as I waited for the light to change at the downtown crosswalk near my shop. I myself share a small high-mileage vehicle with my husband, I walk to work, and after seeing this film, I plan on reducing my carbon output even further. Of course the used book business is a fine example of recycling, is it not...

Sandy is one of my dear pals. She's also one of my heroes. One of her goals at her forestry certification company is to have the logging/lumbering/forestry products business in Maine (and elsewhere) leave a ZERO carbon footprint in the woods. She is a true warrior. She takes action in the way Al Gore urges us all to take action, in his film. An aphorism appears at the end of the film - an African proverb, "When you pray, move your feet." Don't just wring your hands. Kind of funny to feel so fired up today, when it's this cold outside and the snow is flurrying with so much beauty. Makes me love this world even more than usual.

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