Real Books/Real Life
A Bookseller's Life
Saturday was bliss. A 2-hour car ride on a beautiful blue and bright morning with my two favorite people--my husband and daughter--to Amherst, Massachusetts. First stop--theEmily Dickinson Museum
where our first sight was Emily's big yellow house where she wrote almost 2000 poems. What an honor and joy to walk through her home and imagine her living there--and to think of her playfully and humbly writing:
My favorite part was her bedroom where her window overlooked who was coming and going from the front door; with her little--tiny, really--desk; and her simple bed and dresser and nightstand with the porcelain basin.
I also loved going next door to her brother Austin's house where her best friend, her sister-in-law Susan, would throw parties for the Amherst high society. Of course, Emily would never attend them, but she would send Susan loving notes on a silver tray to wish her a fine time.
Next stop--lunch at the Lone Wolf Restaurant
for a plate of scrambled eggs, bacon, and blueberry pancakes--and loads of delicious coffee. What a great place with wonderful people!
Last stop--the Eric Carle Museum
where we strolled around for a couple of hours entranced by the artwork of children's book illustrator, Eric Carle, and others including: Allen Say, Chris Van Allsburg, Simms Taback, William Steig, Jules Feiffer, Quentin Blake, Petra Mathers, Arnold Lobel, Leo Leonni, Antonio Frasconi, Tony DiTerlizzi, and others.
What a delight for a bunch of Ringler booklovers!!! I just wanted to pack up all the books in the gift shop and bring them all home. Then I remembered that I already have many of them in my own bookstore, East Line Books. And the ones I don't have, I went home and ordered! :)
There is nothing like a beautifully illustrated children's book--no better treasure.
A wonderful weekend was had by all!
I love books. I collect them. I give them away. I share them with others. I sell them.
It's the selling that makes my book life interesting--especially the selling online. When you sell online, your customer base is made up of readers from every state in America and sometimes from booklovers in other countries. That's why an online seller must maintain a selection of books that some of us would find harder to sell in a brick-and-mortar bookstore. Some might be called obscure. Others are just expensive because they are so rare. And still others are multicultural books that I've tried in the bookstore but they haven't moved.
Here's a look at three books randomly chosen from my online bookstore, which I keep at my house.
The Tiger Hunters by Anatoly Builov, translated from Russian, is one of my favorites. The cover shows three beautifully illustrated lions just lolling around in the snow-covered woods. There is something so charming about the scene. I see that someone has recently brought this title back as a print-on-demand. I feel proud to have a hard copy. The new printer's summary is: COMPELLING HISTORY OF SPECIAL OPERATIONS IN SUPPORT OF US EIGHT ARMY'S CRITICAL STRUGGLE OF SURVIVAL DURING THE KOREAN WAR. HISTORY IN ITS FINEST HOUR.
Here is an excerpt randomly chosen from page 93:
"Throw off your pack!" almost shouted Pavel with authority.
The bear pushed his forehead and ears out of the hole. Nikolai obediently threw off his pack.
"Shove a round in the breech," ordered Pavel softly. He slowly raised his carbine to his shoulder and waited for the bear to put his whole head out...
Nikolai stood with the carbine at his shoulder , taking aim at the bear. Pavel distinctly remembered that there were only four rounds in the magazine of Nikolai's carbine.
"Shove a round in the breech, damn you!" he insisted furiously.
"You go to hell!" snarled Nikolai.
Doesn't it make you want to read more? And find out what happens? I actually do know. In the next instant, the bear charges. That's all I'm going to say.
Here is an excerpt from Together with the AINU, A Vanishing People by M. Inez Hilder, randomly chosen from page 49:
A deceased Ainu is dressed in his ordinary clothes, including his underwear and socks. Socks are reversed on the feet with heels resting on the top of the feet. Women relatives prepare a woman's body; the wife or mother or a close woman relative, a man's body. A man's loincloth, however, is changed by a close male relative.
Another excerpt, this one from John Deere, Blacksmith Boy, page 152:
But in spite of John's fine workmanship and his growing business, hard times were just ahead for the Deere family. One cold winter night when the wind was blowing hard, John and Demarius heard a pounding on the door.
It was Lemual Derby. "Hurry, John!" he shouted. "Your shop's ablaze!"
John pulled on his trousers over his night shirt and ran toward the smithy. He got there just in time to see the flaming roof cave in. No one could even get close to the roaring fire.
How much do books like these go for on the Internet?
The Tiger Hunters is $29.95; Together with the AINU goes for $12.95; and John Deere, Blacksmith Boy (a 1964 hardcover in excellent condition) costs $24.95. And you need to add $3.99 shipping for each.
So, online selling is a way to find treasures--not only as the buyer, but also, as the seller. Because I am catering to a wide and diverse online population, I acquire and read books I never would have picked up. And I am grateful for that.
This is Neil Gaiman's library. Mine looks just like it. :)
2:47 AM. I sit straight up in bed, my head hunched forward over my laptop so it doesn't touch the wall behind me. Why? Because I am dyeing my hair. Yup. Loreal from Paris, Natural Medium Brown is dribbling down my scalp and reeking through my bedroom.
But I don't mind.
Because, for once, a rare opportunity arises. A 45-minute respite from life in which I am forced to sit on my bed watching time pass on my alarm clock. And I'd rather do anything than watch time pass.
So I turn to the stack of books at my bedside and remind myself what I've been collecting close by me at night, so close that I can ease my itty-bitty-book-light out of the night stand and sneak in more reading once my husband falls asleep.
Early November and I can tell where my life interersts lie because of what I'm reading: The Art of Making Magazines: On Being an Editor and Other Views from the Industry, an outstanding book, edited by Victor S. Navasky and Evan Corning. I discovered this book at the CP/Halfmoon Public Library in a wonderful nonfiction display, read a few paragraphs and sprinted to make it mine through East Line Book's main supplier, Baker & Taylor. I love John Gregory Dunne's (Joan Didion's late husband) essay about how a seasoned writer brings "professional DNA to a story".
Next, A Family of Readers: The Book Lover's Guide to Children's and Young Adult Literature by Roger Sutton & Martha V. Parravano--what the Boston Globe calls "A godsend for adults who want to instill a passion for reading in the next generation." With that comment on the front cover, how could I pass it up? And, I have to say, the books the authors suggest for kids are OUTSTANDING. I have just ordered almost all of them for East Line Books. The only reason I didn't order ALL of them was because some are out of print (I did order used copies when I could find them reasonably priced) and because I didn't want to go broke. But you can bet that whole bibliography will end up on our shelves at East Line!
Okay, the rest of the list: Women of Words: A Personal Introduction to Thirty-Five Important Writers; Out of the Mold: Independent Voices Breaking Out of the Mold, Published in Celebration of Independent Bookselling (HOORAY!!); The Best of The Sun, Volume 2 (I already own Volume 1); Curiosities of Literature; A Pocketful of Prose; Reading Group Choices--2013; and How to Read Literature Like a Professor.
And now you know why, when you ask me if I've read Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn (a riveting book I am told) or Telegraph Avenue by Michael Chabon (which I hear is great), I say, NOT YET. I will get to it, believe me, because I LOVE novels.
And I LOVE books about writing.
And I LOVE biographies and memoirs.
And I LOVE classics.
And I LOVE poetry.
And I LOVE children's and young adult books.
And I LOVE cookbooks.
And I LOVE nonfiction in general.
And I LOVE....Well, you get the idea.
P.S. And this is why I shouldn't dye my own hair. I inevitably get lost in the books at my bedside which is why my hair now looks combustible black. But, you know what? It was worth it.
I just got word that beloved children's author and illustrator, Maurice Sendak, died this morning from complications of a stroke. I cannot stop crying. When I say "beloved" author, I am really referring to my own feelings. Maurice Sendak was, I'm sure, loved by many. But all I know is how I felt about him. And I loved him deeply, even though I never met the guy. That thought in itself is cause for hesitation. How, I ask myself, can I feel so grief stricken about a man I never met?
The only answer I can come up with is that I didn't have to know Maurice Sendak personally to love him. I loved him because of the impact he had on the lives of my daughter, my husband and me.
The images are coming full force: Lily and I on our favorite easy chair, snuggled in close, reading Where the Wild Things Are. Bob and Lily laughing as he reads her a bedtime story, In the Night Kitchen. The images remind me that we read Maurice Sendak's books to Lily when she was very young, but also, continued to read them for many years. They had a sort of ageless quality and they made a lasting impact.
The power of reading. The joy of reading. The delight in rebelliousness--on the page. The beauty of illustrations, even illustrations of hairy, curmudgeonly monsters. The simplicity of a story about a boy and wild things or a kid named Mickey and what happens in the "night kitchen."
My husband and I not only read Maurice Sendak's books to our daughter, but we also talked about them. We told her Sendak based his illustrations of the wild things on some of his old relatives who seemed scary when he was a kid. Laughing, we thought of our own "scary" relatives and understood exactly where Sendak was coming from. We talked about the controversy of Sendak's illustrations of Mickey, swirling into a bottle of milk, a glimpse of his little boy penis showing--and how that particular illustration caused a ban of In the Night Kitchen
in many places.
I can picture Lily and I singing Chicken Soup with Rice, Then Came Johnny and all the songs Carly Simon sang based on the books, which we poured over while we sang, basking in the illustrations.
Reading about his life, we tried to understand Maurice Sendak's pain (he lost relatives in the Holocaust and spent many of his childhood years in a sick bed.) And we related his pain, but also his unique sense of humor and individuality, to his art. And we loved him for his humanity.
I feel pain trying to comprehend that Maurice Sendak is gone. But, the truth is, he will always be close. Particularly in my book store. I have the joy of knowing that his books are where they ought to be--in the children's room in East Line Books where I work everyday. All I have to do is pick one up and open it.
Am vacationing in Saranac Lake for another day or two and just felt the earthquake originating in Virginia. Was sitting in my bedroom working on the computer, all others were down on the dock. Suddenly, the whole room swayed back and forth, back and forth, gently, not strongly enough to knock books off the shelf. But definitely, the room around me was moving as I sat and looked on. This house, owned by my in-laws is more than 100 years old--it is the house where Charles Evans Hughes (governor of NY and Supreme Court Justice) ran his campaign for President of the United States. With the swaying of the bedroom from side to side came a creaking sound, terrifying, that made it sound and feel like the house might just fall down. Ten seconds passed and it was over. I raced out on the upstairs balcony to find a light breeze, the world in order. How could it be? What had just happened in that room was surreal. But the world outside was normal and when I yelled to my husband and daughter, they came and inspected in and out of the house, nothing appeared abnormal. It was only a half hour later that reports came in of a 5.9 earthquake in Virginia
, felt up and down the northeast. I felt the earthquake from the farthest northern point that I have heard of so far. And it was life changing. For those ten seconds, I was't sure what would happen.
One of my customers at East Line Books told me she never carries a book from room to room. She has at least 3 or 4 books going at once and just reads whichever book has been left in whatever room she is in!
Today, at my bedside, I have:
Sunset Park by Paul Auster
The Complete Short Stories of Ernest Hemingway (The Finca Vigia Edition)
Breakdown by Lydia Davis
The Unnamed by Joshua Ferris
Then We Came to the End by Joshua Ferris
The Broom of the System by David Foster Wallace
The Pale King by David Foster Wallace
A Supposedly Fun Thing I'll Never Do Again by David Foster Wallace
In the Devil's Territory by Kyle Minor
Half a Life by Darin Strauss
Tin House (Literary Journal)
Creative Nonfiction (Literary Journal)
Hypocrite in a White Dress by Susan Jane Gilman
The Widow's Story by Joyce Carol Oates
Shutter Island by Dennis Lehane
Who the Hell is Pansy O'Hara? The Fascinating Stories Behind 50 of the World's Best-Loved Books by Jenny Bond and Chris Sheedy
Gotham Writers' Workshop Fiction Gallery
Shinmmering Images: A Handy Little Guide to Writing Memoir by Lisa Dale Norton
The Five Senses by F. Gonzalez-Crusi
The Ecco Anthology Contemporary American Short Fiction edited by Joyce Carol Oates
The Journal of Joyce Carol Oates 1973-1982
WHAT BOOKS DO YOU HAVE AT YOUR BEDSIDE??
NEWS! BORDERS BOOKS IN SARATOGA IS CLOSING--Click "More" for full story
I have to admit I feel very sad that the Borders in Saratoga Springs is scheduled to close in the next few weeks. It is my favorite Borders, one I have visited and supported many times over the years with my family. I will miss it as I'm sure you will too!
Please know how important it is for you to support your local bookshops so they can stay in business and be there for you. All of the bookshops in our area need regular support from booklovers like you to keep going. Thank you to all who have supported East Line Books! I will continue to ask for your help as the years go on and I know you will be there for us.
Check out this link for the Saratogian to read more:
It's not easy being a bookseller or owning any small, local business these days. Despite promotional campaigns that encourage community members to BUY LOCAL
, many still buy on computer websites that have nothing to do with their own towns or neighborhoods. Yes, these websites may offer lower prices, but they do not have the ripple effect of getting people out to shop which will, in turn, cause them to stop for coffee or lunch at a local place, stop at the local drug or grocery store, or pick up take-out for dinner.
Buying from impersonal websites may be cheaper at the time of the individual purchase but, in the end, consistent buying online may lead to the destruction of local businesses and whole towns. There is a reason to pay a little more.
In the book business, for example, if you don't exactly know what you want--I can help you pick out the perfect book for your grandchild, daughter, son, mother, father, friend, grandparent, even teacher. I know the authors and books so well that I can help you find the perfect read.
In my store, you can sit in the big easy chairs at the front of the bookshop, sip a cup of free coffee or tea and chat with me or other customers about books or whatever comes up. It is a place to connect with people, to keep from being isolated at a computer buying things in an impersonal environment. Now you can order things without even speaking to an individual on the telephone and we are becoming an increasingly isolated society.
Stop in to your local bookshop and have a conversation--independent and used bookshops are the ultimate places of comfort. The people behind the counter are almost always there to enjoy conversation themselves (I know I am!) and often customers will start talking with each other. It's a great, safe, relaxed environment to get connected with other people especially if you join the bookshop's book club, writing groups or classes, or other events.
As a bookshop owner, I can tell you it is very difficult to make ends meet. But the more community support we get, the more secure our business becomes and the more sure we can be that we will be there for you when you want an outing where you can connect with humanity.