Friday, July 30, 2010


Books about stitching and books
about magicians and

and shape-shifting and war,
And chocolate.
And seven about heaven
and artists and love, and

and birth and Prague,
Budapest, and

And my children are asleep without me but I trust
they read books about trains and hedges and ducks, and
I don't know what will cross my path tomorrow.
Books about maps, or books about judges, or
books marked by fingertips, erasers, smudges.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

100% Ramona Quimby

I had the choice between reading two books: The Boxcar Children or Ramona the Pest. Somehow, children who lived in a boxcar by themselves did not sound interesting to me. My second grade teacher suggested that I read about Ramona because she would interest me. I quickly went back to my desk and started reading. I couldn’t stop. Like Ramona, I too lived in an uncomprehending world where things rarely went as planned and had times when no one understood me. When I was done reading my first chapter book, I was eager to continue on with Ramona Quimby, Age 8 (which in my opinion is the best of the whole series -- I think I'm on my fourth copy of it now). Beverly Cleary continues to open the doors to the wondrous world of reading and I'm elated that her books are still around and that I can pass it on to readers today.

Last night, I saw it on the big screen.

The movie really captured the characters. Bea is the loving, supportive aunt who understands Ramona's frustrations and jumbled feelings. Bob, Ramona's father, is the artist and comedian of the family. Beezus is the "perfect" older sister who loves her family but is often embarrassed by them... And Ramona is the still the artistic, lovable, accident prone little girl who is really trying to grow up -- even though her antics often reflect otherwise.

All in all, it was a good movie with a lot of scenes from the books. I did feel it was a little crammed with situations and Ramona's antics, but on the other hand, the constant action really reflected Ramona's energy. There were also two plot issues I didn't like (but I'm not going to tell you, otherwise I'd spoil part of the climax) and am sad that "Yard Ape" was missing. But I'm willing to let that go. I mean, hey, it's the movie adaptation of an entire series. I was a creative writing major in both under grad and grad school -- which included a lot of lit criticism -- there's bound to be some disagreeing here. What kills a book-made-into-a-movie is when they completely change the themes and heart of the story (like Peter Pan and 101 Dalmatians. Disney totally massacred those!). But the movie Ramona and Beezus has Beverly Cleary's style and comedy written all over it. I even heard from several articles that Cleary was involved in writing the script! Plus, it was great to see Ramona find herself in new situations and watch her come alive in a whole new way.

Contrary to many reviews, this movie is NOT based on Beezus and Ramona, which focuses more on Beezus and her exasperation with her four year old sister, Ramona. The movie is:

25% Ramona and her Father
22% Ramona and her Mother
16% Ramona Forever
14% Ramona Quimby, Age 8
12% Ramona's World
11% Ramona the Brave

These books -- as well as the movie -- contain little television, no cell phones, and no computers. It's pure awesomeness, or in Ramona's words, is "terrifical". It's fun to jump around when reading this series, rather than go in order (or maybe I'm just being biased because that's how I read them). Ramona is a classic character in the world of children's literature. If you haven't read this series, DO! You won't be sorry. Out of the hundreds of people I've discussed and recommended these books to, only two people did not like them. So, I'm going to claim that 99% of readers will fall in love with Ramona and want to keep reading about her life on Klickitat Street.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Building A Library

My husband, Chris, is going to be an elementary teacher soon. (Fall of 2011!) A wise friend of ours, who is also a teacher, suggested he start collecting books now; books for his classroom library. Chris took this advice very seriously and since that moment dozens upon dozens, if not hundreds of children's books have flooded into our small apartment. There are neat piles of picture books, stacks of early readers and Little Golden Books on almost every flat surface. Boxes of books categorized by reading level have already been stowed away in our office, ready for the day they'll be unpacked in a new classroom.

These books have been found in thrift store basements, yard sales, paperback swaps, and used book stores (and cellars, like ours!) The search for great books has been a fun (and healthy) obsession for him, and along the way we've both been discovering old favorites, long out of print, and new favorites that we missed in the (many) years between college and now.

Just the other day he found a pristine copy of The Real Mother Goose for only $1. We sat on the couch flipping through the pages pointing out the rhymes and drawings that we'd especially loved as kids. I had forgotten all about that book and it was kind of mind blowing (seriously) to be zapped back in time to when I couldn't get enough of it and drew all over the pages with crayon.

A new discovery for me, from our very own UBC, was A Hole is To Dig, by Ruth Krauss and illustrated by Maurice Sendak. I hadn't known this book as a child but I wish I did! It's so perfectly wonderful - I heartily recommend it. And it's now in Chris' collection so a whole new generation of kids will be able to discover it.

On a side note, this is pretty obvious but it was still kind of a new realization for me when I was thinking about it today: kids books will never be replaced by a kindle or any other e-reader. You cannot draw on a kindle (without making someone really upset) nor can you dig through a pile of out of print books on a kindle. But that's not what I'm here to talk about today.

Building this library for future students has really been fun. If you have any suggestions, let me know!

Monday, July 26, 2010

Evening routines

Last night Jackson let Libbie sit between the two of us while I read (sang) 10 Bears in My Bed before lights out. "There were ten in his bed so the little one said" made Jack's head bob side to side in rhythm, a sure sign of how tired he really was - he normally is against anything fun like snapping fingers, humming along, or even the slightest suggestion of dancing. Our little Puritan. Libbie gets her little books read to her first when there is only one parent around for bedtime, and, grateful to share Jack's book, she was very respectful this time, pointing to one thing on each page with a quite "Yucka da." No trying to turn the page early, good sister.

It will be one parent at bedtime for about a month, since Jess will be out until well past midnight getting Othello up and running on the Commons. It's gonna be a bloody, bloody production. If you've never treated yourself to one of the greatest things this city has to offer, you should make a point of it this year. The Bard, a blanket, a bottle of wine...check it out, or kick yourself until next year.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Using the Bathroom in the Beast

I went whale watching yesterday and saw 5 humpback whales eating together and breathing and swimming with their sexy selves-- and even a baby calf breaching a bit. I was lucky...and they served beer. I was very lucky.

On our way back to Brookline we had to find a bathroom, and the only public one available was at Borders. I felt conflicted. I decided it would be good research. I thought I'd check out their poetry section. After 7 minutes of ardently hunting for it I finally asked a nice bookseller to help me find it...which after some difficulty she finally did. The section wasn't as cool as ours ( I am of course biased) and it looked like it needed some serious love.

I had to keep myself from straightening it up. To address my compulsive shelving inclinations I thought I'd check out their psych section...which I had to again ask for help in locating. Turns out they put sociology downstairs and hide psych upstairs....weird. Strike two...mostly self help books and strange guys lurking in the aisles doing god knows what in their sweatpants. Finally I went to look at their staff rec's section...and this is the thrust of this particular was awful. Every book the staff had recommended was already a best seller! Whaaaaaaaa? Where were the funky obscure titles someone wouldn't know about otherwise? Isn't that the heart of a bookseller's job?--to champion the unseen and give a book that Oprah hasn't touched a chance?

I felt sad...because of the uninspired selection...but also because I shoulda been thinking about whales. The point is, thank you for choosing our store. I would be a different person if I worked in a beast.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Play Time!

We're more than just books, but I'm sure you already knew that. Did you know that we are beginning to branch out into educational toys and some other fun odds and ends? I have a lot of toy retail experience in addition to four years as a children's book seller (I still love to play with toys, too) and I'm really excited as to what we are offering. Look at all this cool new stuff we have!

 A few of my personal favorites on the table above are:

Soap Sacks
are little critters that you can put your soap in. Why would you want to do this? Well, once the soap is inside of the animal, you can scrub yourself (or your child) soapy clean without the frustration of dropping that slippery soap everywhere. Don't worry about any soap mildew building up; you can throw them into the washing machine for cleaning as needed.

Wooden Bug Blocks
are so cool! These handcrafted blocks contain letters, numbers, and pictures of bugs. Building time will never be the same. We also have a Hebrew block set, a lowercase letter block set, and an uppercase block set. The letters are carved into the wood, so when your children's children are enjoying these alphabet and number blocks and the paint is fading, the letters will still be there! All of these blocks are made in the USA.

Twig Blocks are wooden building blocks with a twist. These ones are designed to build AND fit inside of each other. Just think of the possibilities here.

What Time is It? I've had a lot of parents ask if we have a time telling book. I'm sad to say that there aren't many available. But, never fear, for now, we have a game! Eeboo's (which is a fabulous brand) What Time is It? is a time telling game that teaches kids how to tell time off of a standard wall clock as well as a digital clock. It takes 1-4 players and these clocks and double-sided-flashcards can be used over and over again.

The PlayMe sets above are very popular in nearby private and Montessori schools. I had a chance to play with all four of these toys and they were all really fun and definitely unique. 

PlayMe Animals Creator is great for kids who love to put things together and take them apart. Through using the enclosed wooden screws, nuts, and various parts included, you can put together animal-iffic creations. Instructions are included for creating a giraffe, ram, elephant, crab, swan, and more. There's even a bike, boat, and airplane, too! It's a 3-d puzzle without the frustration of the pieces not fitting together.

PlayMe Numeric Puzzle is great for kids learning their numbers, but do not have the dexterity to hold or use a pencil properly. Why? Because most of the wooden pieces are not complete letters. They are pieces of letters that the child must fit together. You can also make really cool designs with these pieces like faces, a house, bird, truck, an umbrella, and more. This is truly a puzzle like no other.

BambinoLuk (ages 3-5) and MiniLuk (ages 6-adult) sets are actually neat renditions of the game of Memory. Each Starter Kit contains one booklet, six tiles, and one case. You begin by placing a specific tile over the picture. Then you have to move the tile to its corresponding picture below. The first page is always the easiest, where you match the same picture. But as you progress, the puzzles get trickier. Pretty soon you have to match things like footprints with the object that made them, and cookie cutters to the right cookie shape. When each puzzle is complete, you close and flip the tray over to reveal a design. That design should match the design in the lower corner of the page. There are other booklets to purchase as you go along. These challenging games help you and your child to develop concentration, memory, motor skills, basic math concepts, and more.

PlayMe Playful Math is a neat way to learning counting as well as fractions. I really wish these were around when I was learning fractions, because they make a lot of sense. There is a set of numbered blocks, for learning addition and subtraction. And, there is a set of blocks with fractions on them for learning how fractions work. These blocks are designed so that the fractions match up to one whole block. So, two 1/6 blocks together are the same length as one 1/3 block. Likewise, four ¼ blocks together are the same length as the 1 block. In between all that learning, this educational tool doubles over to make great building blocks.

All of our toys meet all of the safety standards and are non-toxic. I would also like to point out that two of our buyers, who are selecting these items, have young children and naturally have the same concerns as all you parents out there as they order.

Come on by and check out our new sources of fun and learning. Don't worry, we're NOT pulling a Barnes and Noble -- we will mainly be carrying different stock from our neighborhood stores. Think of our selection as a new flavor in the toy and bookstore world. And, in the words of Paul, author of our weekly B-Mails, "We are banking on the belief that you like your children, you want them to have fun, and you think that they might be smart. That's because we see them in the store all the time, and we think they're smart, too! We have the finest in classically crafted wooden toys and mentally challenging games and puzzles for kids from ages 0-infinity. More will be coming in soon, but you should definitely stop in and see all that we have to offer, and pick up a gift for the bright young mind in your life!"

Delightful reads, endless creativity, and fantastic discoveries are waiting for you. :)

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

The Kindness of Strangers

I fielded a phone call this evening that went like this:

Me: Hi, Brookline Booksmith, how can I help you?

Him: I'm looking for a book. Can you check and see if you have it?

Me: Sure, what are you looking for?

Him: Antigone.

I quickly look it up and say:
Me: It doesn't look like we have it at the moment but...

Him: You don't have Antigone?! What kind of pretentious bookstore are you?

Me: Hmm, well, I don't think we are pretentious... we have a copy of the complete plays of Soph-...

Him: Nah, I'm going to call Barnes & Noble.



Personally, I think we are an extremely unpretentious group of people here at Brookline Booksmith. Usually, if we don't have a book it's because somebody else just bought the last copy, we put one on hold for someone or maybe there's a new edition of the book and we're just waiting for it to come in. We are definitely not, as the Oxford English Dictionary says, attempting to impress anyone by affecting greater importance, talent, culture or merit than is actually possessed.
I'm sad he hung up on me. I was going to tell him that we do carry the complete plays of Sophocles, which includes Antigone, or we could have ordered something and gotten it to him in just a couple of days. And then there are the used books to consider. There were so many options I could have offered him!

Maybe he was having a rotten day and just needed to take it out on someone. I hope he found the book he was looking for. As for me, I've got to go get a bandaid for someone with a scrape.

Trailer Books

My new favorite trend in the publishing world is that of the book trailer, wherein a book, or a book's release, is treated as though it were a movie, and given a preview clip, or in most cases, a sexy advertisement, often starring celebrities or fancy animation. I find these exciting. I seek them out on youtube. I dream of making one. Last week, c/o of fellow blogger Katie, you were given one of my favorite book trailers for the new Gary Shteyngart novel. After viewing the trailer, I want to read his new book. And i'm not even a big Gary Shteyngart guy. At any rate, here a few of my favorites:

The last one was animated by Greg Lytle for a book my press released called "I Am In The Air Right Now by the insanely talented Kathryn Regina. This video, in fact, was nominated for, and won, a Moby Award for best low budget/indie trailer. Yes, there is such a thing as an award for best book trailer. The tooting of one's own horn is fun.

Monday, July 19, 2010

memoirist credibility through the lens of the greatest sporting event known to man.

Not the World Cup.

Andy Schleck toys with Alberto Contador (the most dangerous cyclist in the world) on the slopes of the Pyrenees, and the Tour shows Lance Armstrong that no rider is bigger than the race, shoving enough bad luck his way to make up for a decade of injury free victory laps.
A disgraced Khazakstani rider returns with grace from his two-year banishment to pull the peleton up the high mountains, only to have his bid for glory dashed by mere seconds in one stage, and then rewarded with victory the very next day. Tears and hugs all around.
The French have won four stages in this race which has been dominated for years by, well, everyone else. They might even keep the polka-dot jersey all the way to Paris.
There have been broken collarbones, broken ribs, broken wrists, and enough road rash to cover a soccer pitch. An Australian contender has ridden for days with a fractured elbow.
Why? Because this is the Tour de France. It is the race of truth. You do not quit as long you can still turn the pedals.

And I know what you are thinking.
If, unlike me, you do not catch the fever every July, you are thinking, why bother? They're all cheaters, right?

Well, it does matter. And this is why:
Professional cycling maintains its purity in an age when marketing and ticket sales have turned every other professional sports organization (not to mention political, financial, and business organizations as well) into a racket, where a blind eye is turned to cheating, and it takes a Congressional investigation to show the public what everyone has known for years.
Who out there loves hometown homerun darling David Ortiz? If professional baseball were professional cycling he'd be a distant memory, playing for bragging rights at the company softball game rather than raking in all the cheers and all the dough under the bright lights.

Why am I writing about this here, on the (awesome) blogsmith?
Because everyone is told at some point: "You should write a book!"
And now, increasingly, unfortunately, people do.
People who have no business getting their personal story published are turning into "memoirists", and there is a big share of the publishing industry that puts all of its effort into making sure we, the reading public, get the impression that this is a story we just have to hear. Oh, the triumph over adversity! Oh my, the will to move on after tragedy! Oh my goodness, this dog saved my life by being so wonderful and understanding after my surgery!

What if publishers, or better yet, an independent investigation unit specially assigned to the publishing industry, were to rigorously fact-check every soon-to-be-released memoir? Before all those trees die an ignoble death, let's see if this person actually was a gangbanger before we trot them out on all the talk shows and find out that they culled their "life experience" from the movies. Let's see if this dog really barks.

In the Tour de France, cheaters and liars cross the finish line and hardly get to the showers before they are led away in handcuffs. That's right, the police usually lead them away on the very day of their suspected offence. They can't race for two, sometimes four years. In most cases, that means never racing at the professional level again. That's why, when you watch the Tour, you can watch it honestly. If these guys are cheating, they will be caught.

Why can't professional memoirists be held to the same standards?
If it's fiction, then call it that, and let's see how it stands up or falls down on the wall in aisle 4.

Sunday, July 18, 2010


Also known as magazines, but I like the rather serious tone of periodicals.   One of the vendors we get mags from is actually called Ingram Periodicals.  I order and merchandise the store's selection which I enjoy immensely, having always loved that version of the printed word.   The floor space we can devote to them is somewhat limited, but I think we pack a good variety into that space.  All the requisite weeklies and monthlies are represented, of course.  And we take immediate action when a customer requests a title we don't carry.  People are quite devoted to their mag of choice, I've found.  You want Military History?  Done.  Cat Fancy?  Done.
Australian Vogue?  And so on, across topics literary, artistic, political, hipper than hip, cooler than cool. 

I personally zip through 8 or more per week and have 6 favorite monthlies.  Without naming names,  I feel it's part of my job to keep up with popular culture and a variety of spins on current events.  I'm also drawn to those which suggest a simpler life, quick recipes for food, health, beauty, flawless homes and gardens and have lots of great photos.   Then there are the ones about books and reading to consume.  And the cannot be missed New Yorker where many authors I admire start or continue careers.   Magazines, delicious magazines.  May you continue to exist despite dire predictions to the contrary. 

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Hungry Eyes...Influence and Duende...Sorta

I chose this title just so while you are reading this....the song will be stuck in your head and contributing to any unintentional pathos found herein. Yesterday after work I swam home and turned on the AC and TLC....(the ladies' channel) I watched "Say Yes to the Dress" and ate some goldfish while reading poetry by Louise Gluck. I find no irony in this.
I then went on Facebook wherein I saw that my fella had taken the "I write like" test, and apparently...according to this kitschy little monstrosity....he writes like David Foster Wallace. I of course had to put in my "work" and low and behold...I too write like DFW. This got me thinking...doesn't everyone writing/ thinking in this postpostpost- modernity kinda write like a reference rich simulacrum of conscilience? Then I found this AP article on the whole phenomena
The little nugget about Herman Melville writing more like Steven King than himself is just delightful.

It brings up an interesting idea about influence. That is why when I write I like to have reality television on in the background. I like to know a lot about Angelina Jolie and Ochocinco. I think it keeps me present and keeps my brain from swimming too deeply in Lorca's duende. I think it is important that we treat all media...well....most media with care...and by care I mean...acknowledgment of its presence...because whether we like it or not it is here to stay...and I'd like to have a really clear idea as to what it is I am making fun of, or criticizing...and why.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Good stuff.

Dinaw Mengetsu's short story in last week's New Yorker.

So great. Please read it.

So immediately after reading, I hunted down the advance of his upcoming novel, How to Read the Air, from which the short story is excerpted. It is powerful. Line up for your copy now. So far, it has the makings of a Great Book. I wish my break was now so that I could just go read more.

He's coming here October 25, which is a ways away, but mark your calendar.

P.S. More events excitement: while our event director Evan is off traversing Scotland on a mighty Highland Cow, I, his lackey, am on the verge of setting the official date for my favorite comedian of all time to read here in December. Gulp.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

give a book a chance, will you?

There's a book that feels really lonely here at Booksmith. Every time I introduce it to someone, they love it! But it is almost always beat out by some other wonderful novel or picturebook that they've been wanting to get. What is this wondrous, beautiful book that once you pick you cannot let it go (or, maybe that's just me)? Well, I'll show you:

A Family of Poems Edited by Caroline Kennedy

These pages are beautiful, right? Do you find yourself having to touch the screen and run your fingers across the wet sand? Or want to read out loud with enthusiasm? I promise you the quality is much better than these mediocre scans.

Jon J Muth's illustrations really work to enhance the poems and his exquisite use of color and shading leaps right off of the pages. A Family of Poems covers a broad range of old, classic poets who talk about daffodils (William Wordsworth), cats (T.S. Eliot), rain (Langston Hughes), the fascination of wind (Christina Rossetti), a silent pond (Basho), those crazy people who live upstairs (Ogden Nash), and much more. There are also a few contemporary children's poets mixed in. But the delightfulness in this book is that these poems don't feel old. They actually feel quite alive. I love that they are separated into seven sections: About me, That's So Silly!, Animals, The Seasons, The Seashore, Adventure, and Bedtime. This is great for when you just want to read about the changing seasons, or for when you are just about to crawl into bed.

There are more hidden treasures in this book. But you'll have to open the book to find them. A Family of Poems is one of the recommended Brookline Summer Reading books for fifth and sixth grade. This collection also makes a great baby gift. It is truly for children of all ages, and one's poetry collection is just not complete without it!

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Unintentionally Silly Bands

It's been a busy, understaffed day at the store today so I just have one thing to share.

Earlier this evening I was at the cash register with a father and two sons. Each of the sons, about 6-years-old, was being treated to a packet of "silly bands," the latest elastic-band craze to hit the youth of America. And perhaps beyond. This father did not check the price before he purchased the colorful elastic bands shaped like farm animals, and when the total came to $6.38 he said, with surprise in his voice, "You guys, these things cost $3 each. Gee whiz."
Without missing a beat, one of the boys made a serious face and said, quite innocently and earnestly, "That's outrageous!" He bounced on his feet and reached for the bag that contained his new toy.

Okay, maybe you had to be there. The dad laughed, I laughed. I promise it was funny.

Anyway, bring an umbrella. It's raining out there.

And oh yeah, if you're looking to buy some silly bands for yourself, avoid the local drug stores. Ours are cheaper and we have plenty in stock!

Monday, July 12, 2010

Odd Phenomenon

It's confession time.  In one way, I am a sham of a bookseller.  Some who know me outside of the bookstore will already be aware of this.  Others may be shocked and upset.  I hope one and all will realize that I am, truly, the real deal book person in spite of what I'm about to reveal.  Rest assured, I do know and love books and have done so for my whole life.

Okay, here goes.  When someone(and of course, MANY do, given my job), out in public, family or friend or new acquaintance  asks me THE question, I freeze.  My mind goes blank.  I hem and haw and look thoughtful.  I try to picture the shelves of the store and lists posted near the register,  wishing for a photographic memory.   I attempt to summon up all the trade press I read daily and weekly.  Nothing works.

What's THE question, you ask?   WHAT'S SELLING IN THE STORE?  So innocent.  So reasonable.  At a social occasion recently, the answer I gave was, "  Oh, some - um - well, fiction, good fiction.  And - um - also nonfiction - there's alot of good nonfiction right now."  The person asking looked a bit puzzled but smiled encouragingly.  I, too, smiled and said, laughing, " So...that - um - certainly covers it, right?".   We both laughed.  She drifted away.  Who wouldn't? 

This happens over and over again.  I don't know why.  I've tried to change to no avail.  I vow to keep trying.  It's only been 29 years at the bookstore.  There's plenty of time, right?

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Your Booksmithoscope! Your Future Fortold...Sorta!

You will not be the same after you read this.
After you read this, you will be changed.
There are powerful and mysterious forces
conspiring in your favor. I'm almost certain.
Lemon bars from the future are hurtling toward you
with a ferocious speed, they intend to be eaten!
It is already raining today.
You know this already-- because you are perceptive.
We have air conditioning and booksellers
who are both attractive and off.
Come play with us.
(ask for Bruno)

Friday, July 9, 2010

car trip from HELL

My son (3 1/2 years) and I will be leaving the women in our lives behind for one weekend in August, as we head north to Vermont, aka the Blessed Realm where all the women are earthy, all the men are well-weathered, and all the children can kick my butt and laugh about it over a beer afterward.

I dread this, because if, like me, you've watched movies or read books or listened to stand-up comics during your lifetime, you'll know that there is a 90% chance that this car trip will feature perhaps eight spoken words, mostly about coffee and lane-changing.

The playful verbal sparring we've enjoyed to this point in his young life will be gone forever after the oppressive silence endured on this journey. We'll realize that there was never much substance behind our poop jokes, our fart banter, our that-orange-train-is-bigger-than-that-purple-train-no-it's-not was all so much piff and twaddle and ho-hum. Plus, we'll hardly see any trains out the window anyway, and Jackson's fascination with tunnels is surely to be tested as Boston recedes, and we head further up into the tunnel-less extremes of the VT interstate.

And I know what my colleagues will say: "Audiobooks!! Bring audiobooks!!" Pfff. If I put one of those on it will only serve to remind us both that we have given up, we have conceded to each other and the world that We Have Nothing To Say To Each Other.

But I guess it's just one of those things that every man and boy has to go through.
It's in all the books. Father/son dysfunction is the norm.

But hell, I'm not giving in. I can make up goofy rhyming songs for hours. Hardly anyone knows this except my wife and children, but seriously, for hours. When he tells me to shut up, I'll throw on a recording of Frog & Toad, and we'll be golden until the one about cookies comes on and he demands cookies for half an hour, at which point I'll have composed a fourteen minute cookie song in my head, filled with toots and trains and snails and poop, and the wheel of time and three-year-old entertainment will roll on.
And when we get there, we'll tumble out onto the Vermont grass and roll around under the Vermont sky, and all will be as it was, but even better.

And then we'll come back, and the women won't recognize us. Jackson's beard will be commented upon dourly by his mother, who already has to suffer silently through my ever-present scruff. Libbie, a one-year-old who tries on every shoe she can get her hands on, will grieve over Daddy's insistence on going barefoot, even here in the city.

Thursday, July 8, 2010


I confess that I have a Google Alert set up for Gary Shteyngart & this wondrousness popped in my mailbox at like 3am. Featuring Gary, ♥ Mary Gaitskill ♥, and the seemingly ubiquitous James Franco, here are the secrets of Gary's success and other secrets:

He is reading here in Brookline on September 15 at the Coolidge for his newest novel, Super Sad True Love Story (released 7/27) . Tickets for the reading will go on sale on August 1. Am I excited? A little tiny bit!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Myspace Glitter Graphics


Sorry, thought fangirl moments like this were what you prized in your booksellers. I will continue to shamelessly foam at the mouth about the books I like if I see them in your hands (often it is either of Gary's previous two works for me, of which I have hand-sold dozens & dozens [not that he needed my boost] and lost through lending them enough that I must rebuy them). And you can't stop me, guys - it's, like, a biological thing? - even though I'm truly sorry if I creep you out.

Now this post might pop up in my next Google Alert. Hi!

Wednesday, July 7, 2010


Aaaa! All I think about is the heat. My last place of residence was Southeast Alaska. Let's just say heat waves and droughts there meant it was 70˚ out and that it hadn't rained in a week. 90˚ + humidity, blech! Nevertheless, somewhere in this heat I was able to take refuge next to a fan, in the shade of a tree, and in the air conditioning of the T, and finish an ARC (advanced reading copy) of a young adult book that comes out tomorrow -- well, technically it's classified as middle grade, but because of complex emotions and mature scenes, I deem this a YA.

Ever wonder what it's like to become blind? Priscilla Cummings' Blindsided follows fourteen-year-old Natalie as she loses her sight due to juvenile glaucoma. Now, Natalie has to go to a blind school to learn how to cope with being blind. But adjusting to reading braille and using a cane is the last thing she wants to do. "'Will [Natalie] utilize the skills [she is] learning here to go out and embrace the world? [Or will she] go home to Mom and Dad and hide out, living scared?'"

I used to work at a braille publishing house and throughout every scene of Blindsided, I could see an accurate reflection in what it was like to be blind and the endless frustrations and sightless lifestyle that often surround it. This is the kind of book that I think a lot of people have been looking for. Good books that portray blind persons are practically non-existent. The only decent books out in my opinion -- at least of literary quality -- are retellings of Helen Keller. I fully commend this author for researching blindness so thoroughly. This is a book that has long been needed in today's market.

I give it 3.5 stars. Okay, so why not a perfect score? Don't get me wrong, I couldn't put this book down... However, there were a few scenes I saw coming from far away. Furthermore, there were a few moments where the writing was fragmented (hopefully that is all cleared out, as ARCs are often full of mistakes and unedited lines). Blindsided also borders on being an issue book -- a book that focuses on one specific theme without subplots or much of anything else -- however, because Natalie is learning the blind lifestyle alongside the reader I did not see it as a huge distraction. Did I mention she also lives on a goat farm? And yes, that is one of many sub plots. There were a few awkward moments that came out a bit clunky, but nevertheless, the overall plot shines out over that. If nothing else, Blindsided will give you a lot of insight if you have ever been curious about blindness.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Livin' the Booksmith Dream

Hi there! I'm Liz T. and will be your new Tuesday blogger. Hip hip hooray!

I figured I'd start out by musing on working at Brookline Booksmith, since I am both a new and old employee.

When I found out several months ago that I was going to be laid off from my full time, cubicle job of 11 years at a magazine publishing house, of course I was nervous and a tad fearful, but underneath that was a spark of excitement. No, I did not want to collect unemployment, tune up my resume (not that that's a bad idea anyway,) write endless cover letters and hit the streets looking for a new job. I wanted to work at Booksmith, full time.

I've been at the store part time for almost ten years working nights and weekends, and I've often thought about working here full time and, as I call it, livin' the Booksmith dream. Suddenly, the opportunity arose, stars aligned and I jumped on it. Sure, there have been some logistical adjustments I had to make (I still never know what day it is) and my feet hurt a lot now, but I officially love it!

I've been talking to my friends and family about my "new" job a lot these days and trying to explain to people who've never been here why I love it so much. Sometimes the uninformed wonder why I'd want to work at a retail job - "isn't that a step down after your cushy corporate job?" Not at all, I tell them.

A job at Booksmith is more than a retail job. The store is the hub of a community, a place where people come to find out what's going on. We sell books (new and used), cards and adorable gift items but we also talk about ideas and art, music and poetry, and sometimes politics. It is endlessly interesting. It's a people place. I feel renewed when I come to work and that's not something I could say about my last job in my beige cubicle, where reminders of the corporate values were hung on every wall. My co-workers are smart and dedicated and fun to be around. The customers, from near and far, are just as smart and fun. Our events staff bring in the most talented and varied authors from first time novelists to well-known celebrities.

I'm sure this sentiment has been expressed on this blog before, but I had to add my voice to the others. As far as my soul goes, working here is a major step up. (However, I could use a foot rub.)

See you around the store!

Monday, July 5, 2010

Got You In My Rolodex

Down here in the UBC, there is a rolodex. It is our rolodex. When a customer drops off a bag of books, or if they pop in after the buying hours (wed-sat, 10-4) and would like cash for their books, we usually sift through the books, pulling out what we can use, and produce a cash total. We then get the customer's name and phone number. Sometimes customers will come back during the buying hours to retrieve their cash flow. Other times: not so much. Such is the plight of today's blog topic.

Have you dropped off books and not yet picked up your money? Don't sweat it! We still have your info. There are names and dates that go back two or three years. Is your name Roberta Hayes? Elliot Gellspan? Or the simple, yet elegantly mysterious "GUVAN"? Is your name Devorah Sperling? We still have your credit slip! Come pick it up and treat yourself to a new book! The credit doesn't expire! It ceases to cease! Huzzah!

So if you think there's an outside shot you may have forgotten to visit us and pick up your sweet green, you're in luck because there's still a very good shot we have your info in our rolodex*. Feel free to call us (617-566-6660 ex208) or email us if you have any questions!

* please note that it's not 100% certain. More like 95%.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Going Without

I want to be Amish. I want to add spice to my traveling routine by alternating between a bicycle and a scooter. I want to have a little girl-- and not worry about what TV personality is telling her she's too fat, she's too poor. I want to work with my hands and make bread, grow herbs, brush horses, nail boards. I would love to live this way for--oh let's say...a weekend.

Then I want cable. I want heated water and the warming blue-glow of the Internet Explorer. I want to blow dry the kink out of my bangs. I want to let my fancy toothbrush do its fine job. I want to fall asleep to the sweet white noise of the cartoon network.

The Amish I creepily stalked this weekend in Intercourse/ Bird in Hand Pennsylvania were a thing of majesty to me. I crept up beside a gaggle of teens in three buggies parked at Costco...and took photos of their cavity filled horses. I scanned the internet looking for information on the oh-so exotic sounding "Rumpsringa"---or the Amish answer to the middle-class "undergraduate experience."

I guess we all want to get out of wherever we are for a bit. We count down the days till the arrival of whatever our employer deems to be our Sabbath. It is easy to romanticize the idea of reading by candlelight in a dress you know will fit, and not having to think about how it looks.

Then remember how delicious it is to choose what you are reading, where you are reading, and why. I curled up last night with a copy of "Fancy Beasts" (a challenging and brisssssk poetry collection by Alex Lemon) and my energy efficient light bulb. I cranked on my energy-saver air conditioning and drifted off into a comfortable, modern, convenient sleep.

Friday, July 2, 2010

paper books are not dead, just wasted.

Every book had a seed embedded in its spine.

The trees were falling for nothing. They sifted through the culture to find the sexiest words this month, and they put these through to the design offices to get the sexiest layout and colorization. The author was found, somewhere, to put a few sentences in, here and there, all sexy. And they wondered how they were going to continue in the new age.

The publishers would not apologize. The readers began to plant the books.

Every day there was one more self-conscious face on the train, pretending that he'd been staring into this little screen for years, and so the publishers worried that electronics will someday, maybe soon, maybe not, depending on the season of the year, replace paper. They printed up ten thousand copies of the book version of the popular website, "Kittyonmypizza." It was what it sounds like.

A well-bound book, printed on acid-free, recycled paper, planted in good earth, given moderate sun and water. Good for something, after all.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

On her shoulders

Dear citizens of Brookline and Booksmith fans further afield,

I know what you're thinking since Genie's farewell post. I know that even now you're probably crouched beneath a table, worried that the world as you know it is going to end. What will happen to the events series? you might ask.

But stay calm, friends. Stay calm. I will be taking over the role of Events Director as of next week, and I will do my best to make sure I keep up the momentum Genie has built over the past two years.

I remember when I first came to work at the Booksmith almost a year ago Kate handed me a calendar, and I was baffled by the wonderful, wonderful authors we had lined up. Since then, I've seen authors who were taught in my college courses as exemplars of contemporary literature. I have seen the store filled to the point where moving is impossible and even breathing is difficult. I am still, I must admit, a little baffled.

To step into Genie's role here is a great honor. I know how well Genie has done, and I know that I am taking on a huge amount of responsibility, that the work I do will directly affect the store and our customers, as well as the authors who come to visit us. I know that readings mean a lot to everyone--to the audience, who get to meet the people who have entertained and amazed them, to writers because they get to see the people they've touched through their countless hours of solitary work. And Genie has done a wonderful job of creating such moments.

But it is precisely because Genie did such a great job that I feel so excited about stepping into this position. We've already booked our events through September, and we have some huge names coming. I have been working closely with Genie, and the handover will go smoothly.

I can't be her. I don't know that I can fill her shoes. But I have shoes of my own. And I will do my best. And I think, if you'll take my hand and come out from under that table, we can have a lot of fun.