Friday, February 25, 2011

"excuse me sir?"

"Do you have any Captain Underpants books here?"

oh yeah, sure.

"Oh, PHEEEW!!"

So, just now, there was that.
And then earlier this week, my son:

"Dad, do you want me to tell you a story?"

of course.

"There was an elephant tiger, with stripes, and then he turned into a chair lamp, and he fell down the table, and thpt hoyba pupu he BONK!"

jackson, that was awesome.

"Dad, do you want me to tell you another story?"

of course!

And in between, Kendrick Perkins got traded, Qaddafi showed his true colors, Christchurch shook, and I took the kids out to stomp in giant, shivering puddles.
Get in touch with me if you can find anything that holds this post together.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Let the annual card and gift sale extravaganza...COMMENCE!

Its that time of year again. Yes THAT TIME. When I was a kid, my mom used to stalk Booksmith during the tail end of winter, lying in wait for this joyous occaision to begin. Now that I am all grown up (...physically...) I get to partake in it. All the merchandise in the card and gift room has been boxed up, and all the sale stuff is out in all its glory, including holiday items from chistmas, halloween, easter, valentines day, and probably others. Everything is fifty percent off. I myself have a set of earrings I'm going to buy tonight and I'm forcing myself not to buy any of the cute little coffee mugs because we don't need any new mugs: this is my mantra, I will say it until it feels true. I also just got a 7 minute rundown from Emily about her new Bento box lunchbox set that has been too expensive for her to treat herself to...UNTIL THIS HISTORIC DAY. She also said that if the other ones are still there when the sale goes on, well. What I'm saying is, you may want to come buy a super hippy dippy made-from-recycled-materials-without-lead-or-pvc bento box lunch bag for 50% off before Emily buys them all and starts selling them in the back alley, her hands furtively clutching wads of bills, her eyes wild with power.

Recently I haven't been blogging about what I'm reading, but I do read, I swear to you. For my class on postcolonial literature (more interesting than it sounds!) we've been reading "The Famished Road" by Ben Okri. Told through the point of veiw of an "abiku", or spirit child, this story in set in a lower class village in Nigeria. I can't quite tell when its set, but it was published in 1991 and won the Booker prize. It's a really strange mix of incredibly detailed description of the spirit worlds and specters that haunt the main character, and slightly allegorical secondary characters that influence the meandering storyline. Frankly, I probably wouldn't have finished the book if it wasn't for class; several things that happen in the plot seem to have no purpose or consequent, and the detail is wonderful and kept me interested, for about 400 pages. After that, it gets tedious. My interest waned. Next up in this class is "Say You're One Of Them" by Uwem Akpan, also known as ONE OF OPRAH'S TOP 10 BOOKS IN 2009!!! Probably reading this book with cause me to ascend to Oprah status, at which point I will hold the universe in the palm of my hand like a cosmic lotus blossom.

Yup. I just didn't know how to end this post. Cosmic lotus blossom. Kabam.

Spring is (near) the air!

Spring is almost will rise above the snow packs.  And to prepare yourself, why not spring into these novels of the upcoming new (and, word on the streets, is "very welcome to show itself") season?

Red Rubber Boot Day by Mary Lyn Ray
Traditionally, spring brings enough drops of rain to fill up those rubber boots.  Though, if your anything like this little boy, boots are for playing in, and not to leave lying around after you have exhausted all of your inside activities.  Rain is for enjoying, so grab your boots and go!

Great for ages 0-5

The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett
In the spring, flowers awake from their wintry graves, trees burst with blossoms of color, and chilly gardens are tended to.  In this secret garden though, more comes to life then plants.  Two children, who have a very sour disposition when they are introduced, learn the beauty that nature holds.  The true treasure of this book is watching them grow joyfully and become productive as the world awakens from the cold slumber.

Ages 8-12

Make Way for Ducklings by Robert McCloskey
Whether you already have a well-loved copy or need to buy a new one, take advantage of spring to enjoy the city.  Grab your copy of Make Way for Ducklings, T over to the Boston Public Gardens, enjoy the ducks, and read the story that this park is most famous for.

In Boston, this book is ageless

More great spring titles to be posted soon.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Positive Reinforcement

I'm a day late again, but since nobody posted today, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of tardiness, I shall fear no staunch reprimanding. Or. Something. I don't know its been a long friday.

If you have gone down into our used book cellar recently you may have noticed that it looks stunning, thanks to the hard work of a number of staff members who are good at lifting and moving and did not ask me to help. You guys are the salt of the earth, no joke. You may have also noticed that our lovely used book buyer, Andrea, has retired from the Booksmith team (yeah, team, I called us a team. Only because I'm trying to convince everyone to wear their Booksmith t shirts on the same day. However, no matter how many times they ask me, I refuse to play basketball with them. Running, sweating and competing? Aren't you people supposed to be 'readers'?). We miss her dearly, but it is quite exciting that Carl, (who, by the by, unfriended me on facebook because of how impossibly annoying my constant status updates are. I honestly can't blame him, but don't think I didn't notice, Carl, AHEM) the OTHER used book buyer, has ascended to the next plateau of used book buying nirvana. For you gamers, he 'leveled up', so to speak. In doing so, Carl has produced these little guys, fliers for the UBC, which are similar in fashion to the Greying Ghost Press chapbooks we also have (fo' free!) in our "fliers and free stuff" area.

I don't know, maybe I'm over reacting to how awesome I think these are, but I just adore them. I love that Carl took something he is interested in, ie makin' stuff, and applied it to the store. The font and format are so perfect, and the little part at the back for notes! Eegads! Adorable. I love all the little things around the store that the staff has added, usually based on their personal interests. There are so many, if you start to look for them you could be there all day. It makes the store personable, it makes it a fun place for us to work in, and its good for business. You could rename the entire Card and Gift Room "Stuff we're interested in that we think you'll like (as divined by our talented card and gift buyer, Kerri)". That was its original name, I hear, but the sign was too expensive to have printed. Ok fine, Card and Gift is catchier anyway.

But anyway. I just think these little pamphlets or fliers or whatever you want to call them are absolutely darling. They don't all have that big smooch mark on them, that was my fault. Sometimes I just can't help myself. Which brings me to my final picture (can you tell who just got a new digital camera for her birthday? It was this girl.)....

We buy used books! No really. We do.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

The Name is Haiku

My first reaction when I saw Won Ton was, "oh no, not another wanna-be picturebook writer who feels like they have to rhyme every single line!"  Boy, was I wrong.  As soon as I turned a few pages I could tell this cat had character.  Immediately forgetting the haiku format, I was swept into this tale of an eager adoptable kitty. 

Won Ton tries to have a humble outlook on life, in a shelter, in a cage.  He knows the routines quite well and longs for the day when someone will take him.  Of course, as soon as he is off to his new home, it is a series of "letmeoutletme / outletmeoutletmeout. / Wait -- let me back in!"  In his new surroundings, he certainly has quite the opinion on his name and food.  He's even started to claim his territory: "Sorry about the / squishy in your shoe.  Must've / been something I ate."  (I just want to quote every line for you, dear reader!)  This author, Lee Wardlaw, knows cats and uses words to illustrate their nature beautifully.

"I explained it loud
and clear. What part of 'meow'
don't you understand?"

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

So long to an old friend

I went to Bob Slate's Porter Square store last weekend. As some of you may know, the 78-year-old stationer is closing all three of its doors in March. When I heard this news a week ago it genuinely ruined my day. Many, many others feel the same. There were, and still are, numerous postings of grief and shock and dismay on Facebook, Twitter and in the comments of articles about the closings. How could this be? Why? But...they've always been there! They should be there forever! I love Bob Slate! What about the people losing their jobs? Why why why??

I went to their store on Saturday in part to buy pens (I have a major obsession) and office supplies and the fun little things that one stumbles across in a store like that. I wanted to feel, one last time, that fun Bob Slate feeling I've gotten for years when stepping into any one of their stores. The pens, my god the pens! They've always been a perfect source of retail therapy for me. And where else can you get a single small binder clip or tag sale price tags by the dozen?

I also went last week to be there with other people who were no doubt feeling the same way I did. It was like going to a wake. The place was packed and I had a couple of conversations with people about how sad we were to see them go. One woman, who had just found out the news that very minute, was on her cell phone telling a friend how shocked and upset she was.

As I browsed around I wondered about what it is that makes us feel so tied to certain stores. When you get right down to it, a store is where you buy things you need or want and then you go home. But there are certain ones that are institutions, pillars of the community. I consider Booksmith to be one of those stores, which is why the closing of Bob Slate is really hitting home. (Besides the fact that my number one source of pens will be no more.) We don't necessarily feel this way about Shaws grocery store or Walgreens. But is that because they are chains or not apparently family owned? Is it the stuff (things you love, things you love to give as gifts) that they sell or the staff? The mood the store gives you when you walk in? Colors? Music? I guess I'm heading into sociological territory a bit, and I don't have any answers to these questions. (There are books for that!) But the closing of my favorite stores feels like a personal loss. It seems weird but it's true. I still feel lingering feelings of loss over Woolworth's and that was maybe 10 years ago! Alternatively, if CVS were to close, I'd be greatly inconvenienced but not sad.

As we at Brookline Booksmith celebrate FIFTY years of business this year, I think of Bob Slate and their 78 years. I'm very sad they are going, I am very glad we are still going strong. I wonder who is opening a store right now, this month, that will turn out to be another community gem for decades. There's got to be one somewhere, right?

And good luck to all the staff at Bob Slate. You'll be missed!

Monday, February 14, 2011

Valentine's Day Memories.

No, not the one where my first girlfriend broke up with me over the phone on V-Day, also our one year anniversary, and took long enough to get around to it that I had taken the phone into the bathroom with me. She dumped me, over the phone, on the toilet, on our first anniversary, on Valentines Day, for vague reasons, which turned out to be that she was messing around with a fellow soon-to-be-valedictorian from three or four towns over.

Whatever, she listened to Rush Limbaugh every night. I'm not ungrateful, in hindsight, that she took the reins and yanked me out of a relationship that, on my side, was mainly about: 1) certain secondary sexual characteristics to which I was granted access for the first time in my life, and 2) the fact that she was female, much like the girl I had been hopelessly in love with for five years. It was not a good match. She wanted a right wing valedictorian, I wanted the friend who had sat across from me at lunch every day since seventh grade, who was funnier than me but still laughed at all my jokes.

But, clearly, this post is not about that. No, this isn't even about Valentines Day. In fact, it's not even a memory. I mean, I don't remember anything after the first scene.

It's about chocolate.

When I was probably 6 or 7 years old, and my brother 9 or 10, we were left alone for an afternoon. We wanted candy, but all we had around were Cheerios and Bisquick. Ooooooh, what's this up in the cupboard? Baker's chocolate? Let's just try it, whoa! bitter. Yeah, but if we put a bunch of these in a pan, pour a lot of sugar in, and melt them down, we could pour them into these little cupcake papers and once they cool...sweet!

We each had, I don't know, maybe four or five.

My mom came home from work and, according to her report, we had an alarming green pallor. She said that Dave was only seeing things in black & white. Neither of us could stand, or really even lie prone all that effectively. We were in separate rooms, each of us in our own hallucinatory state, according to the way our individual chemistry was reconciling the ill-advised infusion of the equivalent of four layer cakes into our body.

Happy Valentines Day!

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Lovah, read to me...

Is there anything better than being read to sleep? My lord, it is wonderful. Instead of flowers, try a book you have both been interested in, and read it together before you fall asleep. You can take turns reading aloud, or get two copies and read next to each other. There is something really intimate about sharing that private reverie. It's also kinda nice to fall asleep to your darling's slight speech impediment or tendency to over enunciate their "t's" or when they just pretend that all "h's" are silent.
(On second thought, get an audio book. I kid I keeeeed.)
In short, let us enjoy tomorrow in our own non-Hallmark way, with our non-Hallmark friends and non-pastel/ naked aviary-cherub- crossbow- wielding sigi-others. We can reclaim this mass produced forceful intrusion on our private lives, and still not be penalized for failing to acknowledging our loved ones.
We have oodles of traditional and non-traditional gifts to help celebrate your own unique affections for the poultry in your life. Including the unspeakably delicious chocolate from Taza, a huge selection of cards, (some of them normal, others hysterical, and still others just bizarre.) We also still have an amazing selection of books, and romantical poetries, and jewelry and and and andand and (EXHALE)((Okay you get the point))
This is a judgement free zone, open till nine pm on Sundays.
Happy hearts friends, happy hearts.

Thursday, February 10, 2011


There's Sarah, a Clifford fan who comes in with her dad most weekends. Harry, who loves books with his name in the title. (We've exhausted the likes of Harry the Dirty Dog for now, but just wait until he grows into Harry Potter.) Jacob and Ethan, who stop by with their nanny and then head to Magic Beans.

And there are countless others whose names I haven't caught yet. The girl who sits on the floor and reads Rainbow Magic books, apparently too excited to take the time to walk to a stool. The quiet preteen who browses the Young Adult shelves and occasionally rolls her eyes at her noisier peers. The young gentleman who comes on Sundays in his church clothes, who has offered to write shelftalkers and once rushed to my aid when I (don't tell anyone) dropped a couple of books.

Don't try to tell me the bookstore habit is for retirement. I know a few unretiring Wimpy Kid enthusiasts who would beg to differ.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Hey there, Valentine

So, Monday is that holiday.  For some it is a day of romance.  Others, it is renamed Single Awareness Day.  Then there are others who could care less; after all, Valentine's Day is a Hallmark and Hershey created holiday, right?

One Valentine's Day book I find to be interesting is Saint Valentine, by Robert Sabuda.  That's right, Valentine's Day does have a history beyond corporate sales.  Even though there is more to this story than told here by Sabuda, one important reason for Valentine's Day was to send messages to ones we love, as St. Valentine did for one girl.  The jailer's daughter had been blind since birth.  Valentine, who was a preacher and a physician, was able to heal her sight. The next day, before his execution (as a Christian martyr), he sent the girl a compassionate letter signed "from your Valentine." 

It is also said that Valentine's Day is rooted from the "Roman feast of Lupercalia, which took place on February 15th, [the day after Valentine's execution]. One of the customs on this occasion involved the writing of love messages by maidens..."  Though unmentioned in this book, I have also heard it said that near this time the Roman emperor outlawed marriage to increase his army in numbers.  However, the army size decreased because men went to war to fight for their families, not to solely fight bloody battles or to please the emperor.  Therefore, it could also be said that Valentine's Day is a celebration of marriage.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Inventory, countin' on change....

I arrived to work around 7 am this morning for our annual inventory. Dana and Evelyn had been there for an hour or so I think. We hire a company to count everything in the store...because it makes sense for the professionals to count....(we are very good with the alphabet but we don't want to push our luck.) For a few hours before we are open a crowd of inventory specialists come in with their oversized belt calculators with matching finger scanners and begin the chorus of beep-beep scan Brrrrrrrrblip "price check!!!!"

The sound is so different than what I'm used to hearing, (either ambient post-alternative crooners, or 80's power jams.) I find it energizing. I also like the idea of a bunch of strangers pawing over all of the books. I wonder how many of them are triggered into checking out some new books when they could they not after putting their hands on literally thousands of them in a few early morning hours, when the brain is most nubile.**

**I made that up

Inventory is also a time to take, well...stock of things. Hardy-har. You will notice some wild changes to the organization of the store in the coming weeks. I'm especially excited about our newly arranged Used book cellar/ events basement. I saw it this morning and thought, wow, this is how it should have been all along! We hope you agree, and really think you will...

The point I'm gettin' at is....change doesn't have to happen during pre-ordained calender bally-hoos. Sometimes a fresh start happens on a Sunday in February, or a Wednesday in October. Any morning, (or mid afternoon for that matter) we can take account of our lives, purge a moral, physical and spiritual inventory, and reinvent ourselves.

So keep an eye on us this month...cause this here butterfly is pumping some new blood into our 50 year old wings...

Saturday, February 5, 2011

The Moving of the Books.

(pic c/o Natalie Dee)

Welp, I finished moving last blizzardy Tuesday morning. And there was an NStar truck blocking the top of my one-way street. But we forged on. Things are well, if a little tricky; I am staying calm in spite of a giant life change and computer science homework. Really, one of the hardest parts of this has been what to do with the books. See, I've moved from a sunny, spacious apartment and had to fit my belongings into a much, much, much tinier room. But the apartment's perks do include the happiest three-legged pit bull of all time (!) and a roofdeck and parks nearby. And in the midst of the crappy packing process and ensuing dust allergy flareup, I found the very first love letter someone ever wrote me.

But I had to downsize. A lot. It's been so hard over the last 3 1/2 years of working here to resist the temptation of new books and advance reader copies - and the lifetime of book hoarding before Booksmith. But now they will just not physically fit.

So I decided I would keep my 50 most essential books. Okay. Maybe 100. I don't know. It was hard.

How does one even decide? I guess it all came down to this: what would I never read again? What would I just never get around to anytime soon? What comforts me? What is wise and helpful? What do I find creatively inspiring? And I don't really need two copies of Crime and Punishment, do I?

(I was also hugely inspired by Hoarders which Kate made me watch and it made me fear for my future.)

So I made a list a bit after I left my last place, when I was away from most of them, and just wrote the titles I just couldn't part with kind of instinctually based on that criteria. My Flannery O'Connor collection. My Mishimas. My Melvilles. Mary Gaitskill. The Children's Hospital. Wuthering Heights, obviously. Absurdistan and The Will to Whatevs, which I flip open when I need to laugh. The awesome works from awesome new guys, like Rachel Glaser and Mike Young and the neat things from Greying Ghost Press. And the advance reader for Sarah Silverman's The Bedwetter where she inscribed it and called me "unprofessional."

So last week, I sold back a bunch to our used book cellar. I made $81. That made it less painful, especially as I just parted with I don't know how much on textbooks. And Carl said someone had just been looking for The Picture of Dorian Gray, so I felt good about that at least, that someone will get the Oscar Wilde they need.

Aaand I still have more to sell. Sigh. And the ones I knew the UBC couldn't take - brought them to the lovely people of Boomerangs. There you will now find like half of my clothing and a lousy painting I made of Donald Rumsfeld's disembodied head floating over snack food. Also a Sega Genesis. Sigh.

Here's about half of what I have left, with some DIY floating bookshelves c/o Instructables and the Booksmith dollar cart:


Friday, February 4, 2011

Snow business like snow business (...what?)

(sorry guys, I forgot to post this yesterday so I am going to impinge on somebodies posting day, my extreme apologies)

Some young buck waded into the store yesterday, came up to me at the register and told me he was from the Boston University school paper. He told me he was writing a story about bookstores and the snow (which I thought was a little niche, but whatever. Relevant to me, obviously, she types while her soaks quietly soak) and could he ask me a few questions. He asked me, how was business going during the snow?

Not bad, I said. A little slow, but on the weekends definitely bustling, it seemed to me, oh lowly register maven/floor sweeper that I am.

Do you think people are coming in more or less? Why?

The answer I gave made me remember something. I grew up in Brookline, graduated first from Driscoll school (Driscoll class of 2002, where my homies at) and then Brookline High. I can't remember the last time we had this much snow, but I do remember errant storms from over the years, especially ones that led to me not having to go to school (my favourite thing ever). The best part was waking up, finding school was canceled, bundling up and trudging into coolidge corner to find the perfect, untouched expanse of the CVS parking lot stretching before you, hibernating under a thick surface of snow. You are going to jump into that snow. Maybe walk around, anything below the waste obstructed, possibly pretend you are the last person alive and this is the zombie apocalypse. Zombie snowpocalypse. Yeah, I went there. I will always go there.

One particular storm was specifically debiltating. I was proably about 16, so that would make it roughly 2004. My mom and I walked through coolidge corner, taking picures (on film, remember when we did that?! Its so crazy, the dark ages we used to live in in the early 2000's) and looking at the darkened, empty store fronts, signs indecipherable behind the clinging fluff. Most of coolidge corner was shut down or opening late; coolidge corner was a ghost town. Or a ghost corner, but that is not nearly as impressive sounding. That just sounds like you're haunting a right angle for eternity, boring.

Can you guess, dear readers, what establishment remained open, despite the disarming amount of snow covering the town? A storm that had single handedly disabled all of Brookline?

Booksmith. Booksmith always stays open. Ok maybe a few times we've closed early, sure, we're only human. But close entirely? Forcing the books to spend and entire afternoon in darkness, unopened, unfondled? Perish the thought! No seriously, perish it, much as my toesies perished as I walked through the goulash of Brookline on my way here today. My snow boots are waterproof but they were no match for the dirty slush barricading every single crosswalk along the way. Everyone knows I live within walking distance, however, so calling out because of transportation issues is blatanty a lie. I have no excuse. The show must go on.

So are people coming into the bookstore more? I'm not sure. I see people in here all the time, its seldom that we have a truly slow day. I don't know what influence snow has on peoples' impulse to read and buy books, but I think that when the sky and the world are the same opaque, dirty white, and its wet outside and you're wet, all the time, and the salt and sand are in your clothes and mouth, feels like its under your skin, coming into our bookstore is blissful. Here we have heated, well lit and colorful aisles and a staff of people that genuinely want you to be comfortable and happy. Its chaos out there, but in our store its always bright, warm, clean, and soothing. Not to mention endless methods of entertainment, in alphabetical order. Its hard to imagine what more a person could want. Except for that fully stocked self-serve sandwich, sundae and mai tai bar I keep asking Dana for. She is stern on the 'no' for that one, still, I'm sorry to say. I think I'm wearing her down though.

Memory and Books

I just finished reading Joshua Foer's new book, Moonwalking with Einstein which is all about his one-year quest to train his own normal memory and compete in the U.S. Memory Championships. Along the way, he looks into the reasons and ways we remember, and why we don't, as a culture, spend any time trying to enhance our memories when previous generations did.

It's a fascinating, funny book, an absolute must-read (and because I'm the events guy and would be remiss not to mention it, you should also totally show up to our March 16th event with Foer). But it's got me wondering about whether we really appreciate the physicality of books as a resource and what it means that so many people are going to e-books.

Understand, I'm not anti-e-book. In fact, I'm kind of a tech geek, and I like the idea that you can download a copy of Moby Dick to your cell phone in a couple of minutes (preferably a Google Edition through our website, nudge nudge) from pretty much anywhere around the world and that you can carry around the whole of Shakespeare's works in your pocket (without even having Jnco Jeans--thank you for that, 1995).

But let me explain my concerns. From Foer's book and the techniques he uses, it's obvious that the key to improving one's memory is to engage multiple senses and to map abstract ideas or words onto physical things--he gives the odd example of one memory athlete memorizing cottage cheese on his grocery list by imagining Claudia Schiffer naked in a kiddie-pool full of it at the front door of his childhood home (incidentally, I still remember this other man's grocery list). The idea is that the human mind is made primarily for remembering evolutionarily helpful things--where something is placed, what it looks, tastes, smells, and sounds like--rather than the order of digits in a phone number, or the words in a Keats Poem (though the evolutionary benefits to memorizing Keats have been demonstrated by many "sensitive guys," it is nevertheless not something that factored into the development of our brains).

So, if you're hoping to remember something, physical interaction with it is a good thing.

This is why I worry about e-books: because when you're reading an e-book, every single page feels the same (i.e., there is no difference between holding an e-book open to the front page and holding one open to the last page), you can't mark up the text (I always underline as I go), and you have no physical sensation of turning pages or even smelling the book (smell is supposedly the most important sensual trigger to memory--maybe the much beloved smell of a book is about more than getting high on old binding glue).

When I was an English Major in college, I relied on being able to find the quotes I needed for papers, pop quizzes, and class discussions. My system was not as systematic as it perhaps should have been (if a book is good, it might have half the words underlined with no explanatory notes). But I could almost always find the quote, because I remembered how far into the book it was. I remembered which side of the page it would be on. I remembered the general shape of the paragraph it was in, the physical length of the quote and the section of underlining I had made underneath it. Even now, I will occasionally go to my shelves and pull off a book I've read just to hunt for those lines I particularly loved.

Now, my question isn't whether we'll be able to find those same lines in an e-book, because of course we could find them faster with the search function. But my concern is that, in order to know which quotes I would use later, I had to internalize them to some degree while I was reading initially. And I worry that an e-book will get rid of all those physical indicators that make you engage with a text more deeply, remember it better and benefit more from having read it.

This isn't a case against e-books, necessarily. I mean, after all, there are some books we read not to remember, but merely to experience in the moment (and I have read some, admittedly, that I wish I could forget). Plus, as someone who cannot travel down to the corner shop without packing 2-3 books, I get how it might be nice to carry your whole library with you. But I think when I finally do get around to reading Proust, it's going to be through a physical book--one that I can dog-ear and scribble in, one that I can drop barbecue sauce on, one that becomes a bit of a memory palace in its own right--the ideas within located in their own special geography with their own specific land-marks.

I think Proust would approve of that, given what I understand from my friend Jodie as she talks to me through mouthfuls of Madeleine cookies.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

The Ultimate Companion

As the snow piles deeper, so do the boxes of books that surround us in the back.  It can be exciting, even when a maze of books towers just above your line of sight.  But, what's more exciting is when those boxes contain fabulous new releases.  Here we go, top three picturebooks of my week:

I Must Have Bobo by Eileen Rosenthal, illustrated by Marc Rosenthal

Even cats know that sock monkeys are the ulitmate companion.  Earl drags Bobo, the lovely sock monkey, around everywhere.  There's one problem.  This monkey does NOT belong to Earl the cat.  It is Willy's! Who else can he brave the slide with or build a block fort with?  Was Bobo stolen by pirates again?  Nope.  It was that rascally Earl.

A Pet for Petunia by Paul Schmid

Petunia likes, no, loves, loves, LOVES skunks.  Not just her stuffed skunk who is always by her side, but a "REAL pet skunk."  Skunks don't stink.  They are cute!  One day, when Petunia takes a walk through the forest, who does she find but a creature who is: "Black and white [with a] cute litle nose.  Big black eyes. [and] Stripes."  But why does Petunia run away...and then return back to the forest?

Spork by Kyo Maclear, illustrated by Isabelle Arsenault
He's just a spork.  Not a spoon, even though his mother is.  And, he's not a fork, even though his father is.  No matter how hard Spork tries, he can't fit in anywhere.  "Spork wonder[s] if there were other lonely creatures out there with no matching kind, who never got chosen to be at the table."  Will Spork ever find his place in the world and be a somebody instead of a nobody?

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Spring is only 48 days away

Lately I've been trying to think about the future. Not in a lofty what do I want to do with my life way, but in a .... two months from now this snow nightmare will (probably) be a distant memory way. For instance, by the first day of spring, which is coincidentally my birthday, the days will be longer by at least an hour and all 298 feet of this snow will probably have melted away -- we'll have our sidewalks and parking spots back! But, I have a couple of other things to look forward to as well.

First, Kathryn Stockett, author of The Help, one of my favorite books of ALL RECORDED TIME, will be coming to our very own store to launch the paperback version of her book. This will be happening on May 11th. The weather will be mild and sunny (I personally guarantee it,) and from what I've seen on YouTube (readings she did at other bookstores,) she is engaging and full of interesting stories. I can't wait for this. Perhaps I can take the opportunity to convince her to write a sequel.

The second exciting thing to look forward to, also in May, is a new book by Erik Larson. He is the author of my other favorite book of all recorded time, The Devil in the White City, as well as Isaac's Storm and Thunderstruck. His new one is called In the Garden of Beasts: Love, Terror and an American Family in Hitler's Berlin. (Click on the link for a synopsis.) I haven't read it yet so I can't vouch for its awesomeness, but it's bound to be at least pretty darn good, right? He is one hell of a story teller. I also promise mild weather and sunny skies while you are reading this book.

In between now and then, take care out there in that icky snow!