Tuesday, May 31, 2011

What they wore in 1942

My new favorite book this week is Forties Fashion: From Siren Suits to the New Look. It's a bit of a niche book but it's really great if you are into history, the WWII era, and/or clothing. The author, Jonathan Walford, does a great job of connecting the events of the 1930's and 40's with why people were wearing what they were wearing. And the book is loaded with dozens of illustrations and photographs, which I personally can't get enough of.

Particularly interesting is how fashion entered into politics of the time. I was surprised to find out that France, Italy, and Germany were all waging a sort of fashion war behind the scenes of the actual war. For example, Germany created the Deutsches Mode-Institut (German Fashion Bureau) to "promote German fashion, free of foreign influence." Mussolini even "removed" certain French words and phrases from the Italian language, and a new dictionary of Italian fashion was published in 1936. No more haute couture! In America, patriotism was a way of life and the military influenced everything from outerwear to red, white, and blue buttons on a blouse. And in Japan, images of war (especially airplanes, it seems) graced "printed textiles and informal kimonos."

Meanwhile, rationing of fabric and things like zippers were causing people all over the world to be creative and resourceful when it came to their smocks, trousers and unmentionables. Obviously, ladies still wanted to be beautiful even though there was a war on. Probably especially because there was a war on.

I find this topic endlessly fascinating and you should, too. Check it out - we have it in our fashion section, aisle 1! (Or order it online!)

Thursday, May 26, 2011

You're Never Fully Dressed Without an AK-47 and an Apocalyptic Grimace

In the olden days, back when men were men and the dead crawled, but seldom walked, let alone ran and vomited up hemoglobin, the question of whether or not zombies were going to make it to the party could be summed up with one iconic image: a single hand, green and sickly, thrust from beneath the earth's surface and into the fog of an unseasonably dewey night. Yellowing fingernails clawing at the dirt as an unnamed monster flailed out of its own grave to the soft, gutteral moans of 'braaaaains'. Because this is thriller! Thriller night! And no ones gonna save you from the beast about to strike...

I don't care what the hipsters are doing, and I don't care if I am one; I love zombies. Something about humans turning on humans in a situation where it is morally okay (nay, encouraged) to take down your neighbor with an ice-pick to the skull warms the frozen cuckles of this young girl's beater. AMC's series, The Walking Dead, recently out on DVD, premiered to unexpectedly high ratings last October when its mere 6 episode run out-shone both of AMC's highest ranking original series, Madmen and Breaking Bad (more on that in this weeks New York Magazine, with that fantastic Amy Poehler on the cover).

I watched it this weekend, surrounded by the misty woods of Belfast, Maine, and I was pleasantly surprised. While some plot points of the series had a derivative ring to them, (in the pilot, the main character wakes up from a coma in the hospital only to find the world has been taken over by zombies; very similar to what happens to Cillian Murphey in the first 10 minutes of 28 Days Later) the acting was what I would refer to as "legit", the effects where impressive, and I found the quality of the zombies satisfying. They were somewhere between the total automatons of the early Dawn of the Dead and Day of the Dead ilk, and the vicious, blood-spewing animals of 28 Days Later variety. I also know that 28 Days isn't technically a zombie movie, if you wanna fight about it you can email me.

What with our recent collective brush with eternal hellfire and all, this got me thinking about the trend of zombies and a post-apocalyptic world. Its true that there's no accounting for what is about to explode into trendy infamy next; I mean, who could have foreseen mustaches and "Keep Calm and Carry On"? I got eyes, readers. I sometimes moonlight in the card and gift room, as you well know. When customers wander up to the counter and pick up the iPhone plunger stand, I see the defeat in their eyes. God dammnit, they seem to say (or sometimes literally say but I'm too busy nodding in sympathy to hear them) why didn't I think of that?

But, as usual, I digress. What is it that we find so fascinating about the end of the world? Could it just be that its something we can't experience until it happens, and that very knowledge makes it exotic? I know that, for myself, a large part of the enjoyment from watching zombie movies (or horror movies at all, for that matter) comes from speculating about what one would do in a similar situation. I've had a zombie action plan for every apartment I've ever lived in. One hot summer day a few years ago, an old roommate and I drew a map of out neighborhood and figured out the best escape routes. We had that business on lock down. If you will.

I also can't help but think that the modern day obsession with end-of-the-world scenarios is, in some way, a reaction to the environmental state that our planet increasingly finds itself in. I have been hearing from environmental lobbyists talk about our imminent collapse for most of my life; a destruction totally different from the bomb threats of the 50's and 60's. That devastation was gruesome but also total; in that scenario, potential survivors would starve out in their bunkers or die from radiation if they weren't killed immediately. When the resources of the modern world dry up, we'll first squabble and fight over the final supplies before we take to killing and eating each other, just like...hey wait!

Could it be that the movies and speculation about zombies could just be a modern generation's response to their own mortality? BUMMER, man. Why did I write this downer of a blog post? Why do I always go down the path of introspection when I know what I find there just leads me to listenin' to somber bluegrass and takin' to the drink?

At any rate, if you're into the apocalypse like I am, you should get to taking a look at these novels. Three terribly different interpretations of the end-of-days, World War Z is the well-known zombie novel from last season, but in case you haven't gotten around to reading it yet, it comes highly recommended (by myself, sitting on a very tall chair). Written journal-style at the end of the world, we see the POV of a character staring into the drooling, flesh-hungry abyss. Which, of course, stares back.

Speaking of drool, Blake Butler's Scorch Atlas is peppered with a bevy of bodily fluids which are no less provoking than the power of Butler's intensely descriptive prose (ok seriously DO YOU SEE WHAT I DID THERE, who's got two thumbs and is an english major? THIS GIRL). If you were the type of kid who stayed up all night in their SLAYER t shirt, (heavy metal or Buffy, either is fine) eating pizza and discussing the various ways to make rubber tubes, condoms, and hamburger meat look like intestines, you'll probably love this.

Finally, I threw Hunger Games into the mix despite not having read it myself, which could be a mistake, but I know enough about the series to know the basic plot line. I have also heard, from a number of sources (see: people I work with and my roommate who is an even bigger nerd than I am), that it's an excellent series and definitely worth taking a look at. It's in the Young Adult section, but don't even start. You read all the Harry Potters, you read Holes and the Lois Lowry books, you read The Book Thief, and you loved every second of it, so I don't even want to hear your crabbing. Just kidding. You know I love you.

See? That's my trick, I lure you in with insight and facts and then I turn on you real fast. This is how I'm going to climb into the hearts and minds of America. Business plan 2k11.

Until we meet again, Brookline, I advise you to travel by day, don't waste the ammo, and if one of your party gets bit...well. One bad apple, you know the rest. Good luck, and via con dios.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Moody vs Boredom

In Judy Moody and the Not Bummer Summer, it was really refreshing to see Judy outside of school and her room, as we so often see her.  This time, she's on roller coasters, enduring crazy car trips, falling into streams, and chasing bigfoot through her neighborhood.  Even though character-based series books often feel like the same books after a while, Megan McDonald keeps Judy fresh in new adventures and conundrums.   The Not Bummer Summer is still Judy, trying to be the best at everything and master collector, but this time it's summer vacation.  And all but one friend is off having the time of their lives.  So, how is this supposed to be the best summer ever?

You may already know that Judy Moody is soon to be a movie! But, did you know that Megan McDonald co-wrote the script? And, that the movie is based off of her new book -- as opposed to the series combined as Ramona and Beezus was done?

It's a nice change really.  I mean even when a movie is well done, if it completely alters the theme or moral of the original text, it just falls flat.  Knowing the mastermind and creator behind Judy and her crazy antics and ever changing moods is behind the scenes here makes me look forward to this movie even more.  Or, "Super-cali-fragi-listic-expi-thrilla-delic!" in the words of Judy.

Read the book that made the movie, now in stock!  The movie will appear in theaters June 10th.

Friday, May 20, 2011

last thoughts

on the eve of destruction
an old friend,

a Believer

quotes from the book
the passage upon which this whole hysteria hinges,

and he can see what they mean,
but it's not really the point.

he tells me that what it's all done is prompt him to examine his faith,
examine his self,
and measure his behavior against his ideals.

that's good,
I know.
for him.

for me,
one to whom gods are stories and faith is never enough,
all I can think is that I look forward to Sunday,
and Vermont woods and water,
and muddy kid feet
and no bookselling for a week,
because at least I know the trees will stay on earth with me,
and the water won't rise.

but what I find most interesting is that Hamilton and Hincapie,
his partners of yore,
waited until the day before
the end of the world
to tell the world
that the great Lance Armstrong is a cheat.

Me, I don't believe it,
what would be the point?
The Grand Tour will still cause the rise of some and the torture of many,
whether their hearts are pure or tainted.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

I know it's too long, once I start I can't stop.

On this blessed mound of dirt hurtling through the infinite wonders of space there are three words that have an uncanny ability to stop me in my tracks. Three simple words that will steal my attention away, no matter the location; exotic locale, mardi gras parade, civil war reenactment - white sand beaches and gunpowder clouds are equally left in the dusty majesty (majestic dust) of these three little words.

Those words are: cream. cheese. frosting.

Hark! Are those angels? Nay. Just the dulcet tones of my beloved co-worker Liz T as she pages up to the front and asks, do I want red velvet or Boston cream? My own personal Sophie's choice. Which do I love less? HOW COULD A MOTHER EVER CHOOSE?! YOU MONSTERS!

...So Liz T brought in cupcakes today in celebration for our fearless leader Dana's imminent birthday on Saturday. They were excellent, Happy birthday Dana! Just for you I have infused this blog post with about 45% more hilarity and I will be paying More attention to my grammar and spelling than usual. This post is also fat free, gluten free, and has been organically grown by breast-fed cherubs of their own free will.


Yesterday I helped a women who, exasperated, came to the register and said "I have a thirteen year old student, he won't read, I've tried everything. Do you think this will get him to read?" And handed me a copy of Time Magazine's "All Time Greatest Musicians". I flipped through it, and while I think it would be perfect for a kid obsessed with music, all I know about this particular minor is that he's some 13 year old dude that hates reading. I have no idea if reading blurbs about The Doors and Patti Smith is going to jump start his reading instinct; maybe, but probably not. I immediately went for Jay-Z's "Decoded" and Bill Simmon's "The Basketball Book" because I have never had to shop for a 13 year old boy in my life and I just went for the stereotypes.

But what I really wanted to say was, lady, you seem very nice but frankly if I knew what gets kids that don't want to read to read, I would be pronounced queen of all 4th-8th graders and carried out of here on a sea of tiny, thankful hands. Maybe slightly sticky from Capri-sun and gummi bears. Wow does that sound like a great corn-syrup rush.

I don't remember actively ever not wanting to read, but I wasn't much of a reader when I was a kid. At least, not compared to the rest of my family. Also, I was a writer, so everyone expected me to devour books. Honestly, I am a slow reader; it takes me a long time to finish a book, and because I'm secretly a dilettante (you have no idea how badly I want to be in jodhpurs and tuning my piano forte when I say that) I get distracted; I am famously known (by my stepmother and roommate, so its pretty serious) for reading half a book, putting it down, and then never picking it up again. Not because the story is bad, but because that's just what is going to happen. A blameless crime. It took me YEARS to realize that this doesn't make me a bad person, or even a bad reader. I remember everything from the books I've read all the way through. I don't take this business of reading lightly, so it takes me a while to slog my way through.

But I digress. What did I, a young, creative individual with (yet unrealized????) potential (for making grilled cheese) for making meaningful yet infotaining (see what I did there?) blog posts read when I was but a pup?

For kids in that age bracket, I think the best thing you can do is let them read trashy Young Adult series like these. The writing is not challenging, but I think this was my first exposure to the concept that a storyline could be so exciting that, mom, we have to go - no - we have to go to the store NOW because they close IN LIKE, AN HOUR, MOM and if I don't know what happens to the main character I WILL VANISH FROM THIS EARTH. SERIOUSLY MOM. GET YOUR PURSE. Please, I said please already, can we just go, okay?

These two series were my favourites. The first, "Sweep", by Cate Tiernan, is about the travels of a young girl (probably somewhere around 16 or 17) that practices magic and is also a teenager, both of which were totally scintillating for young me. For those of you that weren't lucky enough to have one yourself or at the very least be the parent of a child that had one, sometimes, children (but especially girls) go through a "Wicca phase" where they frequent the local occult store (thanks, Ritual Arts in Allston, MA) and go on really meaningful day trips to Salem. I don't know what it is, but something about being in your tweens makes you want to bind yourself to the earth mother and buy a ton of incense. Which is not to say paganism is not a totally legitimate choice for one's spirituality, just that, to your garden-variety 13 year old girl, something about that stereotype is appealing. In any case, these books were fun and magicy and dealt with fascinating teenager problems like the looming prospect of sexual activity (OOOH!) and school and delicious, delicious angst.

The second, "Fearless", I recommend for all girls, despite their spiritual persuasion. This series is about a girl who can't feel fear. I was drawn to this because 1. I like when girls are in situations in which they are traditionally, stereotypically powerless and end up truly laying waste to a slew of evil, and 2. I like when people have super powers but they don't wear capes, and instead are kind of bummed out about said super powers, I believe its called the reluctant hero or some such business. Its awesome. Angst! Pour it on!

Jodie just came up to me and said "Wow that is a novel. Don't expect me to read it." Welp, that is gentle Jodie's way of telling me perhaps I have gone on too long. We'll finish this later, Brookline. By the way, these are young adult series from the 90's; I bet there are people writing even better ones these days. If you're interested, come to the store and ask for one of our many children's booksellers, who are wizards. That is not hyperbole. They are wizards, we hired them to sell kids books and perform minor acts of magic around the store.

Now you know.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Tetris is for Hands, Not Remotes

So, if you're someone who loves games, but lives in a place where no one else does, it's just sad to see great games just sitting to collect dust.  But, having all solitaire-like games....boring.  That's why Katamino is great.  It's mainly a one player rendition of Tetris with hundreds of variations to accomplish.  However, the board can convert into a two player race.  Who will use their blocks to fill their side of the board first?

So, the video below makes it look way too easy; and, at first Katamino is, but when the bar moves to higher numbers, it does get quite boggling.  Plus, they make great building blocks to make funky creatures and buildings.

Why Katamino?  At times, you just need to focus on problem solving with your own head and hands, rather than solely on teamwork ethic.

Now you can use your Booksmith gift card to buy an e-book!

Don't live in Brookline anymore?


Want to send a gift to someone who doesn't live here anymore either, but who still totally misses us?

Now they can buy our ebooks, or ye olde-timey paper & ink books online with a Brookline Booksmith gift card!

Just order one here, or call 617.566.6660

We will pop one in the mail for you or your loved one to buy some great books. You'll also be supporting your local indie bookstore, from anywhere in the world!

Top secret: These are our new gift cards!!! They will be available in the very near future...I will unfurl a shriek of joy for all to hear. These cards, well...they're kinda my babies. My pretty, advanced, way above average babies. I mean their Apgar score was a 9.47. Proud Mama.

Monday, May 16, 2011

2nd Place Poem!!!!

Congratulations Sasenarine Persaud!


Searching in the basement for a Palace
of the Peacock you find instead
a lookout on a hill overlooking
the Ottawa Valley, grass shimmering
like pages in your hand. Whose fingers
flipped these covers before revealing
the winter limbs of a writer's soul
full as pomegranate nipples tonight
can wait - upstairs a book sale;
we brush coats still damp
from the flurries outside and we are hungry
hungry hungry negotiating the book-bins.

Sasenarine Persaud is the author of 10 books. His awards include: The KM Hunter Foundation Award, the Arthur Schomburg Award; two Canada Council Poetry Awards, and a fellowship from Boston University. Persaud has a Master's in Creative Writing from Boston University. His work is used in colleges and universities in Canada, England, India, the Caribbean, and the United States. Two books new books are forthcoming in 2011: Unclosed Entrances: Selected Poems and Lantana Strangling Ixora.

Friday, May 13, 2011


I was meandered my digital way to a recent piece in the Globe in which the author introduces the reader to a few persons and their ideas about the deeeeeeeeeeeep future. That's a subject which fascinates me as much as any other, since I've spent my fair share of time under the influence of science fiction novels as well as some imagination-enhancing substances. And these folks in the article believe they're drawing a bead on what the future holds, which is cool for them, and for people like me who have an appreciation for educated guesses...but I think they may be full of it.

But then again, maybe not.
How much did Arthur C. Clarke affect the future when he spun his fantasies?
And, really, that's all I want in a leader these days, someone who's going to tell us that it's entirely possible that we're going to fuel every engine and battery in America on algae by next summer, and frankly, I'll be pretty ticked off if you prove me wrong, so get to work.

So, Mr. Future - yeah you, the guy who just won a cool $1.7 million for figuring out that if we're not extinct by the time the 200th Tour de France comes around (the Celtics just limped home; it's cycling season now), then we'll be chilling two galaxies down the way with alien DNA - tell me that we can pass the singularity without a moral hiccup, and make this world, or any world on which we set foot (or whatever is then roughly synonymous with foot), habitable for billennia to come, and I've got your back. We'll get there.
And in the meantime, shorten up your lenses and talk to me about saving for my retirement. Nobody seems to have any ideas about that.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Results: 1st Booksmith Flash Poetry Prize

Congratulations to our three winners, Elizabeth McGovern, Sasenarine Persaud, and Elizabeth Witte.

I will share the winning poems over the next 3 Saturdays.

Congratulations to our 1st Prize Winner: ($20 gift certificate to be used on our sweet poetry section, and taza chocolate) -Liz McGovern!

My Son in a Bookstore
-Liz McGovern

My son runs up and down
the aisles
Red curls blaze as he
descends upon the children's section.

Planes, trains, automobiles,
ducks, bunnies, pirates.

He moves the stools
Then the table
and with proper decorum
of his two years,
removes books one by one
from the shelves

He wishes he could read
Captain Underpants. I tell
him when he is older.
When he actually can read.

In a flash, he is again
on the other side of the store.

I glance at the other patrons,
sitting quietly and calmly
in the wooden chairs.

I worry what they must think
of me,
letting my son destroy
the serenity, the peace
of a bookstore. I worry
what they must think of him,
the feral child of "Mad Max,"
raised by wolves,
a misbehaving demon.

Arms loaded, I drop my
purchase on the counter.
The cashier smiles,
"What a wonderful child!"
Another coos, "What
great hair!"
"He must have so much fun!"

And I forget my worries.
Cassidy holds my hand
as we toddle out of the store together,
into the sun, and on our way
to other adventures.

Liz resides in Salem with her husband Ian, two year old son Cassidy, and two rabbits Sabrina and Snorbles. When she isn't entering poetry contests or working, she spends most of her time at playgrounds, yarn stores, and of course, bookstores. Her favorite poetry comes from the Romantics, and the last book she read was Kurt Vonnegut's Look at the Birdie.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

The Most Important Thing I Ever Learned From My Mom:

When I was in 5th or 6th grade, one of the kids in my class wrote a play and our teacher decided to have us put it on for the whole school (if that sounds curious to you, that was just how Michael Driscoll school was circa 1999, we loved ourselves and each other and if one of us 10 year olds wrote a play, well then damnit, that play was going to be performed, quality be damned because this is America, damnit. Damnit!).

I had never been in a play, that I could remember, but I was just old enough to feel the effects of stage fright. Picture if you will, me, a dumpy, egg-shaped young lass on the cusp of preteenhood, shaking in my leggings, hiking boots and lime green flannel (Really mom? What was that all about?) the night before the big show. My Mom, who is absolutely not given to flights of being overly-emotional, looked me directly in the eyes and said "Zoe, if you go out there and you pretend that its easy and you make a good show, nobody is going to think you're doing a bad job. If you go out there and let yourself be nervous and you don't say your lines clearly because you're scared, thats not going to be as good. Just do your best and don't be afraid. I love you. Stand up straight and try not to be so duck footed."

That last part was really just something she said to me consistently over a number of years, but it stuck with me. Essentially what my mom said to me there was "Fake it till you make it", which is a sentiment that I carry with me to this day. Sometimes you have to put on the show, even if you're terrified. My mom was a single mother for most of her momhood, and even though I had (/have) a super-present Dad who gave us constant help and support and has been there for me my whole life, it wasn't easy for her to bring me up predominantly on her own. There were a lot of times where she had to freakin' fake it. Fly by the seat of her pants and take a guess. Maybe letting me use food as an emotional crutch would yield in crushing obesity and chronic depression, but guess what! It turned out okay! I'm a happy, healthy 23-year old who has every intention of finishing college! So mom, you win. You're an incredibly strong person who was really good at being a mom, and you deserve the world for always knowing when to treat me like a child and when to let me be an adult. Thanks mom. I like, love you. Or whatever.

Speaking of moms, something my mom would love (yes, queen of the segue? I accept this award on behalf of all segues everywhere and the topics they so effortlessly link) is the Chihuly exhibit going on at the MFA right now, which is open now through August 7th. Last saturday I went to see the exhibition with my little sister, and it was amazing. The first question everyone has asked me so far, is, where you sober? And the answer is yes, we were totally sober, and IT WAS STILL AWESOME! The giant glass sculptures are totally unbelievable, its like some portal into an Alice in Wonderland world. If you can't make it to the show, or if you need some convincing, I suggest stopping by the store and taking a look at Chihuly: Through the Looking Glass by Gerald W.R. Ward, it has big glossy photos and plenty of information about Chihuly, and a lot of photos of Chihuly's outdoor installations, which are, if I may, "boss hog".

It doesn't surprise me to learn that Chihuly does a lot of installations in nature; there are so many organic moments in the sculptures, such as large puckered technicolor orbs that look like massive seed pods, or delicate serrated arms that sprout and wave like tentacles or vines. The colors are amazing, the work is flawless, and because she's 17 and I'm a student, we went on a saturday and got in for free. Basically, if you want to be blown away, I suggest taking your mom to this amazing show while its still up. Although, if you're planning on visiting the rest of the Art of Americas wing while you're there, I might start with the more historical stuff first; we tried to see that collection post-Chihuly, and after you get to wander around in psychedlic Glass Wonderland, looking at armoirs and paintings of dead guys in wigs somehow lost its verve.

I also suggest taking the fake mustaches you bought the night before (available at the card and gift room of one Brookline Booksmith) and taking pictures in the rock garden around the side of the museum, directly afterwards.

Yeah. You're welcome. You're. Welcome.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011


To some, Remainders (aka, our Bargain Books) mean discounts, to some it is an affordable piece of literature beyond our Used Book Cellar, to others they are a continuation of a great selection of books. And, that is the beauty of them. So many great titles!  Right now we have a few of our regular bestsellers: Shark vs Train ($7.99), Clementine ($2.99), The Girl Who Could Fly ($2.99), My Garden ($7.99), Good Day ($7.99), Lost ($2.99), Wabi Sabi ($7.99), Princess Academy ($3.99), Big Nate From the Top ($4.99), and a wide array of Curious George books and stickerbooks.  Often times, we'll get books in here that you would normally have to special order: Annotated Wind in the Willows ($14.99), Annotated Huckleberry Finn ($14.99), The Me Book ($3.99), as well as hardcover copies of variousness.

I love watching people browse over this table, not having to worry about the price, as the loose ends and aftermath of the recession still remain.  I'm probably drifting on a cloud here...I mean my shoulders clench when people think everything should be discounted because we are a part of the GenMe world.  Yet, I prefer to think Remainders close the gap between people with an $5 extra dollars to spend a month, with readers who can drop hundreds a week.  That is a wonderful part of literature.  No matter your background or opinion, there's always something there to debate, discuss, or ponder.  Varying views expand the small pages we live, and words are what thread them together.