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In Solomon's mind, not wanting and not knowing form part of a much larger question about the world in which he finds himself.

José Saramago


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Wednesday, June 25th, 2003

"I have read Lolita, as you requested. It is a good book, and therefore you should try to sell it to the inhabitants of Hardborough. They won't understand it, but that is all to the good. Understanding makes the mind lazy."

Penelope Fitzgerald, The Book Shop

Can you dig it — Understanding makes the mind lazy!!! This will be my slogan from now on, or until I find a better.

I finished the book this afternoon; grew a bit exasperated with myself as I got into the familiar mode of being so interested in the plot, that I read too fast and fail to process completely what I am reading. I would be less dependent on rereading if I would not do that so frequently. Anyways -- I love it! Loaning it out to all my friends starting now.

...

Two bits of good news: Coliseum Books has reopened, and very near my place of employment! I have been there twice already. And, this weekend we are going to visit Eva in Craryville which means, a chance to visit Rodgers Book Barn!

posted evening of June 25th, 2003: Respond
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Wednesday, February 25th, 2004

I started reading House of Sand and Fog, by Andre Dubus III, yesterday evening. It is nice, at least two very strongly drawn characters (Massoud and Kathy) -- the blurb description of it as "tragic" (I see this term in two of the quoted reviews) seems accurate. I am identifying very much with Massoud and a bit with Kathy as well, and feel a sense of dread hanging over the book at the thought that their dreams will be thwarted...

This is the second-and-a-half Oprah's Book Club selection that I have read; the other two were The Poisonwood Bible, which I enjoyed not at all but made a good gift for my mom, and The Corrections, which I enjoyed a great deal but which only counts as half an Oprah's Book Club selection.

I bought House of Sand and Fog at Clovis Press bookshop, a fine used and new shop at 229 Bedford Ave. in Brooklyn. I have poked my head in there several times before -- nearly every time I'm in Williamsburg I stop in for a few minutes -- but had never bought anything there. I saw a sign on the front door announcing a memorial evening for Clovis the Dog, after whom the bookshop was apparently named.

posted morning of February 25th, 2004: Respond
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Sunday, November 30th, 2008

A Cathedral of Books

Saramago writes today about the Livraria Cultura, a giant bookstore in the Conjunto Nacional shopping mall in São Paulo. (He and Pilar have been travelling in Brazil for the last few weeks and are now returning to the Canary Islands.)

The last image that we bring with us from Brazil is of a beautiful bookstore, a cathedral of books, modern, efficient, lovely. It is Livraria Cultura, in the Conjunto Nacional. It is a bookstore to be sure, a place for buying books, but it is also a place for enjoying the impressive spectacle of so many titles organized in such an attractive form, as if it were not a store, as if we were speaking of a work of art. The Livraria Cultura is a work of art.

So: kind of funny and cute to think about old man Saramago digging the lovely new bookstore. Especially nice to think about that, when I've got in mind pictures of young Pamuk seeking out books in the antiquarian shops of Istanbul.

posted evening of November 30th, 2008: Respond
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Friday, August 28th, 2009

Tim's Books

When we took the ferry out to Provincetown on Tuesday, among other fun things (Provincetown had me thoroughly charmed -- it seems like about the nicest beach town/resort town I can imagine, I am searching my brain for ways to make my future include living there some day...), we found Tim's Used Books -- funky little shop with a really interesting selection. We were in a hurry and on our bikes; under different circumstances I would have spent a few hours there and come away with a heavy bag of books.

Other vacationing news... Sylvia and I went to sea yesterday afternoon on a whale-watching ship, we saw many humpback whales and a few minkes. Got some nice photos, I'll post them when we get back home. It was a beautiful day for it. (Weather has been really nice this week, though it looks like a stormy weekend.) I've been taking some moderately long bike rides around the countryside here, to places like Hingham and Hull; this afternoon I will try for Duxbury and Marshfield. Martha is coming over for dinner this evening.

posted morning of August 28th, 2009: Respond
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Saturday, April 10th, 2010

Reading material

We're back from vacation! Pictures soon. I have a whole lot of new reading material on hand...

While we were in Modesto I visited my childhood hangout Yesterday's Books (it seemed so much smaller...) and got a cheap copy of Paradise Lost, which Mark (on Good Friday!) convinced me I ought to read. It certainly is easy to read -- not sure how much I am getting out of it, but it rolls in through my eyes quite easily.

In San Francisco we visited Ellen's old friend Maryam, who gave us copies of her new book Returning to Iran -- a look at events there from an expatriate's eye. Reading the first few pieces I am interested and looking forward to the rest.

Also in SF, I visited Libros Latinos on Mission and 17th, and picked up a bunch of books. They are a used book store specializing in Spanish and Portuguese lit with (seemingly) an academic target market. Definitely worth dropping in if you are in the area, a beautiful selection. I got:

  • Prólogos con un prólogo de prólogos by Borges -- forewords that he has written for a wide variety of books, published in 1974. Cervantes, Whitman, Swedenborg, Martín Fierro, Ray Bradbury(!), his own translation of Kafka...
  • Martín Fierro -- no idea if I will ever actually get to the point of understanding this, it seemed like a nice book to have on hand while I'm trying to understand Borges.
  • Putas asesinos by Bolaño
  • The black sheep and other fables by Augusto Monterroso (who will be the first author Bolaño has hipped me to) -- these are pleasant little fables about (mainly) animals. The blurbs on the back, from García Márquez, Carlos Fuentes, and Isaac Asimov(!), might be the most compelling pull-quotes I've ever seen.
  • I did not buy, because of the price, Borges Laberintos Dručmelić, which is "The Immortal" and "The Circular Ruins" illustrated with stunning color plates of the paintings of Zdravko Dručmelić -- if you're looking to buy me a present, look no further.
  • The steep markdown which Libros Latinos offers on cash transactions meant I still had enough money in my pocket to stop at Nueva Librería México down the street and get a copy of Don Quixote.

...Arrived home lugging a big bag of books (Ellen and Sylvia also did some book shopping on the trip), and found on my doorstep a book I had ordered a while back from a used-book seller, Raul Galvez' From the Ashen Land of the Virgin: conversations with Bioy Casares, Borges, Denevi, Etchecopar, Ocampo, Orozco, Sabato. My shelves are full!

posted evening of April 10th, 2010: 2 responses
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Friday, May 28th, 2010

Farting Around

I was in St. Marks Bookshop last night (on my way to meet some friends for a wonderful dinner at the Ukranian National Home) when this fantastic book caught my eye... Almost the perfectly ideal book to buy on one's way to (what amounts to) a meeting of the Thomas Pynchon Fan Club.

Not just the cover (what caught my eye initially) is great, either; Dr. Allen's voice is a joy to read. Here is her description of the book, from the introduction:

We might think of this book as "drutling," a term that, according to John Jamieson's Etymological Dictionary of the Scottish Language, applies to a "dog or horse that frequently stops in its way, and ejects a small quantity of dung at intervals." It farts around, its progress nonteleological, visiting topics as the wind blows, spending too long on some ideas, returning to spend even longer on them, and undoubtedly omitting more than it digresses upon.... The fart, which disposes of the body's waste gases, is the sign par excellence of the futile endeavor: we fart around when we do nothing useful.

Dinner at the Ukranian National Home was just great. This seems like one of the very best places in the city for having dinner and chatting with a largish group of people, at least on a night when they are not busy -- only one or two other tables were occupied, and the warmth and intimacy of the dining room (and the Obolon) made everybody comfortable. I had the halušky (thick homemade gnocchi) with sauerkraut.

posted morning of May 28th, 2010: 1 response
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Saturday, July 31st, 2010

Two Bookstores

I went to Brooklyn yesterday evening to hear Gary Shteyngart reading from Super Sad True Love Story (about which more later -- it looks from the first pages and from the portion he read like it is going to be a magnificent book) at Greenlight Books, which turns out to be a lovely independent book shop in Fort Greene... I got there early enough to take the train to Grand Army Plaza and walk through Prospect Heights, and by serendipity discovered a second bookshop that I'm adding to my list of destinations, which is Unnameable Books.

The reading was packed -- easily 75 people were there, filling up the seating area, spilling onto the floor and into the aisles of the shop. One of the most fun readings I can remember. I met up with Dave and Greg, and went out for dinner with them afterwards. Got my book inscribed. (And by a funny coincidence, I bought an inscribed book at Unnameable Books, a little booklet of poetry by José Pubén -- it is signed "with brotherly amity" to Adela Muñoz.)

posted morning of July 31st, 2010: 1 response
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Tuesday, September 28th, 2010

Selling Books

Karen Lillis spent the end of the 20th Century and beginning of the 21st working as a clerk at St. Mark's Bookshop; she inaugurates her new monthly column at Undie Press with some engaging reminiscences from that time and some reflections on independent bookselling in the US.

Update: Jen Michalski of JMWW has a great interview with Lillis about independent bookselling, about libraries and bookstores, about her memoir project and about her memories...

posted evening of September 28th, 2010: Respond

Friday, October first, 2010

Making the Rounds

We've been to a couple of local author events at indie bookstores around NJ these past few weeks -- not long ago we went to Words in Maplewood to hear Meredith Sue Willis reading from her new book Out of the Mountains, short stories about Appalachia in the 21st Century; and tonight we headed out to the Clinton Book Shop to see Joyce Hinnefeld and get a copy of her new book Stranger Here Below, coincidentally also with an Appalachian theme. (Plus Ron, the shop's gregarious manager, sold me on Exley by Brock Clarke, which he said was the best book he had read this year.)

The picture to the right is of the river which flooded over its banks yesterday in the center of Clinton, marooning a big piece of construction equipment. The constant roar of the water flowing by was amazing.

posted evening of October first, 2010: Respond
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Sunday, August 14th, 2011

12th and Broadway

Yesterday afternoon I had a chance to go to The Strand, lovely bookstore that I have not been back to for far too long, and took the opportunity to buy several books that have been on my reading list for a long time now.

  • The User Illusion, by Tor Nørretranders. (tr. Jonathan Sydenham)
  • Spring and All, by William Carlos Williams.
  • The Beats, by Harvey Pekar et al.
  • Theogony and Works and Days, by Hesiod. (tr. M.L. West)
  • Uno y el universo and Heterodoxia, both by Ernesto Sabato.
I felt like a kid in a candy store... Now I just have to avoid my initial impulse which is to jump in and start reading and commenting on all of them at once!

posted afternoon of August 14th, 2011: Respond

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