I’d own a bookstore over a giving tree any day. Real giving is, after all, not unilateral. It is a dialectical growth that enriches everyone involved. A bookstore is all about real giving.
What first woke me up to the power and importance of children’s books in the bookstore was having a child, 22 years ago. The bookstore has been an integral, dynamic element in our relationship ever since.
Once in a while in retail, you have a charmed day. Every customer who comes in is pleasant and in a good mood, and there are customers who surprise you with extra charm. I recently had a day like that, and the highlight was a young tourist from New Jersey.
He was a little short for his age, so at first I pegged him at around 7th grade. He had brown hair and a husky voice, and he came striding up to the counter with purpose.
I was in D.C. last week visiting a friend and I stumbled on Kramerbooks & Afterwords Cafe. There is nothing I enjoy more than traveling and finding a great independent bookstore. I happened to come to the store around 10 in the morning, usually a quiet time for most bookstores. Instead, I found a bustling store with a nearly full cafe serving breakfast to what looked like regulars who were reading, eating and enjoying a bookish start to their day. Continue reading
We booksellers assume ourselves to be fluent in the language of blurbs. This is hubris. The fragility of our blurb command in particular, and our sanity in general, become apparent when we have occasion to stray beyond the fields we know and enter those remarkable meadows where poetry blurbs are found.
Poetry blurbs are clearly a language of their own. To the untuned reader, their purpose appears to be overshadowing the poetry collection they are reviewing with abstruse but athletic hyperbole. This can hardly be the case, of course, and only accentuates the layman’s lack of understanding in this uniquely cultivated world.
For example, in preparing materials for a poetry reading, I recently encountered the following sentence. “Book of thisness, book of withness, book of now.” I had no idea what any of those terms meant, and, not wanting to deprive myself of the potent pleasures which surely attend becoming fluent in poetry blurbs, I pondered on a means for achieving enlightenment that wouldn’t involve actually engaging in poetry.
Every day I get galleys in the mail. And every day I make the decision of what to read and what not to read. The way I make that decision is decidedly haphazard. Some books I’ve been desperate to get and dive into because there’s already a buzz about them, others grab me as I read the back cover, and then there are the books that languish partly because I don’t know the author or it’s the wrong genre for my mood, etc. Occasionally, someone from the publishing house will follow up with an email. This generally is not that effective because I get so many of these emails a day. But yesterday I got the best follow-up email, ever, that has me ready to find this galley and read it.
The first thing that struck me about this email was the subject line: “A book for Allie”. Allie happens to be my dog, who I blogged about in May. I was fairly stunned that a publisher would be sending a book to the dog, needless to say I opened that email immediately. It was funny, thoughtful and even included a link to the book’s information via Edelweiss. This was a brilliant email. The book is The Dog Walker: An Anarchist’s Encounters with the Good, the Bad, and the Canine. I’ll be honest: while I have a dog, I’m not normally a fan of reading dog books, but the first thing I will do when I get to the store today is look for this galley and take a look at it.
The sense of playfulness about the book is what grabbed me. Liam from Melville House, who said he sent the book to Allie, ended his email with this charming sentence. “Of course, Allie’s encouraged to share with the rest of the staff, but I wanted to make sure it got into the right paws first.” Perhaps I’m easily charmed, but this was fabulous. That someone read the blog in May and thought that I might actually want to read this book, then sent a clever email to follow up, is a surefire way to get me to pick up the book. I realize this kind of personal touch can’t be had for all galleys (no one would get anything done, ever, if this were the case) but wow, it sure worked for this one.
Today is a sad day for the Flying Pig family. Michel Mahe, chef/owner of the Bearded Frog restaurant next door to the bookstore, passed away quite suddenly last week. His memorial is today. Michel was only 51 and it seems he died in his sleep after a night of working at one of his five restaurants. Working in a small town provides ample opportunities to get to know people and with this comes the risk of loss. We lose people and it hurts. This is the first time we’ve lost another business owner who we counted as a friend. Continue reading