Books I love

I got a phone call from a woman who is cleaning out her Greenwich, Connecticut house so she can down-size to living full time in her Long Island house. The Connecticut house has a lot of really really good books because her grown children are lawyers and great readers and their books — oh! — their books! — are fantastic and she can’t — no! she can’t! — just throw them away and the local library doesn’t want them but they gave me your number. . .

Well, at the used book store that I co-manage for the local library here on the north shore of Long Island, the cupboards are bare, so I have been putting it out to the universe: Please send me a huge donation.

So I agree to take any and all books that the caller can schlepp in from Greenwich, Connecticut.

Things get complicated; she can only get here on a certain day when I don’t work at the store (I say, I live a mile from the book store — I’ll run over); she can’t make it during opening hours of the book store (I say, I can stay late); she’s been hauling books all day and she’s leaving Greenwich in an hour (I say, OK, you’ll get here by 8 o’clock, that’s OK); traffic was bad so she’s running late (I say, Call me when you’re 15 minutes from the library because I am a fucking SAINT).

So that’s how I came to be all alone in a dark and empty library parking lot at 10 o’clock last night, waiting for the lady from Connecticut to show up with about 500 books.

Such is the romance of running a used book store.

The books await me, still incased in 25 cardboard boxes piled up in the hallway outside the book store.

Even if the universe is pranking me and this donation isn’t pure gold, that means that, as usual, 80% of those books will be crap but at these numbers, that still gives us 100 decent books for the stock. I will let you know.

Last month we got in a small dump of books of the usual crap variety, except for one stand-out that had a very nice cover,  considering that it’s self-published:

Abby Elizabeth Woodbury was born in Salem, Massachusetts on May 5, 1851, the 4th of seven children of Isaac Woodbury. Isaac, according to a very confusing history of the Woodbury family written by Margaret Waddell, the “co-author” who transcribed Abby’s diary, is not a gifted narrator) was living off of his grand-father’s money, which was begat by publishing music in New York City in the 1850s.

By 1870 money must have been tight because Isaac shipped off his wife and his 5 youngest kids to Europe, which at the time was the place where genteel but impoverished Americans went to lay low until the creditors could be sorted out. (See: Mark Twain’s financial troubles and his 10-year exile.)

Abby was 19 when she set sail for Liverpool, the same age I was when I lit out for my first European adventure.

This is a sample of Abby’s handwriting in the diary:

The inside cover of the book explains:

This is a work of non-fiction. [I’m OK with the hyphenation, but some people are sticklers and insist that the correct term is nonfiction.]

Abby Elizabeth Woodbury was a real person who wrote almost daily in her diary during her two year journey through Europe about the people she meets, the places she visits, as well as her innermost thoughts and feelings.

I assume that the woman who mixed the tenses in this blurb is the woman who is listed as the “co-author” of this book, Maragaret Waddell. Margaret Waddell is a Woodbury descendant whose father was given Abby’s diary, Margaret writes, “as an heirloom”.

I dislike the word “heirloom”. Rich people do not use the word “heirloom”, only poor people do. If you’ve grown up with loads of hand-me-downs (Sevres dinner plates, Chippendale cabinets, Malbone miniatures, Tiffany parures and the like) you don’t call them “heirlooms”. You call them, “Granny’s amethysts”, or “Uncle Biff’s candelabras”.

A diary is not an heirloom. It’s a keepsake.

Getting back to Abby’s story, during the sailing from New York to Liverpool, Abby’s older sister Mary meets a guy and they get engaged right off the boat, so Mary is able to go home and prepare for her wedding and ditch the family’s long slog through England and Germany and France. Her fiance, James Neilson, is from an old, rich New Jersey family so Mary Woodbury did pretty well for herself and her descendants. During their marriage, Mary and James collected rare Americana and became well-known philanthropists. Her portrait, along with her husband’s, hangs in the former mansion, which they bequeathed to Rutgers University (along with the surrounding 193 acres) in 1937.

Co-author Margaret Waddell is from a different branch of the Woodburys. Margaret is a member (as of 2011, when she published Abby’s Diary) of the Colorado Paper Doll Club. I’m grateful that she published her great-aunt Abby’s diary, but (no judgment), she’s not someone I whose diary I would want to read. OK; maybe a little bit of judgement. Doll collectors creep me out.

This is not Margaret Waddell. This is the president of the National Federation of Doll Collectors. For Real.

On the other hand, I love Abby Woodbury. Poor girl; in the diary she tries so hard to be good, but travel bores her and her mother gets on her nerves. It being 1870 – 1872, there is not much entertainment for a 19-year old girl abroad, except for the weekly Sunday sermon from whatever church they attend in whatever foreign place they land. The family lives in a series of boarding houses and hotels, and she goes to dances, takes walks, and does some shopping when her grand-father (who seems to be paying the bills) sends some dollars to the local bank every now and then. She tries to learn German or a little French (she gets lessons when there is money left over after paying for her three younger brothers’ education), and tries to acquire a lady-like amount of musical ability, but, alas, she’s only a fair student and money is tight, so most of her hours are filled by mending stockings, or adding ribbons to an old bonnet, or wishing for letters from home. Once in a while she goes to a museum:

April 12, 1971

I went to the museum this morning with Maria Miller. Oh, the beautiful pictures! Raphael’s “Madonna” is lovely. I wish I had more taste for pictures. I wonder I cannot tell Mama the things I want to now and then. I want to tell her things so much, but she does not [two words crossed out] and my lips will not say it.

I don’t know why such mundanity interests me so much, but I find Abby’s diary fascinating. She seems to have a lot of intelligence but, due to her situation and her times, she’s not able to find her niche in the world as a proper “nice” lady; alas, that must have been the fate of many women born during her era, even up to today, eh?

September 9, 1871

I find the days are too short for me and I have no time to sew with all my studying. I have practiced three hours, read and translated all my French and been to Mama’s twice..I do wish she wouldn’t find something unpleasant in everything I say. 

Now, when I was 19 and traveling in France, I did not have much to keep myself occupied outside of sight-seeing. I did not drink, I was traveling alone, and I was not the kind of girl who enjoyed talking to strangers. So when the day was done, or it was Sunday, I read a lot, wrote a lot of letters, and obsessed about keeping expenses low (my budget was $100 per week for food, lodging, and travel — everything).

October 3, 1871

It rained all day today. I ordered myself a black alpaca suit to be made.  I hope it will be nicely and prettily made. I paid 1.25 francs per meter for the alpaca. I have been to Mama’s all this afternoon and came away unhappy as usual.

Abby Woodbury, the writer of this diary, never married and died in 1894 at the age of 44.

Cause of death is unknown, but I bet it was boredom.

She should have gotten cats. Never a dull moment.

I happened to glance out of my dining room window a few mornings ago and I saw Taffy in the rhododendron bush across the kitchen patio. In the 13 years that Taffy has been in charge of our backyard, I have never seen him in the rhododendron bush.

So of course I have to go outside to investigate, and that’s when I hear a blue jay, perched on the Japanese dogwood tree on the other side of the kitchen nation, screeching bloody murder. I presume, at Taffy.

Taffy decides that he has seen enough of the inside of the rhododendron bush so he tight-rope-walks across a branch and dismounts onto the roof of the shed, and saunters off. The blue jay flies intothe rhododendron bush that Taffy has just evacuated, and he’s clutching a long ribbon of plastic in his claws.

I watch as the blue jay drags this long ribbon of plastic into the rhododendron bush, chattering to himself, keeping busy. . .

. . . building a nest.

Lordy, this will not do. So I hang around, peering up at the nest to piss off the blue jay, who screams at me and flies off in a huff. I have not seen him/her back in there since so, You’re Welcome, Blue Jays; I saved you from becoming Taffy’s latest hors d’ouvre.

One last thing. I have a confession to make.

Last week I wrote about my afternoon in New York City, and then I mouthed off about narrative nonfiction.

Dear Reader Steve commented that he was quite familiar with Manhattan and he had never seen the store front I photographed:

I confess that, for the sake of streamlining my blog post, I did not mention that I went out to Brooklyn for lunch, the hipster HQ of Fort Greene, to be exact, which is where I found this spiffy Eiffel Tower sign.

My question to you is this: after our discussion last week of the boundary between narrative nonfiction and fiction, is my omitting the fact that this shop front was in Brooklyn, and not in Manhattan as were all the other photos and clearly what my narrative implied (I wrote that I went to a friend’s book event in Manhattan BUT I also said that “New York City is a trip” and Brooklyn IS part of NYC). . .

. . . did I push too hard against the limits of narrative nonfiction into fiction territory? As a Dear Reader, are you offended or do you feel otherwise betrayed knowing that I left out a minor (and, to me, unimportant) detail as to every teeny moment and movement of my Big Apple gallivant? Do you, or do you not, condone this kind of artistic license to condense or omit bits of information in the service of a streamlined story?

Let me know. Because I have another long-form narrative nonfiction/memoirish thingy in the works and I want to know where to draw the line between keeping the story moving, and lying.

Thank you, Dear Ones. Have a great weekend, and stay out of birds’ nests.

 

 

Read more

If you thought that I was in a bad mood before Daylight Savings time. . .

Steve, last week, at dawn, or dawn-ish, right before breakfast.

. . .  you should see me now.

I like waking up at dawn — I get to live another day in this wondrous world! I love the clarity and kindness of the early morning light. I like the way we get a spiritual Do-Over with the first cup of tea. I like the hope that comes with toast, a fresh start every 24 hours illuminated by the miracle of daybreak, courtesy of our very own star a mere 98 million miles away.

None of that happens when you have to get out of bed in the dark, shiver into two layers of fleece in the dark, put the tea kettle on in the dark, and back the car out of the driveway in the dark.

Why, o why did the Democrats not get rid of Daylight Savings Time when they had control over both houses of Congress and the Presidency? And, while they were at it, they could have ditched the Electoral College as well but noooooo. . .

A lot happened last week at the used book store that I manage here on the north shore of Long Island and I’m here to tell you all about it. Let’s start with Mike Massimino, a guy who absolutely did not cheat his way into college:

I liked Mike Massimino when he guest-starred on The Big Bang Theory and No, I did not know he was a real astronaut when he first showed up in Season 5, episode 15. His book is fun to read because he’s humble, he’s funny, and he’s smart. He’s also very hard working — he wanted to be an astronaut so badly that he did extensive physical exercises on (with?) his eyeballs so he could pass the vision test. You can’t “money” your way into NASA and to become an astronaut, and you have to be very, very good at science and a whole lot more. Who knew that being fluent in French is a + on your astronaut application?

This first edition copy of Spaceman is not the only astronaut book we have:

We have a second edition copy of Sally Ride’s book about Mars and GUESS WHAT!

Both these books are signed:

I am selling these books as a set for $25.00.

This is my favorite part of Spaceman, on page 121 of Mike Massimino’s life story:

——-

Other than flying in the T-38, one of my favorite parts of astronaut training was the enrichment lectures. Former astronauts and older NASA guys would come by and give talks about the space program. … My favorite lecturer was Alan Bean, who flew on Apollo 12 and is one of the twelve guys who walked on the moon. After retiring from NASA, he became a painter. Alan’s letter was called “the Art of Space Exploration.” He talked about the mistakes he’d made and how he learned to fix them. … the last thing Alan said to us was “What most people want in life is to do something great. That doesn’t happen often. Don’t take it for granted. Don’t be blasé about it. And don’t blow it. A lot of times, believe it or not, people blow it.”

——-

I want to send this to every teenager I know because I wish I had had Alan Bean around when I was in my 20s warning me to not blow it because Oh, yes, I know very well how people blow it.

Haven’t we all? This people typing this right now, for example, has blown it. More than once. And maybe as recently as yesterday. That’s another thing that I love about the early morning: it’s too soon in the day to have blown it yet.

Last week at the used book store we got this in a donation:

It’s a Book of the Month Club edition (basically not even worth its weight in scrap paper) but I’m interested in it because of this:

Ah, those were the days (in this case, 1981) when author photos took up the entire back cover, when writers were important people and the books they wrote mattered (even fiction). And you know why this particular author photo is special to me (hint: cat). But, I wonder, did people not know how to crop photos back in 1981? I know that photographers like to get people’s hands in the picture. . . was John Irving’s left hand doing something weird and they had to crop it out, even though that left a lot of dead space at the top of the frame? Or did the art department have a thing for the tippy top of that background tree?

Working in a used book store gives you a lot of time to think about stuff. These fell out of a coffee table book about Rembrandt:

I was thinking, Oh yuk, a Rembrandt book; but then the New York Times Sunday magazine did a cover story about the discovery of a “lost” Rembrandt and now I’m thinking maybe Rembrandt is coming back in style and I put a $1.00 price tag on it.

And then there is this:

Have you ever heard of Patrick White? I had no idea that an Australian had ever won the Nobel for literature but there you go. You always learn something in a day’s work at the used book store.

There are always people who think the used book store is in desperate need of their ancient beat-up college paperbacks:

This one had a cigarette burn in it, and such useful notes as: Nothing is ever it.

I have a story about Ulysses that I have been saving to tell until just the right moment and that moment has come!

When Vladimir Nabokov was teaching literature at Cornell (1948 – 1959), he made a note of this in his diary  dated March 21, 1951, about a meeting he had with a student who was “explaining to me (after getting a 55 [on a test] that when reading a novel (Ulysses, in this case), that he likes to skip passages and pages so as to get his own idea ‘you know, about the book and not be influenced by the author.’ ”

I can only imagine the look on Vladimir’s face during this exchange. I wonder what that student went on to do with his life.

This is the book that I nominate as this week’s Most Boring Book Ever Published:

It came in with Ulysses. A note on the inside cover says, P. 261 – READ OVER.

So let’s look at page 261:

Almost every page of this little paperback is filled with underlines and yellow hi-lights. This guy really loved Oliver Cromwell. Go figure.

And, next; this is just sad:

The book was printed in 1921, so it was already quite old when it was given away.

Dated Riga, 1 April 1939:

My dear friend Fanni, to remember a time I will not forget.

This is from Wikipedia, translated from the German, about the book’s author, Artur Landsberger (1876 – 1933):

As a sharp-tongued social critic Landsberger was persecuted by the National Socialists.  Finally, he took an overdose of Veronal  at his desk and died by suicide . In the “Third Reich” his books were no longer allowed to be printed.

This book would have been banned by the Nazis in 1939, and I can only guess what it meant to Isi to give it away, or to Fanni to receive it, in the year before Riga was invaded by the Soviets, before the mass deportations by the Germans. This book has survived the worst of the 20th century. I’m not going to throw it out.

From the sublime to the ridiculous, how about this three men on an island self-published fable-with-a-message from 1992:

No more birds, fish, trees, or flowers.

What have we done to this island of ours?

Vantage Press was founded in 1949 and ceased operations in late 2012.

Vantage was the largest vanity press in the United States. In 1990, the State Supreme Court in New York ordered Vantage to pay $3.5 million in damages to 2,200 authors it had defrauded.  According to the plaintiffs, Vantage charged money upfront, but never promoted the books as the authors had expected. (I can relate. My books never got the promotion I expected. . . but that’s how all writers feel.)

But wait, I  saved the best for last!

Published by Octopus Books in London in 1972, this books hits my sweet spot of vintage cook books. It’s got the ’70s color scheme (burnt orange, brown, and more burnt orange) and harkens from a day when life was simple, when there was no such thing as a food stylist. You cooked the food, slapped it on a plate, garnished it with red cherries, and snapped a photo.

If you were fancy, you’d put a copper pot in the background.

But under no circumstance would you go out of your way to make the food look edible.

And so goes another week in the exciting world of used book selling.

This week I got some mail from my publisher. Out of the blue, they forwarded two letters that had been sent to me in care of Bloomsbury in New York City. Both letters were about my first book, When Wanderers Cease to Roam, which on November 15th this year will be eleven  years old.

One letter came from a reader who told me that my book helped her endure the chemotherapy treatments that have made her cancer-free since 2016, and she still re-reads it every month as she gives thanks for her recovery. I can’t tell you how profoundly, and humbly, I am honored to be part of this Dear Reader’s life.

The other letter was a ten-page illustrated booklet about cats and hearts, good soup and wildflowers, stars and talking mice in homage to When Wanderers Cease to Roam. What a treasure, and what a privilege to be a catalyst for such creativity.

Thank you Dear Readers, here today and long distance mind-melding, for bringing me into your kindest, sweetest considerations about the most beautiful and important parts of living and loving on this planet.  (Cats, tea, stars, good books, etc.) I am not worthy.

Have a great weekend, you marvelous creatures. Stay warm, or cool in the shade; whatever is best for your greatness.

XXOO

 

Read more


I’m trying to find a way to sell more used books. While we are making more money than we made last year at the used book store that I co-manage to benefit our local library (Bryant Library in Roslyn, Long Island, New York), I want to “grow” the business because I’ve promised myself a case of New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc the first time we hit the outrageous monthly goal of $500.00. And I really like New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc and I like to drink it knowing that it’s for a good cause.

So I’ve started to make structures out of the books that no one wants. The castle (above) is my first attempt to make something enticing.

There’s an empty room at our library, a “Maker Space” for “teens”, that I’d like to fill with” teens” making Book Art. And I want these up-to-now-hypothetical “teens” to use our used book store as their art supply source.

BTW, when I was in that age bracket, I did not like being called a “teen”. I did not have a “teen” life, as was shown me by TV and LIFE magazine, and I hated every “teen” who did.

This was soooooo not me.

I am currently almost finished with my second structure, another castle made out of the classic illustrated YA novel, Half Magic.

It might surprise you that making Book Art is not nearly the dirty work that running a used book store is. Lately we have been receiving really filth donations — literally filthy. We get books that seem to have been stored in oily  garages for decades, we get books that have have been absorbing years and years of cigarette smoke, we get books that come from damp basements, we get books that have been pried out of dusty bookcases from the 1960s (we can tell because they are all Book of the Month Club sections, none more recent than 1972), we get books that have been colonized by spiders. Cobwebs are the worst.

This week we got a very nice donation from an SUV that had been caught in a sand storm. I unpacked the cartons in the hall way of our historic house, and had to wipe down every book cover to remove a fine layer of grit:

After wiping them down with a damp paper towel, every book had to dry off. And although this was a rather good donation, it also contained a book about how to manage your bowl disease. Really? You think a used book store would want that??

My favorite book of the week, however, is this one:

It was printed in 1962 and, I suppose, acquired that same year by Mill Lane Junior High School in Farmingdale, Long Island, New York. But as you can see, this book was never checked out, not once, in its lifetime:

For 56 years, this book has waited for someone to care. But alas, its Due Date was never stamped.

That’s an ugly cover, but the title is killer, if you ask me. Uses of Infinity: I can picture a great fantasy novel with that title, or a moving memoir of loss and recovery.

Hoping to find something the lived up to its first impressions, I peered into its pristine pages:

Without actually reading the book, which I don’t have the energy or the smarts to do, I have surmised that Infinity is something that you can graph, which means that Infinity is something that you can quantify, or present in an arcane visual language. Who knew?

Some of the sub-heading are as good as poetry:

Wait. This book was purchased for junior high school kids?? No wonder it was never checked out.

THIS BOOK MUST BE MINE.

At first, I wanted to bring it home so I could cut it up and make mysteriously inspiriting collages out of it, but more and more I have the feeling that this book is an artifact of the colossal curiosity of its author, Leo Zipkin, and all kindred souls who find beauty and meaning in higher mathematics. Now I don’t have the heart to destroy it.

One of our volunteer book sellers was working last Friday and she left a note that one of the library workers had come into the book store and taken 8 novels “on loan”. She said that she wanted to read the cover copy to a house-bound friend, get her selection, and return the books she didn’t want.

All our novels, hard cover and paperback, cost 50 cents. 50 CENTS.

I put my foot down and wrote down our store policy for all future cases of such entitlement and cheapskatedness. We do not  “loan” books. WE ARE NOT A LIBRARY.

People are amazing, are they not?

Then again, we’re talking about people, and there are still people who love Donald Trump, despite the clear Helsinki-adjacent evidence that he and the Republican party are determined to destroy our democracy through alignment with Russia.

I get stomach cramps just thinking about it. The times are desperate, Dear Readers, and it makes me crazy. So I bring you stories of paper castles and equations for infinity because we all need to think about something else, now and then, other than the pure venality of the right wing, or we will go insane.

I also have kitty cats:

And I forgot to tell you that when I was in Washington D.C., our nation’s capital, three weeks ago, I had the opportunity to check in with Mr. Fluffy, the horribly mangy, filthy, smelly, scraggly, skinny, sickly cat who I rescued from the streets in ’17, who now looks like this:

He’s gorgeous and he doesn’t know it. He’s a very sweet kitty. You can pick him up and smooch him, he doesn’t mind.

Have a great weekend, Dear Ones. Our country still has the chance to redeem itself.

And if you want to read up on the latest in the resistance led by two smart and smart-ass women of spirit and gumption and righteousness, click here:

JackieSue, Yellow Dog Granny

Juanita Jean, The World’s Most Dangerous Beauty Salon

XXOO, Y’all.

Read more

As I announced a while ago, I now have the unbearably glamorous volunteer job of co-managing a used book store here on the north shore of Long Island.

The wall clock stopped telling time about a decade ago, and the fireplace underneath it is used only for its mantel.

100% of our inventory of used books comes from donations…which means that we often get bag-loads of crap dumped on us, from people who think that “donations” is another word for “here, this stuff is now your problem.”

So I wrote up new guidelines:

Please, no college text books, water-damaged Philip Roth novels, spinning wheel repair manuals, baby raccoons, left-over lasagna, or out-of-state library books. Everything else between two covers is gladly and gratefully accepted.

The book store is in the front parlor (I like to think it used to be old Mrs. Valentine’s sitting room where she had tea parties during the Monroe administration) in the historic c. 1820 Valentine House in Roslyn, NY and all the money we make from selling used books goes to the local library.

As the enviously philanthropic volunteer co-manager of the Roslyn library used book store, I wield absolute power when it comes to deciding what to display on the fireplace mantel. Here’s the display I made in celebration of LGBTQ Pride Month:

The vertical rainbows are paperback, and the horizontal rainbows are hard-backs. I had the most trouble finding book covers in the color green. Judging by my inventory, green is the least-used color in book-binding.

We were also lacking inventory in green book covers because I had previously plundered our stock for my  own bookshelves:

The idea came to me on a slow day in the used-book selling world. It was also raining (which doesn’t bring in the punters) and I was hungry.

As you can see, my decor à live combines low and high culture…if indeed such a distinction can be made:

I confess that I am not tempted to read any of the books on display chez moi. I think that reading them would totally ruin them for me, as objets d’art, don’t you think?

I rather like the image of Light on Snow, and it makes me happy to imagine all the possibilities that might be contained in Anita Shreve’s novel. And look! Stacked as they are, they make a poem:

Light on Snow, Winter Study

Jem (and Sam)…

heart of the matter

This relates: The great novelist Vladimir Nabokov (so I’ve heard; I’ve never read any of his books) was teaching literature to undergraduates in Ithaca, New York when he wrote about a meeting he’d had with a student who was failing his class. In his diary, dated March 21, 1951, Nabokov wrote:

“the student explained to me me that when reading a novel (Ulysses, in this case) he likes to skip passages and pages so as to get his own idea, you know, about the book and not be influenced by the author.”

Nobaokov did  not record whether this kid made him laugh, or cry, or both.

There was plenty of space left on our book store mantel on either side of my rainbow display, and I searched for good LGBTQ titles but, this being a used book store, I had to go with what I had on hand.

I went with the most glamorous titles we had, because the New York Gay Pride Parade on June 24 will be amazingly glittery…but I’m still a teeny bit concerned that my intentions will be misinterpreted. Are there better topics other than Hollywood and royalty that I should have considered? Discuss.

And, as long as we are all sitting in a circle and having a chat, let us all congratulate Dear Reader Kirra from The Land of Oz, who is taking up residence in Salzburg, Austria next year. When she dropped that news on us last month, the first thing I thought was, Girl, you need a theme song.

Kirra, I’m talking to you from experience; you need to take a mixed tape with you to Salzburg so that you will play it over and over in your garrett, to become ingrained in your daily life, so that for ever more, when those songs come on the radio, you will be shot back to that special time and place with an intensity and recall that only music can trigger. Which I don’t have to tell you — you’re a music teacher.

You don’t have to decide right now what your theme song is, but you do have to have a play list that you will sing along with and remember home by and console and inspire yourself with, on all those nights and days in that foreign land.

Whenever I hear  Haven’t Got Time For The Pain by Carly Simon, or  The Last Time I Saw Richard by Joni Mitchell, or The Koln Concert by Keith Jarrett, I am instantly 22 again, living through one of the coldest Winters on record in Paris. Add a glass or two of wine to the soundtrack and I can re-play the entire year, all the sights and sounds and tastes and feelings. Oh, the misery and oh, the giddiness. Nothing will ever feel so bad and so good at the same time as being 22 years old in Paris, and nothing brings it back more vividly than this bunch of accidental theme songs. I want that for you, Kirra.

Speaking of Paris, the capital of France, I want to take this opportunity to whine about something that has always annoyed me about the book cover that Bloomsbury did for my book about France, called Le Road Trip:

THIS (above) is not what makes me unhappy about the cover. THIS (below) is what I can’t stand:

I pitched a fit when I saw this and I tried to get them to change it, but I was told that it was too late, the covers had already been printed. I absolutely and undyingly loathe the green lettering of the title because it’s an unattractive shade of green and because green makes no fucking sense. What makes it so maddening is that I was in on the editorial meetings when we discussed cover art and I specifiedthat the coloring on the spine should be blue, white, and red for obvious reasons:

Did the art director hand off this assignment to a beginner graphic artist who called in sick the day we sat around a big table in the conference room and discussed what I wanted? Or is the person who chose to go with this stupid green lettering just a terribledesigner? When you are designing something — anything — you have to consider every single itty bitty detail; you have to question every aspect, you have to know the reason for, and be able to justify, each of the countless small and large choice that you make.

Do you think that the great designer Marc Jacobs designs his lace overlay silk jacket and then lets an assistant choose the buttons?

The answer is, “No.”

I never, in a million years, would have chosen puke olive green for the spine lettering on a book about France. Every time I look at those stupid three words in shades of  scum I want to punch somebody. I have very little tolerance for shoddy thinking.

The Chinese and Korean editions of Le Road Trip didn’t go along with the blue, white, and red color palette either …

… but I wasn’t in on the editorial meetings so I’m OK with that.

Next post about my fabulous incarnation as a volunteer co-manager at the used book store will be all about the staff, all retirees, one of which who asked me, “Do we alphabetize our books by author, or by title?”

Or maybe we will discuss How I Never Want To Get Old And Stupid.

My Darling Readers, have a glittery, glitzy, stupidity-free weekend. May all your theme songs make you want to get up and dance, dance, dance!

Read more

This was the campus of the University of Virginia in Charlottesville on August 17, during a vigil for Heather Heyer, who was killed by an American Nazi on Aug. 12:

Photo credit: Jason Lappa for The New York Times

The ugliness that happened at Charlottesville because of torch-wielding “Unite the Right” assholes. . .

. . .  should not have come as any surprise, and der Drumpf is not solely responsible for giving American Nazis the confidence to march in the light of day. White supremacy is what the Republican party has been dog-whistling for decades. der Drumpf is only saying out loud what the party has been nudge-nudging/wink-winking since Richard Nixon’s Southern Strategy. So, No, the GOP is not off the hook just because a few Republican politicians scold der Drumpf for his disgusting sympathy for the “fine people” of the alt-right.

What I think we should do, instead of tearing down the statues, is to paint over them, in big words: You Lost.  And for all those wonderful “Christians” who support the Drumpf agenda, we should add: Because God Was On Our Side. Get Over It, For Fuck’s Sake.

And if anyone wants to debate with you that the Civil War was about the glorious cause of state’s rights, remind them that the No. 1 state right that was fought over was the right to own slaves. And if anyone gives you that bullshit about the Stars and Bars being “just a battle flag”. . . ask them why they are proud of being on the losing side? Because they are such losers??

Oh, the hell with it. We should just let them secede. Florida’s going to go underwater away, and would anyone with a fully-functioning brain miss South Carolina?

BTW, those guys in the photo above are giving a Nazi Salute. Klansmen make the same salute, only with the left hand. So now you know.

Here’s a news item about confronting American Nazis that made me laugh. Yvette Felarca, a teacher in Berkley California, is facing assault charges in regards to her participation in a counter-demonstration against the alt-right in 2016, which led to a street brawl when the two forces faced each other. She was filmed hitting a brown-shirt. She wants all charges dropped. Her defense? It’s so pure, so plain: It shouldn’t be a crime to punch a Nazi.

LOVE IT. Also, Yvette Felacra is a teeny tiny Asian-American, so I bet her fists land like little pitty-pats on a big bad White Supremacist (who are all babies).

I know that I have lost Dear Readers of this blog since I started bad mouthing the imbecile in the White House. But here’s the thing: if you don’t speak up against this monstrosity, then your silence condones every perversion of language, truth, justice, and humanity that this der Drumpf piece of shit spews. It’s time to chose sides, people.

In Other News: I read two books last week, both of which I can recommend. This was my favorite:

 

(But skip the chapter about his favorite pornographer. All porn makes me ill.)

This is a collection of personal essays on the people and things that inspire John Waters. I have never seen a John Waters film. so I am not his built-in readership. But he’s such an odd fellow. . .Who wouldn’t want to read about how he got to be John Waters?

John Waters knows how to keep a story skipping across the pages and I read the whole thing in almost one sitting. YUM. But what I adore most about him is that he has a solid world view, one that is waaaaaay different than mine, but he’s so smart that he can articulate his values and esthetics with such vigor and humor that he makes me wish that I wasn’t so fussy about living a regular, normal life. For instance, I would never wear clothes that cost a ton of money just so I can look bad, but he does (by the famous-for-shredding-seams haute couturier Comme des Garcons) yet he succeeds in making me understand why someone like him (or, more accurately, him) does.  After reading those two millennial authors I discussed last week, whose work was froth, it was like gorging on pure protein to read words that had a long life (John Waters is 70 years old) to back them up, as if each word had a weight to it, a real heft, have stood the test of time and all, that made the story right juicy. And it was like champagne to read about someone his age (John Waters is 70!!) who is still challenging himself and the world to be more creative, less attracted to surface shine. Ah, so that’s how you age gracefully!

This book came out in 2007 but I just around to reading it now:

Joshua Ferris wrote about office work, and the culture there that assumes shape amongst co-workers. And not once did he resort to the usual shorthand — likening it to high school —  about the various roles each cubicle-person plays for the others. And there is a plot, in case that’s what you read fiction for. But mostly I liked the observations about meetings, looking busy, and waiting for the weekend. I did laugh out loud at one point, but then, I think the word “scumbag” is funny.

I’ve been thinking about the various offices I’ve worked in since my first office job in 1973. At one, in the 1980s for heaven’s sake, I was told that the old guy who went around kissing girls on the mouth was just a quirky “something that Ozzie did.” And when I recoiled at his approach to me, and told him No, thanks, some of the ladies criticized me for hurting his feelings.

For those readers in the Long Island area, the office was the inventory admin one at Fortunoff’s (on Fifth Ave) and I was not sad when they went out of business ten years later.

God, I’ve had a lot of crappy jobs.

And so we come to the end of this week’s post. I was laid low by the plague this past week, or something that certainly felt as deadly as The Black Death, so I am out of steam now and I didn’t get to the things that I had planned to write about . . . next week, then.

As bad as these days are, there is still some loveliness in the world. Here is a picture of a recent traffic jam in my little village :

And here’s a picture of some of those antsy Long Island drivers caught in that traffic jam:

Have a great weekend, every one. May all your driver’s seats be full of fluffy, unconditional love.

 

Read more

This Summer I’ve been trying out all kinds of new reading material, and most of them bore me to bits.

Science Fiction: I tried The Martian Chronicles, a “classic” written by Ray Bradbury in 1950, but even on Mars it’s the lady Martians who stay home and do the housework. Yawn.

I’ve tried mysteries. P. D. James is supposed to be the gold standard here, but she writes about a life on earth that I am unfamiliar with in that, say, when her poet/detective Dalgliesh declines the offer of a biscuit with his tea he does so with a gesture of sorrow, the likes of which I have no way of knowing what the hell that means. Her exposition is so over-wrought. Also, I loathe poets.

Fiction: If a book begins with a description of scenery, either of a landscape or a building, I’m outta there on page one. I also don’t want to read about Naples, Africa, Scandinavia, American university professors, zookeepers, anything with “Wife” or “Daughter” in the title, or autism.

Deckle-edge is also a mighty huge turn-off.

There is only one sure thing, as far as books are concerned. I can not pass up a memoir written by a famous person: guaranteed satisfaction every time.

Carole Bayer Sager is, in my opinion, a superstar. Her memoir They’re Playing Our Song is about her life, New York to Beverly Hills, which includes amazing success as a songwriter in the 1960s (Groovy Kind of Love) up to The Prayer (1999) to 2016’s Stronger Together. One of her BFFs was Elizabeth Taylor; she also worked with Michael Jackson and just about everybody in the music biz in the past 50 years. She wrote TWO songs for the Monkees!!!

The best bits are about her marriage to and divorce from Burt Bacharach. Hoo-boy, she does not like him. I read this book in one day and her hard-won ownership of her life gave me permission to write about something this week that I wasn’t sure I should, but here goes.

This past week I was very unkind to an old boyfriend, and I feel a little bad about it, but I’m pretty sure he deserved it.

I met a guy in Paris in the Summer of 1976. He, being of a soundly cliche intelligence and because it was a “cute meet”, decided that we were crazily fated to be meaningful to each other the rest of our lives, according to a fantasy he had that I was his Manic Pixie Dream Girl.

In modern parlance, we “hooked up” a year later n California, and then again in New York City 1982 – 83.

I moved on, but Old Boyfriend has remained stuck in this fantasy of “us” for the last 40 years. He likes to get in touch yearly to talk about how crazy we used to be (Big Deal: We went to street parties on Bastille Day in Paris), and how whacky we still were at heart, even though he had long ago opted for marriage and kids and crappy vacation snapshots of the family all wearing the same hawaiian shirt and Xmas newsletters.

I used to marvel at this delusion of our “bond” until it stopped being kind of funny/peculiarand started to annoy me that he was never the least bit interested in updating his info on me. He had zero curiosity about my life; he was still invested in the 20-year old me, long, long, long after I had become completely bored with her and had evolved into a much more fascinating creature.

About five years ago it all got too creepy so I finally told him that we have nothing in common, NOTHING, and I had no desire to continue these communications.

Carole Bayer Sager makes the same point in her marriage to Burt Bacharach (spoiler alert): Burt was never interested in her as the person she really was; he only wanted her to be his muse — he was only interested in his idea of her. I totally get that. In my puny way, I get that (see: below).

Lo and behold, last month Old Boyfriend drops an email to me. Two sentences, along the lines of I still think of Paris and hope you’re doing well. 

I let it sit in the ether for two weeks, then I emailed back: Life is spectacular. Being a Capricorn is starting to pay off: my 60s are so far a whole lot better than my 30s.

He emails back the same day:

Very good to hear and i agree that life in our 60s (still hard to believe) is and can be great.
 
Where are you living these days?
 
I was just trying to figure out when was the last time I saw you. Has it really been thirty years? Scary. 
 
Take care of you.

Let me tell you what exactly about this email made me crazy with resentment and hatred. It was the line: I was just trying to figure out when was the last time I saw you.

Really? How can he not remember? That night about 19 years ago? How can he not remember that time he came to New York from his home in L.A. in the late 1990s to tell me that he’s been “very good for 14 years” (he’d been married for 14 years by then) and now he needed some fun and was I up for “fun”? How could he not remember how he propositioned me to help him cheat on his wife?? And how he expected me to jump at the offer??

Back on that evening in the late 1990s which I remember so clearly, I remember that my first reaction, upon receiving his offer of “fun” was: Jesus Christ. He’s so boring that he doesn’t even have the balls to go out to a bar and find someone new; he has to fly to New York to look up someone he’s already known since the ’70s. I knew he was lazy and had no imagination, but I didn’t know he was this lazy.

The next moment my blood boiled. How dare he think that I would be tempted to have “fun” — with him???  As if I couldn’t do a whole lot better on any Tuesday in Midtown???

And then I was disgusted. This just proved that in the intervening two decades between Paris and that night in the late 1990s — years I had filled with travels, my own marriage and divorce, and few interesting change of careers — he had taken in nothing new about me that changed the fantasy he had of me in my 20s. In my 20s, when we met, I was a much free spirit in that I was getting as much information about life as I could so that, when I grew up, I could make connoisseur decisions about what I liked and disliked, what I valued and what I disowned, and who I wanted to be.

And there I was, a full-grown woman, and here’s Old Boyfriend acting as though he is someone who does not fall far, far, far below my high standards.

(Also, let me say that, morally, I do not approve of husbands cheating on their wives, and certainly not WITH ME.)

It was on the sidewalk in front of the Film Center Cafe (now shuttered) on 9th Ave in Hell’s Kitchen that I declined his offer, told him I had to go home, and left to catch my train back to Westchester. I never saw him again, but took a certain delight in getting periodic updates on his dopey humble-brags about his incredibly dull life. He goes to Amsterdam off season! His son is elected high school class V.P.! His daughter gets into a third-rate college!

So, yeah, when he wondered when was the last time I saw you, I wanted to reach out into the inter webs and punch him in the face.

But what really set me off was his follow-up query: Where are you living these days?

Carole Bayer Sager (author of the memoir I’m recommending as a great read) channels my feeling about this little query on page 283 of her excellent memoir. She’s at a Hollywood/Beverly Hills diner party with the rich and famous: [The diner guests] engaged in the usual feigned interest in what everybody had been up to, though, of course, if they cared, they’d have known.

If Old Boyfriend cared about what I’d been doing lately, he’d have known. I mean, it’s not like it’s hard to find me out there in the inter webs.

So I sent him a nasty response:

Really? “Where are you living these days?”
 
Have you heard of this thing called “Google”?
 
Try it. Oh, wait. That was one of the things that bored me about you. You aren’t very curious about anything that is outside of the teeny tiny sphere of “you”.
 
Dude. I’m in Russia, China, and South Korea, not to mention all the English-speaking countries of the world. Get your head out of your ass.

Yeah, that’s me after three glasses of wine and a little bit of Don’t You Know Who I Am? (I am the most famous Vivian Swift on the planet, after all. No brag, just fact.)

And wasn’t it extremely nice of me to pick on him for that, instead of reminding him of his disgusting 14th-wedding anniversary offer?

Old Boyfriend sends me his reply, and I have to admit it’s kind of classy:

So glad I reached out to you.
 
Have a good life.

Damn. I was really looking forward to having it out with him.

So I guess that after 40 years, this guy is out of my life for good. As they say in Paris, Meh.

Thank you, Carole Bayer Sager, for writing (page 205, about Burt): I will not miss his narcissism or his inability to ever really hear or see me.

Sam Shephard and Patti Smith in 1971

Patti Smith’s Old Boyfriend Sam Shephard died, and she wrote an obituary for The New Yorker. Oh lordy, I can’t stand Patti Smith: “…a cold, still night, when one could hear the stars breathing.”  Hearing stars breathe is the kind of thing a very pleased with herself 16-year old writes. And good god, what a name-dropper: she’s not even out of the first paragraph and she brings up Yves Klein in reference to  “a blue that might lead anywhere”. A blue that might lead anywhere??? What does that  fucking mean?? And so on, and so on. Every other sentence is an atrocity.

For the record, when Patti Smith name checks Yves Klein she’s ham-handedly alluding to how he’s the one artist who came closest to replicating the intense saturation of Majorelle Bleu, which you can read about in my posts filed under that category in the side bar to the right. P.S.: It’s a blue that leads to Marrakech but, OK, if you want to call it “anywhere” go ahead. Just don’t call it “nowhere”, as Patti does in paragraph 2: … a sliver of a many-faceted nowhere that, when lifted in a certain light, became a somewhere. Oh sweet jesus, she is such a shitty writer.

However, I mention this obit because this, the relationship between Sam Shephard and Patti Smith, as she tells it, is how people navigate a relationship through the decades from their dopey 20s to their mature 60s and 70s. They update each other on the workings of their inner lives, they listen to each other, and they give each other room for change; they keep track of the events and the transformations, and they adjust their understanding of the other accordingly. They do not keep harping on and on about The Way We Were.

Then again, it seems that Patti was happy to make herself available whenever  Sam called, at whatever hour of the day or night, used her as a sounding board when he wanted to hear his own voice. So maybe Old Boyfriends are all the same.

At least Sam Shephard was famous; my Old Boyfriend is just some guy with a condo in Long Beach.

Barbara Sinatra died on July 25 and I have a story about spending an afternoon in her house in Palm Springs and liking her immensely, but I got sidetracked and now this blog post is far too long and I haven’t even got to my weekly update on der Drumpf update because I care.

I could circle back to Mrs. Sinatra next week if you’re interested (let me know).

I’m only dealing with the little lies this week, as when der Trumpf brags that he got a phone call from the head of the Boy Scouts telling him that it was the “greatest speech that was ever made to them, and they were very thankful.” THAT’S A QUOTE from der DRUMPF.

PHOTO: REUTERS/BRIAN SNYDER

Then der Drumpf brags that the president of Mexico called him to congratulate der Drumpf’s victory on keeping immigrants from crossing the border.

Then the head of the Boy Scouts apologized to the nation for the crudeness of der Drumpf’s speech to the Boy Scouts and their Jamboree, and said that no one from the head office of the Boy Scouts ever called der Drumpf; and the president of Mexico let it be known that he has never talked to der Drumpf on the phone. Never.

How does devout Christian Sarah Huckabee Sanders live with herself ? After assuring reporters that no, der Drumpf didn’t lie about those phone calls, it’s just that the conversations didn’t take place on the phone, and those conversations never happened? How do all the devout Christians who voted for this lying, deluded, dumb-as-a-bag-of-Cheetos piece of shit live with themselves?

You don’t have to answer. I think I already know.

It’s AUGUST everybody! For all you dear Commenters in the northern hemisphere, it’s the height of Summer and all our Summer fantasies have to some true now or never!

Thea, you will be glad to know that Top Cat finally kept me company out in the backyard last Sunday, as we were seated in our sun set-watching devices, remarking on the beauty of the end of the day. He opened a prized bottle of St-Emilion and after one sip his exact words were: “Why have I been denying myself one of the greatest pleasures known to man?”

And for Jeanie and Becky, who loves a good Lickety pic, this is for you (taken over two days):

We have a smoked-glass dining room table. For some reason, Lickety has decided that Top Cat’s place mat on the dining room table is where he wants to nap lately.

Because some readers have recently sent me emails about not being able to Comment on this blog : Click the READ MORE button on the bottom of this latest chapter of my molehill life, scroll down, and leave a Comment. It’s a design flaw that I can’t seem to code out of.

Have a great weekend, Dear Readers. I hope all your naps are on the cool, hard surface of your dreams.

Read more

P1190479It’s good to be back just in time for my penultimate Summer post! During my two-week break I went to the annual Long Island Scottish Games Festival at Old Westbury Gardens (that’s a dog in a kilt, above). It’s always good to hang with my peeps, the Scottish, the most fun-loving, light-hearted, sober people on Earth. It comes from all that airy-fairy-gaia-girl-power DNA us Celtic maids of the woods possess:

P1190483

P1190484

Oh, right: us Scottish girls also love to dance with swords, too:

P1190492

And as you can see, even the boys of our clan want to be like their magical sisters so much that they’ll even wear the same outfits.

P1190494

I also spent a few days in the enchanted land known as Pennsylvania, hanging with my mother (from whom I get my Scottish proclivities). She has a cat named Sammy who knows how to work backlighting and sheer curtains:

P1190588

And, yes, I spent an inordinate amount of time sitting in the backyard trying to get a shot of the 6:05 Qantas from LAX.

P1190602

Yes, I sat sentry in the backyard whenever the landing pattern at JFK airport shifted to the sky above Top Cat Manor hoping to get the red kangaroo on film. The 6:05 Qantas from LAX is my black orchid, my white whale, my Loch Ness Monster. So far, I’ve only been able to catch the 6:40 Air Berlin from, well, you know where. But note how the plane catches the golden rays of the September evening. Sigh.

I know I promised you a cat-painting lesson. Well, I’m working on it:

P1190664

But I have an exciting new give-away for my dear readers! I have received an advance hard back copy of ElizabethGilbert’s new novel, The Signature of All Things:

P1190680

Last May Elizabeth sent me a paper-back proof of the novel and I read it in two days. I loved it. And you all know that I do not read fiction…but this is almost non-fiction, as it’s a story about love and botany and is full of real true stuff about plants and gardens and 18th century trade in newly-discovered horticultural species. GREAT BOOK, is what I’m saying. If it’s been a long time since you read you’ve read a book by a really smart writer, or it’s been ages since you enjoyed a sophisticated historical romance, or it’s been eons since you read a book that took you into another realm of being…this book is for you.

P1190681

The book itself is a beautiful object — it 499 pages of smooth ivory vellum with a deckle edge. And it’s got two different end-papers, with a pair of botanical illustrations on each:

P1190682

This is very expensive to produce, by the way.

I am giving away this advance hard-back copy of Elizabeth Gilbert’s Signature of All Things to one lucky dear reader!

Please leave your name in the Comments section and, as is standard operating procedures, Top Cat will pick a Commentor at random. The winner of this lovely book will be announced next Friday,right here on this blog.

(Comments will close at midnight, Tuesday.)

It’s down to the penultimate Summer weekend, dear readers. Let’s all go out and do something to make Summer 2013 memorable!

 

Read more

I’ve been back from New Orleans a whole week but I’m still under the spell of that city’s tropical secret gardens…

P1150188 2

…especially since it is still cold (still cranking up my electric blankie at night, and dressing in fleece from head to toe during the day) and dismal (rain today, and yesterday, and tomorrow) here on Long Island. Ahhhh, to be back in the French Quarter…

P1140868

…where every cup of tea is full of  possibilities, both psychic

P1150193

…and esthetic:

P1150200

And as if that weren’t enough bliss to get you through the day, the Quarter also has a fantastic book store culture. I started my Book Shop Quest with Beckham’s Books on Decatur Street:

P1140845

First things first. Before I paid any attention to the books I had to get a good picture of the book shop cat, Juniper:
P1140841 2

Who, of course, was not going to help me one bit.

P1150116

You’ll notice that while not running away altogether, Juniper did everything possible to stay out of focus.

P1150118

There’s ten more photos of more of the same blurry cat-like object…and even some pix of a disappeared cat:

P1140844

So let’s focus on the sure thing at Beckham’s Books: GREAT BOOKS!

P1140842

Finding this on my first day in New Orleans was the omen that convinced me that this was going to be the best New Orleans trip ever:

P1150454

I already treasure my copies of The Silent Traveler in Paris and The Silent Traveler in Edinburgh Chiang Yee (1903 – 1977) was a traveling memoirist, like me, who also illustrated his wanderings in ten books under his “Silent Traveler” persona in the 1940s to the 1970s. Yee was in San Francisco in the 1950s but his book wasn’t published until 1963.

P1150451

Cable car on California Street.

I love reading travel memoirs from The Golden Age of Travel (capital-T Travel died in 1978), and if there’s pictures, so much the better:

P1150452

Japanese Bridge at Golden Gate Park, the same bridge I romped on in 1966 when I was 10 years old.

It was when I went back to Beckham’s Books two days later that I finally got a good picture of Juniper, the Book Shop Cat:

P1150115

Ever seen a cat bird-dog someone’s cafe-au-lait? Only in New Orleans, my dear readers, only in New Orleans.

And I found another treasure!

P1150455

Irwin Shaw (1913 – 1984),  author of the 1970s best seller Rich Man, Poor Man, writes here about his first visit to Paris on the day of its liberation from the Nazis on August 25, 1944 and of his life as an ex-pat in The City of Light in the 1950s – 1970s. And as if that weren’t thrilling enough, there’s illustrations by Ronald Searle!

P1150443

Searle (1920 – 2011) has a delicious sense of humor about Paris that is both timeless, and very 1970s (Paris! Paris! was published in 1976).

P1150444

In Ronald Searle’s Paris even the dogs smoke Gaulois.

There are 35 wonderful illustrations in Paris! Paris!

P1150445

P1150446

The good people and cat at Beckham’s Books offer a free map to all the other book shops in the French Quarter, so my next stop was at Crescent City Books on Chartres Street:

P1140857

And to prove that my entire visit to NOLA was charmed, I got there just as their book shop cat went on duty:

P1140854

I can vow to the 100% truth of this sign:

P1140852

Oh, Isabel, I love you so:

P1140850

Upstairs at Crescent City Books you will find the Gardening Section, near Isabel’s bed (on those old wooden stadium seats) and her litter box (under the Sale table).

P1140855

Is this not the best title you ever saw for a gardening book?

P1150456

Of course I bought it. It was published in London in 1973 and I don’t know if you know anything about London in 1973, but that was not a sparkling year for garden writing of the bedside variety.  I imagined stories of delightful garden get-aways, fantastic garden follies, quaint garden indulgences, dreamy garden escapes…

P1150449

…instead, I got a book of guaranteed garden enervation.

P1150450

In 1970s England, Less Common Vegetables were egg-plant, sweet pepper, and “cob corn”, which the reader is instructed to boil for 15 minutes before eating. Y-a-w-nnnnnnn.

So I guess it does live up to its cover, in a sleep-aiding way. So that means that if I want to read my perfect Gardener’s Bedside Book I’ll have to write it. Unless one of my dear readers does it first. Any volunteers?

Next, I hit the elegant Faulkner House book store on Pirate’s Alley…

P1140882

…and I bought a book (I always buy something when I go to a book store, because I want book stores and their cats to always be there for me), a new guide book about New Orleans.

P1140881

I asked about a book store cat, but they have a book store poodle here and she was napping upstairs. “She’s in a mood today,” I was told.

Next it was on to Kitchen Witch on Toulouse Street…

P1140869

…which sells nothing but cooking and food-related books, which is why they use an old oven as a book case:

P1140873

They had three dogs on duty here, but I only took a photo of Jackson the Basset Hound because I did not want to disturb the other two, who  were sleeping in a corner. I did not by a book here — see those amber bottles on the table in front of the toaster (below)? That’s the house’s special red-beans-and-rice-spice that they sell, which I bought so I can not only read New Orleans when I am back home on dreary Long Island, I can taste it too.

P1140871

Lastly, there was Arcadian Books on Orleans Street:

P1140884

It’s run by a French-speaking American scholar with a strong French-speaking clientele and a slight hoarding tendency:

P1140885 2

You can read more about this amazing place here  but let me quote from a previous visitor:

Some day in this place, the wrong butterfly will land on the wrong bookcase, which will tip over, and the whole joint will go down in a cloud of book dust and really heavy hardbacks…Meaning, this is the most chaotic, crammed, beautiful bookstore in the city. It’s like a portrait of the whole project of reading/knowledge: messy, hard to make sense of, and full of more than you’ll ever have time to take in or understand.

P1140886 2

Also:

The proprietor, however, is shockingly put together and squeaky clean…

And handsome, too, I might add…and on his bulletin board behind his desk, this Frenchcartoon made me laugh out loud:

P1140887 2

Then again, I always find the conditional subjunctive tense hilarious. It loses something in the translation, but this obviously well-to-do sweater-vested middle-aged inhabitant of the seizieme is using a very literary kind of speech to say to his plump little wife, “I should make myself acquainted with a great poet, so that he can have  the benefit of my melancholy.” (Note to Jain: I know you’re reading this on your iPhone, so here’s the French caption that you can’t see in this photo:  Il faudrait que je fasse la connaissance d’un grand poete, afin qu’il puisse beneficier de ma melancolie. Yes, it’s much funnier in French.)

Note the cat under the coffee table (in cartoon above) — that counts as the book store cat.

 

This, dear readers, is my last post before I head off to Giverny, Marrakech,and Paris, where I hope to make the acquaintance of a great poet so that he can make good use of my melancholy.

 

P.S. Dear readers, because of renewed spam activity, I will have to close Comments on my blog after five days. So, if you are reading this on Wednesday or later, I’m sorry to say that you will not be able to leave your message but it’s nothing personal. I’m here every Friday — hope to see you here too.

 

Read more