Monday, March 31, 2008

Shelf Switcharoos

In an effort to incorporate a little more cardiovascular exercise at the book shop, we've switched around a bunch of the sections. Women's Studies now resides upstairs next to the big green armchair, shunting the Crafts section downstairs so that many more older ladies with bad knees can take a peek at our quilting, knitting, (but mostly) needlepointing titles.

Crafts then evicted Philosophy over to the shelves where Women's Studies used to be, and Parenting was lowered down several shelves to make room for all those Big Brain books, on the theory that parents are used to stooping down for their toddlers.

Lots of dusting ensued on Saturday, when my daughter was in to help with this Big Dig project, which was kind of poor planning, as we had to sidestep many customers on this busiest day in the shop, but I take my help when I can get it.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Aptronym Destiny

An aptronym refers to someone's name that is reflective of their occupation. Some notable examples include Judge Learned Hand, Astronaut Sally Ride, Poet William Wordsworth, and Presidential Press Secretaries Larry Speakes (Reagan) and Tony Snow (Dubya). It is with bookseller's remorse that I let go of my favorite aptronymical book: Russell Brain's Some Reflections on Genius and Other Essays (Philadelphia: J.B. Lippincott Company, 1960). Here's my description of this classic title in remembrance:

"There was nothing else for it; poor little Russell Brain was fated by the Aptronym Gods to become a neurologist and to author this preordained book. A collection of essays about the relationship between genius and madness, the genetics of genius, and discussions of some superintelligent folk such as Samuel Johnson, Jonathan Swift, Charles (smart as the) Dickens, Lord Monboddo and Christopher Smart (naturally)."

Friday, March 28, 2008

Book of the Day: Winter Has Lasted Too Long

Argh! We awoke this morning to find an aggravating layer of wet snow on the ground and more arriving at a slant, just in time to ball up getting the kids off to school and driving in to open the bookshop. Just yesterday I had kicked at the small crusty remnant of snow-gravel mix on our lawn and thought about uncovering some of my flower beds to hunt for snowdrops and crocuses and now this backtracking weather pattern!

I am resorting to a prominent display of the Book of Day in our front window: James Kavanagh's poetry collection, Winter Has Lasted Too Long to ward off any further retrograde meteorological activity.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Vegan Venom for La Bourdain

We don't have cable on our rustic road, much to the dismay of the Book Minnows, so I have never had the pleasure of indulging in the Food Channel and the gustatory delights of the telegenic Anthony Bourdain, but I really enjoy his books. From Kitchen Confidential to A Cook's Tour to The Nasty Bits, it's all been a vivid ride through the array of world foods. You can read my review of The Nasty Bits here which shows my appreciation for the irreverent chef.

Though I am a Bourdain fan, I have to share this hilarious new blog, HezbollahTofu, in which the vegan authors flout the unflattering things "Asshat" Bourdain has to say about those who do not dine on flesh. In a twist on the Julie and Julia book plot, HezbollahTofu is designed to extract the meat from Bourdain's Les Halles Cookbook and post venomous vegan versions of his recipes. So far, they look and sound yummy, and the satire is just searing.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Breaking Book Trout News....

Sheridan Hay, author of The Secret of Lost Things, a biblionovel about an eccentric array of New York City used bookstore employees and one of the best books I read last year, is coming to Old Saratoga Books for a book signing on May 3rd. Her book is now out in paperback and in keeping with the title of her book, she graciously forgave my having lost her contact information for over a month. Stay tuned for more details and for an upcoming email interview with her by the Trout herself.

In the interim, you can check out my book review from the blog archives and Hay's own website.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

The Village Booksmith

Located about 1/2 hour north of Saratoga and Schuylerville is another great used and rare bookstore, The Village Booksmith. Located in two adjoining houses with tons of books in all subject areas, the shop is owned by Cliff Bruce, a funny and outgoing colleague. When I last came to call, Cliff was unpacking a box of thumb tips (looked like hot dogs), crocheted balls and rainbow scarves for his magic supplies business, The Prop Box Magic Shop, which is also on the premises. Cliff is a longtime magician and his shop has an extensive selection of books about magic and conjuring, some of which are quite rare and interesting.

The Village Booksmith is located on U.S. Route 4 (223 Main Street) in the center of Hudson Falls, NY. Cliff has been in business at this location since 1976 and has over 70,000 titles spread among two floors of the adjoining former residences. Be sure to prowl around the large psychology and Books on Books sections, and of course, take a gander at the unusual magic books section.

In October 2007, a young local filmmaker, Colin Bannon, took over the bookstore for a day to shoot a scene for his upcoming film "Love Conquers Paul". The scene involved numerous actors and film technicians for a few minutes of footage involving the purchase a copy of Hemingway's "To Have and to Have Not". Cliff was supportive, if
hilariously nonplussed about the event, being quoted in the local newspaper as saying "We're not jumping up and down or anything, but it's certainly nice they liked the store."

Well, I think you'll like the store too. You can visit year round, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday. You can reach the shop at (518) 747-3261 or via email at: thebooksmith[at]earthlink[dot]net.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Grey Day Amusements

Miserable March rain has left me bereft of book buddies here at the shop, so I have been spending time doing odd bits of tinkering to the blog and surfing the 'net so as to avoid dusting. Here's some things that have brightened my day:

1) Cartoon of the day
2) Book Shelf of the Day
3) Book-in-the-Making of the Day
4) Book Reference Website of the Day

Off to rearrange and remove cat furr from the front windows.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Turn to Page 123, Now, Class

Sarah from the excellent and contemplative book blog, Sarah's Books, tagged me with a reading meme. Normally, I politely turn down these Internet chain letters, but I think highly of Sarah's writings and the topic interests me. In this meme, tagged bloggers are invited to share the contents of the whatever books they are currently dipping into and divulge lines 8 through 10 of page 123.

Here's what's on my nightstand and in my car:

1) Madame Bovary's Ovaries: A Darwinian Look at Literature, by David P. and Nanelle R. Barash, ( NY: Delacorte Press, 2005).

This is the book I stop and start and am carrying around in my car for reading while waiting for my daughters to get out of softball practice, eye doctor appointments, art lessons, etc. Despite the bad photoshop design of the front cover,

I would recommend this book as an interesting view of great books themes and their basis in biological imperatives (Othello: Male Sexual Jealousy, Pride and Prejudice: Female Nesting, Catcher in the Rye: Parent-Offspring Conflict, The Three Musketeers: Friendship as Reciprocity, etc.).

p. 123 quote

"And in deference to entropy, rooms should never be tidied. As to "fitness," this biological concept simply indicates a living thing's capacity to pass on genes, in a given environment. Thus, being "fit" may mean being big and strong, or perhaps smart and cunning, or it might be the weak and suitably frightened or the sneaky and unprincipled who reproduce successfully."

2) "The World Without Us", by Alan Weisman (NY: St. Martin's Press, 2007)

A fantastic but very depressing book. Weisman roams all around the world to let us know how different regions would change if humans vanished from the earth. We find out how Manhattan's skyscrapers would implode from groundwater-flooded footings, how Kenya's wildlife would blast out of their impossibly small refuges to eat up coffee plantations, and how it would take huge swatches of geologic time to allow all the little nurdle-lets of plastics to blast their way through the marine food chain to settle into oceanic floor sediment (see p. 123 quote above). Weisman's prose is vivid and more easily digested than any polymer, but I find that I cannot abide reading more than a chapter at a time. As a Homo Sapiens with a perhaps 70-80 year life span, I am saddened about the dire long-term effects my species is unleashing for others to clean up.

p. 123

"However, what Moore refers to is a type of runoff and sedimentation that the Earth had hitherto never known in 5 billion years of geologic time-but likely will henceforth. During his first 1,0000-mile crossing of the gyre, Moore calculated half a pound for every square meters of debris on the surface, and arrived at 3 million tons of plastic. His estimate, it turned out, was corroborated by U.S. Navy calculations."

3) Johnny's Selected Seeds 2008 Seed Catalog (Winslow, Maine: Johnny's Selected Seeds, 2008).

I love to order my garden seeds from the Johnny's Catalog. If a plant can grow in Maine, I figure the odds are good that it can grow in our more southerly, if more windswept garden micro-climate. They specialize in heirloom varieties, with their wild colors and extra delectability. While I normally focus on vegetable and herb seeds from Johnny's, page 123 brings me to the flower section:

p. 123 quote:

Ageratum: Tall Blue Planet (Annual)

80-100 days. New! Tall, upright sturdy stems.
Comparable to Blue Horizon with tight flower clusters.

4) The Mauritius Command, by Patrick O'Brian (Glasgow: Fontana, 1989).

The Master and Commander series by the late Patrick O'Brian is a wonderful, dense nautical series with great humor, and a cast of complex characters to satisfy me for several years to come. I keep reading chapters and then putting the book aside to enjoy when I have absolute quiet for an absorbed reading session so that I don't miss all the details. I'm only on Book #4 after a year now, because the noisy, bothersome parts of life keep interrupting my concentration, but that only means I get to backtrack and savor chapters all over again. The movie version of O'Brian's opus, which smashed together bits of "Master and Commander" and "The Far Side of the World", while an entertaining piece of costume drama, only scratched the surface of the fascinating friendship between Captain Jack Aubrey and Ship's Surgeon/Spy Stephen Maturin.

p. 123 quote:

"She was a beautiful craft, beautifully handled, and she sailed closer to the wind than he would have thought possible; yet his anxious, worn expression did not lighten when she rounded to and lay there under the Raisonable's quarter, her captain looking up at her lofty poop with an inquiring face.

Jack nodded absently to the schooner, told the signal-lieutenant to summon the captain of the Sirius, stepped aft with a speaking-trumpet and hailed the Boadicea, desiring her acting-captain to come aboard. The Commodore received them rather formally in the fore-cabin, where Mr Peter handed Eliot written orders to proceed to the Mauritius in company with the Sirius, there to lie off Port-Louis, the capital and the chief port, in the north-west of the island, and to rendezvous with the rest of the squadron on that station: in the intervening time they were to watch the motions of the enemy and to gain all the information they could."

*After transcribing these but three sentences, I see why I am having a longish time reading through the series. The writing is dense and O'Brien's sentences are LONG. But I still attest to their savor!

I hope you have enjoyed this biblio-appetizer from my reading pile. Thank you Sarah for this enjoyable romp.

I now tag Bruised Reads and Laird's Books for a turn at this booklover's meme.

Old Saratoga Books/Book Trout

Friday, March 14, 2008

A Cool Book Shelf

Artist Jim Smith has an inventive book shelf on exhibit at Riverfront Studios next door to our bookstore at 96 Broad Street. The shelf/sculpture is entitled "Fiction Non" and is available for sale. For more details contact the gallery at 518-695-5354 or at their website.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

The Book Trout is One Year Old

Lo and behold, the Book Trout is one year old. It's been an interesting year of blogging about things literary and beyond and I think there are certainly enough bookish bits to write about for years to come.

In the last year the Trout has been visited by 7,754 folks and that's pretty mind blowing. Interestingly, the most popular post is our paean to our bookseller colleagues at Lyrical Ballad Bookstore in Saratoga Springs. Since John and Jan DeMarco don't have a store website, I guess most people find us when they want to google "funky Saratoga bookstore". The other most popular posts have been our gift ideas for book lovers, the surprise visit by children's author Ruth Stiles Gannett, a look at home libraries around the world, and book hunting in our neck of the woods.

Thanks to all the good folks who comment on my postings and add to the fun. Off to bake a Trout Cake to celebrate our one year anniversary.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Bibliophile Essay Contest

J Godsey over at the Bibliophile Bullpen is having a bookish essay contest. The prize is a 1929 copy of "Bookshops: How to Run Them" by Ruth Brown Park. While there may be need for a revised edition in this Internet age, the book no doubt contains some timeless pearls of wisdom about displaying inventory, buying books and marketing.

To enter the contest, one needs to write a 250-500 word essay on any bookselling topic you choose. For more details, check out the link above.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Craving Christie

The nearsighted bloggers over at Chicago's Myopic Bookstore have a great post recommending that SERIOUS readers take a break from their wrist-busting Proust and Joyce tomes to give Dame Agatha a try. Agatha Christie is not the Queen of the Mysteries for nothing; there is plenty of wit, eccentric characters, surprising and intricate plots and social satire enough in her 80+ books for the snootiest fiction reader.

During the 1980s I had a blast reading through the majority of her mysteries. At one point I tried to amass the entire Christie catalog, but when Dan and I decided to open a used bookstore in 1996, we parted with a good bit of our home library to stock the shelves, and my Christies were sucked into the book vortex that is Old Saratoga Books. Several years later, I started scooping some Christie titles back, but I have come to the middle-aged realization that I'm not going to have time to read all of the books I want to at least once, much less twice, so I have just saved some of my favorite Christie mysteries to reread and savor: Curtain, And Then There Were None, Murder on the Orient Express, Sleeping Murder and Murder at the Vicarage.

For those Christie addicts that have read all the Agatha and crave more, there are many mystery writers that pay homage to the Queen, including Carolyn Hart, M.C. Beaton, Gilbert Adair, Susan Kandel, and Lawrence Block (in his Burglar mysteries, not the Matt Scudders).

For Christophiles, there is the great treat of reading "The New Bedside, Bathtub & Armchair Companion to Agatha Christie", edited by Dick Riley and Pam McAllister, which we always try to have a copy of at the bookstore. This compendium includes a synopsis of all the Christie mysteries and many other interesting articles about clothing, English tea, murder weapons, British law enforcement, film versions of the novels, biographical tidbits, poisons, and crossword puzzles with Christie clues.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Bookplates at Auction

We've got several lovely bookplates at auction this week. One is by the noted engraver and bookplate designer Edwin Davis French, one is designed by children's book author and illustrator Winifred Bromhall and the others are by unknown artists. Here are their images for your delight: