Blog

Nov. 9, 2018   Winter arrived early this year, so hunkering downs season is upon us.  The Midwest Booksellers Holiday Catalog has arrived and Christmas ads and shopping have made a remarkably early start.  Even Halloween seemed swallowed up by it. Thanksgiving may stabilize at a frankly homey-family sort of day, free of commercialism, which seems welcome.

Nov. 8, 2018  Sort of embarrassing when you give an actual answer to “How are you?” and get a “Too much information” look from your greeter.

On the book front, I’m half way through Zadie Smith’s White Teeth thee book our new bookstore book club is reading this month.  Length:  I’ve gotten to an age when I am reverting to student mentality–too many words.  Smith’s book is amazing, though, such verbal creativity and facility, and such an insightful perspective on British working class immigrant life.  Smith also has a Dickensian ability to create characters outlandish and authentic at the same time.

August 3, 2018  It’s Friday and it’s the fifth time this week I have been asked to donate to fundraisers and buy expensive advertising for which I have no budget. It’s always the telltale behavior of the requester marching in with a purpose and fake smile, asking “How’s your day” and “What’s your name?” that irritates me because they don’t care, it’s a tired old formula they have been taught to use.  They go into the description of their cause, trying to hook you so you’ll hand over cash–typical requests go from $1,000 down to $375, and then the addendum about a gift certificate or merchandise for their silent auction. The salespeople trying to sell you advertising make clear they think your business is a loser and only by buying hundreds of dollars in their print space, which by the way is rarely seen because most people do their searching online, could you possibly turn things around.  The last person who was just here left muttering loudly that I treated him badly. I was unfriendly and told him that I get daily requests like his.  He’s never been in the bookstore before, needless to say, and acted as if he didn’t even know what the business of the bookstore is.  There, my diatribe for the day.

August 1, 2018 Currently reading Behave a novel based on the life of Rosalie Rayner Watson, the wife of the chief proponent of Behaviorism. It gives a horrifying account of the use of babies in experiments and a rather unpleasant portrait of John Watson who seems to have used Behaviorism as a means of dealing with his own difficult, miserable rearing and family. Why Rosalie was unable to step back from being enamored with this older married man is her tragedy and that of her children. This is one of those books you can’t put down because of a horrible fascination, maybe a certain pleasure in seeing how others have messed up their lives more than yourself.

May 18, 2018  I just got a gratifying notice from the ABA: “We are delighted to tell you your quote for From the Corner of the Oval has been chosen for use in our July 2018 Indie Next List. The printed flyer . . .  and the full announcement will appear in the June 6th issue of Bookselling This Week.” It’s the third or fourth time my endorsement for a new book has been used for the Indie Next List.

May 17, 2018 Book of the Day: America for Beginners. This is a travel book loaded with characters and sort of surprising turns, sometimes hilarious, sometimes rather poignant. The premise: A wealthy Bengali widow decides to tour the US on her own after the death of her husband and also hunt down the story of her son who died in the US. So there is a mystery, a family story and also some twisty and entertaining tales of a hodge-podge of Indians living in the US.   ———–  And then the ongoing bookstore saga: To sell or not to sell? After visiting a relative with dementia, now living in assisted living it feels like a good idea to just keep plugging at the bookstore until I can’t. My sister-in-law has deteriorated noticeably in a few months and I can’t help but think that the lack of stimulation, living amongst people in much worse physical and mental states than she contributes to that.  She doesn’t seem very happy, and who can blame her, alone in her plain, sort of dark one-room. Her family didn’t think it was safe for her to continue in her home.  It’s probably being alone that is the worst of it all.

May 7, 2018   Book of the day: The Gentle Art of Swedish Death Cleaning This book has not been as popular as the “Tidying Up” books by Marie Kondo probably because the advice is sort of obvious.  Confirmed hoarders might find good advice here as well as others who are about to downsize.  The best advice in the book is just to start clearing out things yourself as you age rather than leave that job for others to do.  It’s something I have started and feel good about.

May 3,2018 The months go by, but for a couple of them I’ve been under the impression the bookstore would change hands. That obviously has not happened, despite one solid offer and two soft ones.  Oh well, I’m back to seeing myself here at age 92.  But about books: Political books have sucked up the oxygen recently, first Fire and Fury, and now A Higher Loyalty, both pretty hard on Pres. Trump. Other generally good news for booksellers is that the sale of print books is continuing to rise as digital books fall.  People who spend so much time working looking at computer screens all day long want to relax with a paper book. Often people come in the bookstore and announce, “I love the smell of books.” Nothing like processed wood pulp, a variant of tree-hugging, to connect.

March 22, 2018     Don’t know why I don’t blog daily– Remarkable Books, reading a few short chapters a day is best because the book is packed with information and gorgeous illustrations, so it’s best to savor it a few pages at a time.  The other book I’m currently reading is Because I Come from A Crazy Family The Making of a Psychiatrist. The title is maybe too graphic. Shouldn’t a psychiatrist hold something back? The first pages give a summary of generations of mentally ill family members but there is a tedious detailing of the author’s childhood in a dysfunctional family.  Eventually I hope he gets to the clinical part, treatment, psychiatric practice, but I’m ready to skim through, for I fear it’s focus is memoir, short on psychiatry which I had hoped to learn about.

March 16, 2018     Today’s book: Dan Harris’ Meditation for Fidgety Sketpics.  This book follows up on his popular 10% Happier which I confess I never read but meant to.  Harris’ new book hooks me right from the start on trying meditation once again because he expresses much the same doubts and feelings I’ve had about it.  He shows how reasonable and valuable meditation is from the get go.  I’ll start immediately.  He has to fill out a couple hundred pages beyond the initial “Case for Meditation” so the book itself becomes a sort of meditation.  Reader, try it.  You’ll like it.

March 15, 2018    The Ides of March. Julius Caesar assassinated by Cassius and Brutus, 33 B.C.E. “Et tu Brutus?” — a day to remember back-stabbers of all sorts. On a happier note, I am now reading and paging through a glorious book titled Remarkable Books, a coffee table book about the history of books, starting with the Epic of Gilgamesh on clay tablets from 4000 BCE. That’s 6000 years of literacy, about 4000 years before Julius Caesar. It’s amazing. Are there any pockets of the world left where book learning has not found a way in? Maybe a few remote areas of the Amazon and southwest Africa, but even people there have been discovered and thus affected by others’ book learning, even if literacy isn’t available to them.

March 10, 2018    I’m reading Lisa Genova’s latest novel about a terrible disease, this one on ALS, visited upon a famous concert pianist.  His ex-wife takes him in and becomes his care-giver, partly out of sympathy, partly with hate-driven, conflicted feelings. In “Every Note Played” every miserable detail of the disease and treatment is graphically spelled out, but one thing missing is empathy for the characters. Too clinical a book, maybe. One reads with horrible fascination but I’m reading slowly, hard to do even fifty pages at a time. But the last fifty pages are gripping as the patient reaches his end, both he and his ex-wife are freed, the daughter and estranged family appropriately grieving. Old grievances are forgiven, peace and transcendence are reached at the end.

March 1, 2018    The past month has sped by. Of course it’s a couple days short of other months, but Feb had personal drama relating to the possible sale of the bookstore.  The potential buyers came out of the blue, thanks to a posting on the MIBA website that I’d forgotten about, but the sale isn’t finalized and until it does everything seems in the “anything can happen” category. On one hand I could probably carry on at the store indefinitely but on the other I look forward to a life of leisure. So “we shall see,” as the saying goes. In the meantime it’s business as usual and of course it will be so with new owners also.  The bottom line is that Menomonie will continue to have a bookstore on Main Street.

Feb. 3, 2018 Just noticed two typos in the Feb newsletter, the worst that Galileo was born in 564, not 1564. So I’ve corrected the errors and re-uploaded to the bookstore website.  Maybe the only consolation is that most recipients don’t read the newsletter closely or just delete without opening. Of course I’d rather they read, notice my typos and then come to the bookstore to buy a book.  An interesting fact is that Galileo and Shakespeare were born in the same year,1564, a good year for geniuses. Probably some great explorer was born in the same year as it was in the age of exploration.

Feb.2, 2018 Out of the blue I had an inquiry about the sale of the bookstore. I had forgotten I placed an ad on the Midwest Bookseller Assoc. page and in any case  thought it had been removed long ago.  Maybe the bookstore will have a new owner in 2018. It’s too early to tell. I’m still in a daze about it after 8 1/2 years making the bookstore the center of my life.

Dec. 2, 2017 So mild in recent weeks after what seemed an early start to winter in October.  Sometimes we are grateful for global warming.  Here in the Midwest we are safe from rising seas and other natural catastrophes. If civilization on our planet implodes, this will probably be a terminal of survival.

But on to books: Our Dec newsletter covers a lot of recent good books and I personally am next going to read Erdrich’s “Future Home of the Living Gods,” a dystopian story in the vein of “Handmaid’s Tale” which seems sort of dated.

Nov. 11, 2017 Maybe solved my blog updating problem, though margins aren’t right. So much time on such minor issues.  Today is a sunny, cold day, a bit of snow and the Christmas greens went up downtown on the storefronts of all of us who pay our dues to the Chamber of commerce, at least I think that’s how it works.  The new hotel is close to being finished.  The exterior is done, even sod installed, new sidewalks laid, and interior furnishings are in large packages, ready to move in.  December opening is targeted and the demolition of the old Bremer bank and new parking lot is next, no doubt accomplished in the next week or so.

WordPress has given me problems updating my blog.  I blog, but the page won’t update.  So here is a new attempt after trashing previous jottings. It’s Nov. 1, 2017, it’s snowing now which makes it seem Christmasy only a day after Halloween, but that’s fitting for retail businesses.  The big box stores have had holiday trappings out for quite a while and had to give space to Halloween, at least locally.  October proved to be the best month of the year so far but in general it has been a good year in terms of sales.  Personally I think that the political upheaval with which we are bombarded constantly–when it’s not a mass killing taking up a few days–is driving people back to escapist reading.

3/3/2017 It’s hard to break a life-long habit of reading every word of a book started, but owning a bookstore has made it necessary to skim a lot, read reviews and hope I get it right in buying and selling books.