Friday, August 16, 2013

Hope is the thing with feathers

When you hear the call you have to answer, unless you are in the middle of a really good book, I guess, but even then, would you want to take the risk of missing out on a really good opportunity?
That's why I neglected the audience of this empty theatre, but then again, it is summer time and everybody is out there anyway,playing beach volley ball or making sand castles, with the exception of maybe one afecionado or two sitting in the back seats, underneath the balcony, smoking a cigar while on stage the piano player is playing a melancholic tune with the ashes of his cigarette falling on the key board...
The call I could no longer ignore was to go back to poetry in general but the way it happened made me start from Tennyson and Emily Dickinson, what a duet.
And this is how it happened.
I recently started taking an interest in asking people what's the story behind the choice of their tattoos and so far I have been collecting very interesting accounts.
Yesterday it was a peacock feather with the words: Hope is the thing with feathers, tattooed all around it:

"Hope" is the thing with feathers
that perches in the soul
and sings the tune without the words
and never stops at all

and sweetest in the Gale is heard
and sore must be the storm
that could abash the little bird
that kept so many warm

I've heard it in the chillest land
and on the strangest sea
yet,never, in Extremity,
it asked a crumb of Me

Emily Dickinson, poem 254, ca 1861

The very same day, few hours later I bought a book entitled: Hope is the thing with feathers, a personal chronicle of vanished birds, by Christopher Cokinos so I thought that was a loud enough call to re open a poetry book but I was wrong.
Few days later two young girls approached the counter wanting to purchase an old copy of Tennyson's poetry which was the book where a month earlier one of the two girls hid a note for her friend to find right here at Lamplight Books, the book was still there in the poetry section with the note in it. She had taken a chance and she was lucky.
A little poetical treasure hunt.
Time to read some poetry people!
read on

Friday, May 17, 2013

Cow's head

Today I brought up the subject of May, explorers' month, to S. who was buying Alvar Nunez Cabeza de Vaca's account of his years in the newly discovered Americas: The shipwrecked Men, also my last volume of the adorable Penguin editions, the Great Journeys.
The conversation spiraled into the unknown and intriguing territories of the brain and I am going now to trace it back to where Cabeza de Vaca meets the brain because the link is not as stretched as it sounds.
It all started when, talking about traveling and exploring in a very general and broad way, we observed how strong of an impact the encounter of different cultures has on our mind (brain), in fact so strong that we constantly need to keep going back to our own point of reference in order not to lose our mind, especially if exposed to those differences for a prolonged amount of time.
S. pointed out how some cases of schizophrenia were diagnosed in several immigrants coming to the United States in modern times from very far away places; basically they came they staid  they went nuts. The brain just could not process the massive amount of incomprehensible information and lost its ability to operate normally altogether. A bit like a long stay on Mars, where Mars were inhabited by aliens who not only spoke to you in their alien language but expected you to walk hopping on a tail you don't have and using those extra pair of legs to keep up the pace; after a while you just want to get the hell out of there.
Our friend Cabeza de Vaca was the only survivor of a shipwreck, the last one of four men, after having started a journey to the Americas from his mother land, Spain, with more than 200 men. And once he survived fate's tricks eating his horses and burning their shoes to make tools, he was captured by the Natives and that is where his real journey began and his brain had to change.
From a prisoner and a slave he became a trader for the Natives and from a trader a traveler trader who met many tribes and finally he even became a Shaman. His brain must have found a way to adapt and cope with life on Mars holding on to his strongest point of reference: religion. He convinced himself and consequently everyone else that his survival was part of God's intention for him to be a healer, so from slave they elected him a Shaman. He built an identity for himself among the Natives and therefore found a way to create a recognizable system that helped him survive.
Identity and lack of...a whole new chapter.
To make the story short, he ended up back in Spain where he died in poverty, so I guess if you go up to Mars and manage not to go crazy, don't come back down to Earth cause you will then.
Travel on...

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

carpe diem

After the traveler woke up from his or her repose under the generous shadow of the contorted olive tree's slender leaves, he or she spat (probably a he then) the chewed up stem of wheat, lifted up the dusty back pack, looked up at the cloudless sky following the apparently random flight of a sparrow and continued his journey across the land of the written words....
The names came to his mind as he was strolling along the trail (the inspiration is in the movement)....Gertrude Bell, T.E. Lawrence, Sir Richard Burton ( our traveler must be of English descent)...and as he was pulling these names out of the brain archive he suddenly realized that a month is not nearly a speck in the universe enough to walk through those paths, but what impressed him even more was that it is a fact that dogs bark, cats meow, fish swim and human beings explore and we do it in all sorts of ways; another form of Play, that essential activity we seek after, from the cradle to the grave, (a topic brilliantly explored by Diane Ackerman in her book "Deep Play") sometimes rough sometimes not, at times good at times not, but that in the end always accomplishes what all the other animals already know how to do: be here, now
more to come....

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

moon shine

Let's welcome the month of May,explorers month, the month during which we celebrate famous explorers, travelers and adventurers, by chance or by profession, by choice or by circumstances; those who after pushing the boundaries of the known not satisfied, jumped into the unknown, who faced scylla and charybdis, who discovered new lands thinking they were ancient lands, who made roads out of valleys, who drank indigenous potions, who never came back.
No? May is not explorers month, typically?
Well it is at Lamplight Books, thanks to our honor member of this blog, Easy Runner, who, with his comment to the previous post, gave me the idea and already contributed with two big names:
Freya Madeline Stark, her books are hard to find in the used world and they hardly see the shelves once I do find them before they get bought...she lived up to 100 years, so now you know the secret of longevity: do the unthinkable like being a woman of the mid 1900's and traveling to Afghanistan by yourself.
Bruce Chatwin , (In Patagonia and The Songlines ) of which I have just found a compilation of letters entitled: Under the Sun ( included the correspondence with Paul Theroux).
I am going to leave you with one more name suggested by the purchase of J.K. (you know who you are), a regular at Lamplight Books who always comes in with the typical look of a book lover: secretively happy to come in trying to tell himself :"I'll just have a look today", and more often than not finding a book he cannot leave behind, and sure enough today he walked away with Marco Polo, The customs of the kingdoms of India,in the cute Penguin edition, Great Journeys, telling me he is in the middle of Wilfred Thesiger, Arabian Sands, where the author spends 5 years traveling around the Arabian desert with Bedouins...
...and while I am sitting here thinking, talking and writing about travelers and adventurers, an adventurer from Virgina asked me if I carry books on Moon Shine, and forgive my ignorance if I didn't know it is that distilled corn and apparently illegal drink ( a Virginian version of the Irish Pochin ) and I guess I would have known had I been a great explorer myself....
more to come

Thursday, April 18, 2013


Happy new year!
Have you ever been to Hyde park? yes? have you ever stopped and really listened to the famous preachers, monologue shouters, yellers, story tellers? I bet the answer is no and neither have I.
Well if the big web of the net is Hyde park and those preachers or story tellers are me, I can now grab my little stool and start the monologue in front of you, passers by, confident that nobody is going to hear me since I have neglected the blog for so long....
And did I say Happy new year and happy new round of reading, in any shape and form.
Like with every new start, it is always wise to go back and ponder on the origins and initial intents and see if we are going in a desirable direction.
The original intent of this blog was to give a little insight into the anatomy of a bookstore and the life and adventures of its shop keeper (intent from which I strayed a little) and then, hopefully to show how alive and constantly going through metamorphosis this organism is.
So, that said, let's go back to the original sin:
The house of the knowledge pursuers. A life.
According to several of the lovely yelp reviews that this house received, this house has stacks issues, is jammed to the brim, not always organized but nonetheless a gem.
There is still a lot of work to do towards smaller piles and neat displays so yelp reviewers and non yelp reviewers fellow readers bear with me as I attack those piles.
Bear in mind though:
picture Hyde park and its well groomed green English garden and then think of the Pacific Northwest forests; where are you most likely to find the wonders of the wilderness?
So the adventure begins again and I will tell you here what treasures I find when,with a lawn mower in one hand and a hatchet in the other, I will trim the hedges a bit so the explorers can walk through the woods, although you know that everything grows back eventually!

Friday, September 28, 2012


What do these 5 books have in common?
Me and my new found madness.
Do you remember being a child of, let's say, six or seven years of age, holding a packet of gums in your hand and wondering what would happen if you stuck all the gums in your mouth at the same time and tried to chew them? No? Just me? The madness must have started early.
Anyhow, just as the above described thought, acted or not, comes from deliberate mischievousness, so did my latest experiment, utterly immoral and absolutely irreverent.
I decided to find out what happens when you read 5 completely unrelated books at the same time. Even though the analysis of the data is still a work in progress, I can tell you the following with relative certainty:
Suddenly you start feeling as if the authors laid in bed with you, a stern look of disapproval on their face for having to be shared with 4 other professors of non-fiction expertise.
As if that wasn't enough, you realize you are giving yourself an overdose of unrelated information and  so your brain intuitively wants to find the common denominator that will put order into the chaos.
The bees and their incredibly fascinating way of producing honey will go well with the History of food, but besides that, I have to make a great effort linking them to the book of dead philosophers and how their lives and ideas can help us accept the idea that we are going to die and most likely biodegrade,  with the little book of language and how important it is that we do use that ridiculous and high pitch tone with newborns, with Anne Fadiman ex libris and her essays on books and reading.
Come to think of it, now that I am writing this I can see that invisible string that ties them tight together. It is that human instinct that started all the trouble right from the beginning, the curiosity to know, the drive to explore the mystery, the impulse to jump into the unknown and find things out.
Only, maybe, jumping off one bridge at a time might actually be less fatal.
Read on

The book of dead Philosophers
Simon Critchley

Ex Libris
Anne Fadiman
Farra, Straus and Giroux

A little book of Language
David Crystal

Robbing the Bees
Holley Bishop
Free Press

Near a Thousand Tables
A history of food
Felipe Fernandez-Armesto
Free Press

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

hyacinth pink

One of my favorite things is to have a customer tell me about their favorite book from childhood; a book that usually is out of print and impossible to find, worldwide, webwide, librarywide and so on and so forth.
Today I learned about a little girl who goes by the name of Hyacinth Pink, we are in London, 1947, right after the war, her wicked step-mother sends her to buy bloater fish and tells her not to wander, not to play, not to dream ( I am quoting the lady's description pulled out of at least a three decades memory), but of course Hyacinth goes to the cinema ( Pinocchio teaches!) and when her step-mother enters the theatre in an outrage, she jumps into the movie and finds herself living it....and the story goes I want to read it but I cannot because this little gem is a rarity not to be found and I am left to wander and play and dream...maybe I will jump into a movie myself.

Hyacinth Pink
by Stella Mary Pearce
illustrator, James Fitton