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

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Under a summer sky of shooting stars at night and on a hot sandy beach during the day, the summer read of August 2012 is Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett Good Omens, the nice and accurate prophecies of Agnes Nutter,witch.
I am 12 years late(published in 1990).
I try not to laugh out loud but it takes an awful lot of self restraint, just like when I watch a Monthy Pyton show.
I have no idea how authors sit down and write a book together and it is even harder to imagine that it was possible for these two to accomplish such a task without loosing themselves night after night in each other's company and that of a good bottle of some strong spirit (Terry Pratchett's little bio on the back of the book quotes:Pratchett lives in England,he has drunk enough banana daiquiri,thank you.It's G&Ts from now on).
The ideal scenario to read the book is exactly where I am on: a beach towel, holding a gin of any kind, possibly on a deserted island where you can laugh out loud.
What is your summer read?

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Dreams of terror and death

Last night in my dream I was posting a blog entry that went on and on filling an infinite amount of pages.
In order to stop that stream of consciousness I had to tell myself it was all just a dream and woke up. Exhausted.
I do not recollect the subject matter otherwise I would have had an endless source to utilize for the real blog.
Nonetheless, the books themselves and the location of the store offer an infinite amount of stories and the one I am sharing today belongs to the horror section ( Lovecraft, Koontz, King....)and it is called:
Dreams of terror and death ( borrowed from the master of terror, Lovecraft).
Once upon a day, yesterday, a curious but cautious bookseller, me, made a house call (I went to somebody's house to hopefully purchase some good books).
As I was running through the inventory's titles trying to communicate coolness and keeping the eager espression out of my eyes, I was also over hearing the conversation that the owner of the books was having with her lady friend and this is what I have heard:
I am now down to cookbook number 200; I cut the pages, scan them on my computer and throw the books away...
I suddenly found my spine under the grip of an icy fist that wrapped its grasp around it tighter and tighter. My breathing drastically shortened to the point where I started feeling light headed and ready to pass out. Fortunately I managed to pull myself together, suck the tears back into the eyes' tear pockets and just uttered a little shriek.
The life of a bookseller is sometimes visited by nightmares from which you wish you could wake yourself up from.
However,our loyal friend Memory, will turn this experience into a faded dream to be told around the camp fire, under a starry sky, with a good book waiting in the tent.
Sweet dreams...

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

savage dawn

Excuse the blur but, even though it was not intentional, I decided to post the fuzzy image anyway since it is healthier not to see these covers too clearly.

However, the purpose of this picture is to introduce a breaking news which, in my view is cause for celebration:
not only amazon recently bought out avon romance ( or a similar publisher, I am not sure, one of those anyway) but also Dorchester publishing, to whom these covers belong to.
Everything is fine: the bad books to them in the e- form, and the good ones to us, still in paper, still real.
The expansion of the giant into the market of muscly grabs and frail looks, will give me nights of restful sleep, reassured by the fact that when you shoot for quantity and not quality we are not in the same business.

As a side note: I recommend you google translate Easy runner comment on the last post, it would be a loss not to have read it and I could promise you here that Id translate it to share it,but who knows when that would get posted!

Monday, June 11, 2012

Home Libraries

The ostrich's head is finally out of the hole.
I will face my responsibilities as the publisher of this blog and make a public apology for my lack of commitment.
(wouldn't you be glad to hear this from the wall street gang?)
Anyhow, as in all apologies, the excuses follow:
(but it was for the Greater economic Good)
I was busy re-arranging my Home Library, yes capital H and capital L, because Home Libraries are an institution and being a book seller you can imagine the amount of homework.
My first thought was: how will I arrange it? like the bookshop? A through Z and by category? or will I go wild and re-invent the laws of classification: by color, by order of purchase, by the mood I was in when I bought the book ( Twain goes on the happy shelf, Sartre goes on the sad one) by my intentions towards the book( Henry James on the "will never read again" shelf next to my friend Ernest, Faulkner and Proust  keeping each other good company in the "I will get to you, I promise" shelf, Descartes and Kierkegaard on the "what was I thinking" shelf and so on and so forth ).
The method of classification will determine the nature of the Library, and the possibilities are infinite:
your library can be your map, your diary, your painting, your consciousness, your wall of shame, your passport, your portfolio or resume, your sculpture, your treasure chest, your dowry, your retirement plan, your stove burning material, your building blocks, your memory....and all you have to sacrifice for it, is having handy help at hand reach when you move, because your friends know and they are all busy that week-end.
I acquired a book for my library today:
Homer's Odyssey, translated by Allen Mandelbaum, with twelve engravings by Marialuisa de Romans, California Press. A book about one of the greatest journeys of literature narrated by one of the most wonderful characters ever created. Everyone should have a copy of it in their Home Library. It will go on the shelf of the Giants.
Now I have it too, and, like every book that sits on my shelves, there is a story behind it:
I hunt the book with my bow and arrow ( remember?), I opened it and found the business card of a fellow bookseller, Peter Miller, I showed it to him stating the obvious: look Peter, it's the cycle of life,they bought it new from you, gave it as a gift that was discarded and now I found it and went on asking how could people part with such treasure and pointing out the beautiful dedication:
June 1991
dear Jason,
all of the rules,
they are all here
Peter says with a hint of disappointment in his tone: hey, this was a present from me to a twenty one year old friend of the family, exactly 21 years ago....
Sometimes that is how it goes....we dismantle our Home Libraries....
So I handed the book to him asking him to make the gesture of giving it to me as a gift with the promise of never getting rid of it and so he did adding a new dedication below the 21 year old one:
almost a true journey, as this
book of order finds its
proper home. I could not
be more thrilled.
Ask me if I got rid of it in 21 years,
the answer will be no.

Friday, March 30, 2012

while at work...

I stumbled on a sentence out of George Sand's book, Horace, while pricing it, because it was highlighted in yellow (sometimes I do make exceptions, especially when I simply buy without flipping through):

"But the sweetest of all human emotions,the one that is nourished by calamities and mistakes as well as by greatness and heroic acts, the one that spans every stage of life, that begins to develop in us from our very first sensation of being, and that endures as long as we do, the one that parallels and actually lengthens our life, that is reborn from its ashes and that reties itself as tightly and just as firmly after being broken; that emotion, alas! is not love, as you well know, but friendship"

Do you remember your very first friend? the one that you met when you were beginning to develop the sensation of being?

I do. I don't remember her name, but I remember being on a bridge that crosses over the river next to the house I grew up in and we were both crying because neither of us wanted to part to go home for dinner...but we were no older than three or four and that was only the beginning...

Saturday, February 18, 2012


Coriandoli are little, tiny, coloured, round pieces of paper that people throw at each other during this wonderful season called Carnevale. Coriandoli goes in pair with Stelle Filanti, a tube of striped paper that will unravel by blowing air in the whole. So at the end of the celebration, which consists of a parade in costume throughout the village all the way to its final destination, the square, you are left with a town paved with coloured dots and stripes.
The book featured here celebrates the most famous Carnevale there is, besides the Rio one in Brazil, Il Carnevale di Venezia, which happens in the month of February every year.
Coriandoli by Carlo Fabre, 1985, depicts the origin of this celebration ( which goes back to Medieval time) through its photographs:
it is during this Marquerade that the poor becomes rich, the peasant becomes of noble origins.
It is now that the "you" becomes "other", anybody or anything you want, and for one day have the illusion to live a different life and for a moment laugh out loud at that whimsical, cruel, blind Godess that Fate is.

Thursday, January 19, 2012


When your town is suddenly covered in snow and the city budget cannot afford snow trucks and salt to clear the streets, the result is that, being stuck indoor, whether that is home or your workplace, you start digging. You dig the kitchen cup boards, you dig into the never before explored bottom of your wardrobe , you dig under the sofa, and if you are a bookworm, you inevitably dig into your bookshelves and rediscover long lost treasures along with that sock you thought forever gone.
I read Queneau, Exercices de style, in college and remember nothing of it except for ,maybe, that it is a SUPERBE exercise of translating images into thoughts and then into words.
Anyway, the copy I digged out of the French Language section has a lovely dedication worth sharing ( first in its original language and then humbly and clumsily translated by me):

Peut-etre idiot quelque fois (oops!)
ou bien tout simplement ginial,
Ce livre est une fantaisie.
Prends-le, ouvre-le et lis-le
dans le sens que tu voudras,
comme-ca, au hasard de te
propre fantaisie
to my friend Jen
with love
France: november 25, 86.

Maybe idiotic at times (oops!)
or rather simply ingenious,
this book is a fantasy.
Take it, open it and read it
in the way that you want,
like this, at the whim of your own imagination
to my friend Jen
with love
France: november 25, 86

And after the digging always comes the reading