Keep in touch with me by blog proxy while I'm closed for my annual "seasonal retirement" beginning in November. Thank you so much for following Books in Northport and for supporting Dog Ears Books. I'm here for the rest of October, then back in the spring -- in Northport!
Search This Blog
Monday, July 18, 2016
How We Live (Hint: We Are Not Minimalists)
Friday farm market haul
It begins with the farm market on Friday morning, but otherwise Friday,
Saturday, and Sunday, in the summer, are much like other days of the week. We
come to Northport, David to his studio and gallery, I to my bookstore, and we
live our public lives, surrounded by art and books. The way we live at home is
not entirely different, since there too we are surrounded by art and books. Our
home life is just a little quieter and calmer than days in the bustling summer
is not our style, but we cannot be called hoarders, either (We recycle on a
weekly basis), and I like to think – this gloss actually occurred to me as I
began composing the sentence – that we live according to Aristotle’s golden
mean. Be that as it may, we are happy to live as we do. Original
art and attractive prints and other objets d'art vie for wall space with fully loaded bookcases.
are a different matter.
just can’t be trusted with horizontal surfaces,” David once remarked.
Certainly, we cannot be trusted to keep those surfaces empty. I survey the
house and find stacks of books on every table.
this so bad? Books are not dirty dishes, after all. Clutter is not squalor.
(You may quote me, you with similar tendencies.) And to my eye, a house with no
books in sight looks like a house where no one lives. (Our house certainly
looks lived in.)
four days ago I began reading (finding it on a table on the front porch) Letters
by the Marquis de Custine, Astolphe Louis Léonor, a Frenchman born in 1790, who
wrote his impressions of a trip he made to Russia in 1839. One aspect of this book that
fascinates me is how many criticisms the author made of the country under the
czars that sound identical to those later made later under the Soviets: an
unwieldy, overgrown petty bureaucracy seemingly designed to harass rather than
help petitioners; constant rewriting of history with each shift in political
power; governmental discouragement of travel, either into (by foreigners) or
out of (by citizens) or within (by anyone) the country; the nonexistence of
detailed maps (which goes along with keeping each Russian in his place and
keeping foreigners from straying far from carefully policed urban centers);
almost complete lack of concern for individual life at every level of society;
and constant preoccupation with what should not be said.
pages into Letters From Russia, however, fascinating as it was, I was
distracted by Behind the Beautiful Forevers: Life, Death, and Hope in a
by Katherine Boo, when a neighbor brought two bags of books to the bookstore,
each book with her little one-phrase summary. Inside Boo’s book, Bobbie’s note
read: “This book ought to be required reading!” Curious, I opened to the first
page and then could not stop. I keep reminding myself the book is not a novel. These are real
This is the way they live. That children survive and grow to adulthood
in such conditions is astonishing.
then I could not stop reading that book - except when, after avidly turning
pages all evening at home, the next morning I left it on one of the porch
tables. And so, next day at the bookstore, during a quiet lull, I picked up The
by Jeannette Walls, author of the bestselling memoir The Glass Castle. The Silver Star. It is no criticism
to say that this novel clearly owes much inspiration to the author’s actual life.
A writer’s experience, after all, is her raw material. The Silver Star could easily be one
of those adult-YA crossover books, too, because I’m sure teens would find the
story as captivating as adults.
nineteenth-century Russians, poverty-stricken garbage pickers in an Indian
slum, and the fatherless daughter of an unstable mother were some of my
companions over the summer weekend. Not my only companions, of course, and
reading isn’t all I did, either, but it is a big part of the way we live. After
a busy day in Northport and a leisurely supper on the porch, David and I enjoy
settling down with our books, our sweet, patient little dog girl at our feet.
We never lack for beautiful objects to regard, books to peruse, or conversation
about our rich life, filled with art, literature, friends, and good, fresh food.