This blog, published free of charge since September 2007, is a way for me to stay in touch with seasonal bookstore visitors from afar and with all customers and friends when I am closed for my annual "seasonal retirement" in the winter. Thank you so much for following Books in Northport and for supporting Dog Ears Books.
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Friday, January 9, 2015
Steal From the Best
M-115 on Wednesday
weren’t sure how long the first “leg” of our road trip would be. When we got
stuck in our own driveway, trying to leave home, we weren’t sure we’d get away at all. But a phone
call to the plowing service had us on our way within the half-hour. Then, errands in
Leland, Suttons Bay, and Traverse City accomplished, we took time for a
sybaritic breakfast at the Flap Jack Shack while assessing the situation. Stay
in Traverse City? Push on and hopw to get as far as Cadillac? We pushed on –
not at high speeds and not in any kind of relaxed or carefree spirit, but on we
road between Traverse City and Cadillac is always the worst. (The mere thought
of M-115 in winter gives me nightmares.) The photo at the top of today’s post
shows you the view we had heading southeast. Below is the back of the truck we
followed up the entrance ramp onto US-131.
See the truck?
that, as we’d hoped, both road conditions and visibility improved. What had
been a pale winter sun seen only dimly through snow broke through the clouds to
lift our spirits. Blue sky! Lovely, lovely day!But by the time we reached Hastings, it was dark, and we
were tired, and so after settling into a motel near downtown we agreed to spend
the following day with our friends and stay a second night. The next day was
good, but – another Arctic clipper blew in that afternoon! It was going to be
blowing through all night and all the next day until late afternoon! What could
we do? We decided to play it safe and stay a third night, and I began to envision a
winter sabbatical in central Michigan, fighting blizzards day after day, poor
Sarah with frozen feet. Well, I didn’t have any boots that would fit her. I
had an extra jacket, though. She was dubious, but I felt better, knowing she was warmer when, occasionally, she had to wait in the car for us. She enjoyed visiting our friends (she especially seemed to enjoy the warmth of their woodstove), and if you click on this link, you can see some of the birds we all watched outside our friends' front window.
at 3 a.m. in the motel and unable to get back to sleep – 3:30, 4:00, 4:30, 5:00 – I amused
myself in the dark by thinking of how I would answer the questions put to
authors in “Shelf Awareness,” the daily newsletter on bookselling and
publishing that appears in my e-mailbox every business day. Am I stealing or borrowing these questions? Will the Shelf Awareness people mind? I hope not! Here is, more or
less, what I came up with, as far as I can remember:
your nightstand now:
This is easy. It would be different at home, but in a motel my nightstand is
relatively uncluttered. There is The Lone Winter, by Anne Bosworth
Greene, and Coyote’s Wife, by Aimée & David Thurlo, the former
almost finished, the latter not yet begun.
book when you were a child: So many! How to choose? I guess, if I must
select one, it would have to be James Barrie’s Adventures of Peter and Wendy, because it was the
bedtime story my father read to me over and over, one chapter at a time,
beginning over at the beginning each time we reached the end.
top five authors:
Jane Austen, Marcel Proust, Tony Judt, Betty Smith, Thoreau – today. The list
would begin with Austen any day but might have four different authors,
depending on what I’d been reading.
you’ve faked reading:
I don’t think I’ve faked reading any books, but I have yet to read the middle
volumes of Proust’s huge, magnificent work. I’ve read Swann’s Way several times, in
French and in English, and Time Regained twice, but I got bored halfway through
the Budding Grove
volume and haven’t tried the others yet. When I confessed this sin to a
lifetime Proust scholar, he surprised me by saying that many people read only
the first and last volumes of Proust. I didn’t invent the idea of skipping the middle, after all.
you’re an evangelist for: So many! Betty Smith’s A Tree Grows in Brooklyn; Harlan Hubbard’s Shantyboat; Conrad Richter’s The
Bruce Catton’s Waiting for the Morning Train; Tony Judt’s The
– all those, for sure. And then there are all the books by Michigan authors I evangelize for –
Anne-Marie Oomen’s Uncoded Woman; Jerry Dennis’s The Windward Shore; Ellen Airgood’s South
Benjamin Busch’s Dust to Dust; Bonnie Jo Campbell’s Q Road and Once Upon a
David Greenwald’s Frozen Moon; Lynne Rae Perkins’s Nuts to You; just to make a
start on a list. And the poets from Michigan – Jim Harrison, Teresa Scollon,
Fleda Brown – again, there are too many to list, and I’m an evangelist for many, many more
writers than this paragraph contains. That is part of being a
bookseller, but it’s also simply part of being a passionate reader.
You’ve Bought For the Cover: Frederick Franck’s Simenon’s Paris (the title
didn’t hurt, either), and I was not disappointed. It’s one of my all-time
favorite books, as is the same author’s The Zen of Seeing.
that changed your life:Parnassus on
and The Haunted Bookshop, by Christopher Morley, probably changed my life in a
subterranean manner over the course of many years. I first read those books as a child
and re-read them many times over the years, doubtless shaping my
future life in bookselling long before destiny and I finally joined hands with Dog Ears Books. Another
by James Baldwin, changed my life by showing me that writers could do the
impossible – that a writer could get inside the skin and mind and heart and
soul of another person, regardless of race or gender or sexual orientation or
age or country of origin. A writer does not have to write only of and out of herself! No other book had ever opened my mind that wide before. Drawing on
the Left Side of the Brain, by Betty Edwards, convinced me that
even I could learn to draw, and finding a teacher who used those methods proved
to me that it was true. That was a happy life-changer.
line from a book:
In one of Tony Judt’s essays collected in The Memory Chalet comes the first
sentence of Judt’s that I ever read, when first the essay appeared in The New York
Review of Books:
“I have always loved trains, and they have loved me back.” Another wonderful
line about train travel occurs in one of Wilfred Thesiger’s books, and for
years I had it by heart, but (sadly) the memory has faded. It was something like, “I’ve never
been happier in my life than on the train traveling from Addis Ababa to
character you most relate to: I’ve identified with characters in almost
every book I’ve ever read, but perhaps the one I most relate to is the
protagonist in Ellen Airgood’s South of Superior. I understand the
feeling of Madeline’s life from facing similar mundane struggles in a small northern community and finding, as she
does, joy and beauty in very ordinary aspects of life.
you want to read again for the first time: I’d never have thought of this
question myself. Re-reading is always such a rich experience that I’m never
wishing I hadn’t read the book before. The book I’ve re-read more than any
other is Pride and Prejudice, though, so what would it be like to come to it again for the
first time? That would be interesting, contradictory as the question is!
lesson from a book:
One that comes to mind right away is from The Art of Driving in the Rain, a race driver’s
lesson, to the effect that where your eyes go, your car will go. More
generally, what you pay attention to is what will occupy your mind and,
therefore, what will determine your direction in life.
Awareness, you guys are the best! Thanks for letting me steal from you today. You helped me get through a sleepless night during another Michigan blizzard. -- And here I'd promised a change of scenery! Not quite yet....