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Tuesday, July 5, 2016

With Holiday, Real Summer Begins

Declaring independence!

In Northport, Beautiful 4th of July Weekend

Most years past in Northport, we've seen an influx of tourists and summer residents for Memorial Day weekend, followed by quiet weeks through June until the 4th of July, but this time around summer seemed to kick off early, with more visitors in June than I ever remember before. Apparently word has gotten out that June is a heavenly month Up North. And this yea's 4th of July weekend could not have been lovelier. Weather was warm enough for the beach, not hot enough to be uncomfortable, with refreshing morning and evening breezes.

Kathleen Stocking signs book for Ty Wessell

My first bookstore event of the summer season was a signing of The Long Arc of the Universe, by Kathleen Stocking, on Sunday, July 3. Once again, I neglected to have my picture taken with my guest author! When will I learn to make this a routine part of every author event? Well, the good news – and not just for my memory book – is that Stocking will return for a second event in August. We will set up chairs in David Grath’s gallery next door, and the author will give a talk, with an opportunity for audience questions -- and I guarantee a lively, stimulating evening! More on this subject later....

Wildflowers on porch table
At home

There is never enough time for sitting at home on the front porch, but I enjoy every morning and evening minute of it that I have. Over the holiday weekend I re-read Letters from the Leelanau, by Kathleen Stocking, and Drummond Girls, by Mardi Link, then read Kelly Fordon’s short story collection, Garden for the Blind. Not only is Kelly my next guest author (Thursday, July 14, 1-3 p.m.), but she has been getting well-deserved rave reviews for this book. I look forward to meeting her and hosting her event, and I hope all my local writer friends will be able to make it to her reading. I'll have more to say about her stories, too, as we get closer to her visit. 

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Back in Northport

One day, during the usually midafternoon lull in the bookstore, I got to musing about phrases people use. For instance, people who come in out of curiosity, not necessarily because of an interest in books, usually insist that they don’t need assistance or information because they are “just browsing.”

Okay, I learned from my mother at an early age about telling salespeople, “Thanks, I’m just looking.” But looking, as I see it, is not browsing.

You can look with hands in pockets. You can look while in continuous motion, without ever coming to a halt. You can look pretty quickly -- and be out the door again in a flash! As I have heard tourists say to friends on the sidewalk, more than once, “It’s just books in there.” (Yep, pretty much just books, which explains why I call it a bookstore and why its name is Dog Ears Books.)

Browsing is something different.

Bookstore browsing is done with hands as well as eyes. It involves touching books, taking books from the shelves, opening book covers, sometimes reading a few pages, maybe even finding a nearby chair to investigate more closely a volume that has captured the eye and hands. A taste here, a taste there, the chewing-over of a thought or idea. Because unless you are already familiar with the book that catches your eye – and know that you want it – the title on the spine won’t tell you all that much. It’s what’s inside that counts, and the insides of books are a lot more than merchandise to be judged at a glance.

Now I know that I am not, single-handedly, going to change Americans’ use of the English language. “I’m just browsing” means, to most of the people who use the phrase in my bookstore, “I’m just taking a look around. I probably won’t buy anything. Don’t bug me!” I get it. Not that I bug anyone in my bookstore. There is no high-pressure sales force at work here. I offer once, so no one will feel ignored, and that’s that.

Browsers don’t have to explain themselves to me because their behavior tells the story. Like philosophers in the halls of academe, speculating on the dreams of dogs instead of obsessing about fringe benefits and retirement packages, browsers are my people. We understand each other. Looking is not enough for us. Rather, we look to lose ourselves in books.

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Random bovine

I’d just drafted the paragraphs above about browsing (originally with introductory material about horses and cattle browsing and grazing, just because I love horses and cows, but it was kind of a reach) when a mother and daughter walked in the door, and the mother exclaimed, “I’ve never been in a real bookstore before! I feel like I’m in a movie!” She had, as it turned out, been in large chain bookstores, but not in any quirky little independent place like mine, and her delight delighted me.

And they browsed! The daughter bought an art book! As they were leaving, I told them they had taken a new turn in their lives, and the daughter replied, “Yes, now we’ll never not go into a bookstore!” Music to my ears!

Bookstore bulletin board

A Pause as Time Rushes By

I hope everyone’s summer is off to a good start, and I hope it doesn’t race by too, too fast, though I already know that it will. Summer is like that. But we love it!

Tuberose begonias


Dawn said...

"We'll never not go into a bookstore!" That made me smile. Pretty cool, actually, that you helped to develop a bookstore lover.

The summer is already going too fast. I want to plan another camping trip up that way in August. Sometimes when I plan ahead like that it makes the time seem to go by even faster. But believe it or not spontinatity doesn't work so well when you're trying to camp. If you don't book early you don't have a site. Ah well...Karen introduced me to State Forests that are more available, less known. We'll see how it all shakes out.

P. J. Grath said...

My job was made easier because these people were open to the experience.

I'm glad you are getting out to camp so much this summer. Must be heaven!