Saturday, July 26, 2014

Book Signings and My Bookish Heart (Or, I Have to Buy What?)

I enjoy reading, buying books and meeting authors. You would think these activities are compatible with the mission of bookstores. However, in recent times, I've found the act of buying a book has cost me author opportunities.

In January, Ransom Riggs released the second Miss Peregrine book, which I consumed promptly. The author was coming to a Barnes & Noble bookstore near me soon after the book was released, so I finished the book early (to avoid Spoilers some people just can't resist). I brought my stack of Riggs books with me in case he was signing.

When I arrived, a B&N employee informed me that only books purchased that day at B&N would be signed. No exceptions. He was  polite, but firm. After I finished listening to Riggs speak, I left the bookstore with a heavy heart. I didn't want to be duplicitous and buy a book I would later return (which someone suggested). I had read my copy, purchased from a different bookseller, and I was being punished.

Booksellers see customer activity differently than the customer does, and I understand the different perspective: why host (and possibly fund) an event when customers do not need to invest in their company to participate? 

Here is why: veni, vidi, emi. 

If I am in your store, I will buy from you, especially if you're supporting authors I read and enjoy. If I don't buy today, I will be back tomorrow, or the next day I am buying a book (which really is tomorrow, for me).
Yes, the siren song of cheap online books is tempting, and I have more than once dashed myself on those rocks. However, I value the services of bookstores and booksellers. If I support the stores that feature materials I like, they will continue to do so — as will I.
I invest in you, Bookseller, so you will do the same for me.

Only that no longer seems to be the case. The "Great Recession" has changed many merchant practices to stock very little and staff lightly. I have begun confirming stock and reserving books before I enter some bookstores. I mean, why bother putting on pants and leaving the house if I will leave a bookstore empty handed?

So, in a world where books aren't stocked unless there is a Good Reason (movie tie-in or author appearance, for example), readers are stuck between a book and a hard place: buy the book now and lose signing opportunities, or buy the book at an author appearance and lose the opportunity to discuss that book with that author.


I now read a store's fine print regarding author appearances. Where once there were no Rules, now there are many.

I will continue to buy my books when and how I please. I will continue to support local, independent and chain bookstores. I will continue to support authors. If, however, a bookstore looks to separate this reader from an author, this reader will reconsider her relationship with said bookstore.

Bookseller, relax: I will give you money. Just don't command me to do so. Trust my bookish wallet, as well as my bookish heart.

Friday, July 4, 2014

Independence Day and Morgan Freeman

Have you really ever pondered the words of the Declaration of Independence? What do they really mean?

Let Morgan Freeman and some of Hollywood's finest take you on a tour of that risky, volatile document that changed not just our country, but the world.


Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Poetry Wednesday: Famous Blue Raincoat




Famous Blue Raincoat

It's four in the morning, the end of December
I'm writing you now just to see if you're better
New York is cold, but I like where I'm living
There's music on Clinton Street all through the evening.
I hear that you're building your little house deep in the desert
You're living for nothing now, I hope you're keeping some kind of record. 

Yes, and Jane came by with a lock of your hair
She said that you gave it to her
That night that you planned to go clear
Did you ever go clear?

Ah, the last time we saw you you looked so much older
Your famous blue raincoat was torn at the shoulder
You'd been to the station to meet every train
And you came home without Lili Marlene

And you treated my woman to a flake of your life
And when she came back she was nobody's wife.

Well I see you there with the rose in your teeth
One more thin gypsy thief
Well I see Jane's awake --

She sends her regards.

And what can I tell you my brother, my killer
What can I possibly say?
I guess that I miss you, I guess I forgive you
I'm glad you stood in my way.

If you ever come by here, for Jane or for me
Your enemy is sleeping, and his woman is free.

Yes, and thanks, for the trouble you took from her eyes
I thought it was there for good so I never tried.

And Jane came by with a lock of your hair
She said that you gave it to her
That night that you planned to go clear --

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Poetry Wednesday: My Yoko Ono Moment




My Yoko Ono Moment


for Nick Twemlow

It’s annoying
how much
junk mail
comes through
the slot
& accumulates
at the foot
of the stairs

mostly menus
from restaurants
in the neighborhood

endlessly
coming through
the slot

despite the sign
we put on the door:
No Advertisements
No Solicitors

One night
I scoop up the whole pile
on my way out
(as I do periodically)
& dump it
in the trash can
on the corner
of West Broadway & Spring

just as Yoko Ono
happens to be strolling
through SoHo
with a male companion

She watches me
toss the menus

then turns to her friend
& says, “I guess
no one reads those.”

by David Trinidad
courtesy poets.org 


Re-Thinking the 'E'

Amidst the heat of summer and the heft of books being carried in the summer heat, now is a good time to ponder the e-book.

I used to think of my e-book reader (Kindle, for those keeping score at home) as a tool I kept for convenience and desperation. I am a Print Girl, now and forever.

But as I considered how to find new homes for my already-read books, I had to wonder: why remain married to print for every book?

I'm not keen on the control Amazon has over my reader and its contents. Sure, I can get a refund, but if Amazon can put a book on my reader, it can take it off. (And has, for other readers in the past.)

I prefer my e-books inexpensive. Right now I'm considering an e-copy of my favorite Marge Piercy poetry book, but it's more than a couple of bucks. I realize that some older books haven't yet gone "e," but the absurd price of an e-book astounds me. Maybe I don't know enough about the process of e-publishing, but I also can't imagine why an e-book would cost nearly as much as its printed doppelgänger.

However, it's nice to know that I have more than 100 books at my fingertips when I have my Kindle in hand. I have some good ones, too, like Mary Poppins, Chronicles of Narnia, some Stephen King and a little Neil Gaiman. I also have begun to purchase books I do not have in print, including the blockbusters The Goldfinch and The Son.

Having said that, I have heard about Amazon's war with publishers, and I would hate to think my book selection is being so overtly controlled — and my e-book selection even more so. I don't know a lot about the E-World, but the idea of having to convert books from one seller's format to mine, or having to download a special program to read them, does not make me happy.

Plus, we all realize that e-technology assigns us only a "lease" for music and books we claim to have purchased. Ask iTunes or Bruce Willis, and they'll tell you: if you "buy" a digital album, it's not yours to will to your children. How much did you pay for that bestseller you can't give, loan or resell, like you can with print?

Finally, let's be honest: technology changes fast. Today's e-reader could be tomorrow's Apple Lisa. If Amazon went out of business, who would support my technology? I've invested a few hundred dollars in books and a reader that very well could become obsolete. I'm one of the only people I know who still burns her albums to CD "just in case." I'm not a troglodyte, but I am suspicious of the "latest and greatest," considering how quickly it's replaced these days.

Printed books, on the other hand, are the same. I can buy a book printed in 1895 and it still reads the same as a book printed today. I love the smell, the heft, how pages feel when they're turned. I don't write in my books, but I use sticky notes like a madwoman.

I suppose, in the end, we change our minds based on our needs and environment. My bookshelves are full of great books, and I adore seeing them, thumbing through them, taking them off their shelves. Someday, I may not have room for my library full of books. I may not want to move them to another home, or I may simply decide they need new owners. Every few months, I have to consider the inventory, and I love to match books with the right person.

Someday, I may not want that heavy hardback. Some days, I don't want that heavy hardback, and the $1.99 copy of The Goldfinch is right up my alley. I guess we'll just have to see.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Review: Year of No Sugar

Eve O. Schaub would like you to know that She and Her Family Survived a Year Of Limited Sugar Consumption. But they're okay now.

Schaub was inspired by the research and lifestyle changes of Robert Lustig, a professor at University of California, San Francisco, who convinced her in a 90-minute video that sugar was poison. She did her own research, found resources, and in turn convinced her family to spend a year not adding fructose to their diets. (Her children are in elementary school, so she made exceptions.) At the end of the year, everyone was relieved and the experiment was over.

She blogged about it, and she turned her blog posts into a book titled Year of No Sugar: A Memoir. I'm sure her blog was fine, but the posts didn't succeed in creating a successful, readable memoir.

I didn't enjoy the book for a number of reasons.

As a memoir, Year of No Sugar was written in too casual a tone. The language was chatty, the vocabulary colloquial, the humor forced. In smaller doses (maybe blog entries) it probably was easier to read, but as a book-length manuscript, it was tedious. Her sentence structure, use of casual spelling of interjections and sentence fragments felt slouchy. (She didn't mind adding punctuation, extra vowels to words or using all-caps to support a point: "waaaaay," "oooooo!" and "LOVE," for example. She even made an entire paragraph out of two exclamation points or wrote a paragraph in which a "sentence" was constructed of single words followed by periods. So. Annoying. And. Immature.) She spoke about not taking photos of herself with a sugar-free hero by lamenting she didn't even take pictures "of the bum outside" the restaurant. She discussed "poop." She included "related" excerpts from her daughter Greta's journal, which didn't contribute to the overall text.

She wrote that she is not exceptionally entertaining or loquacious in person, which I can understand, but her writing was not much different. Her bumping into Jason Jones was intended to be funny, but it was just painful. There was little dialogue, which would have nicely broken up the heavy text blocks. Her introspection showed her riddled with doubt throughout the experiment, which explains why she  made so many exceptions that I wasn't sure if the family's actions counted as a year-long experience.

Much of my dissatisfaction with the memoir is that, in the end, she remained mostly unchanged by her experiences — aside from losing her penchant for sweet desserts and reading labels at the grocery store. Schaub revealed that she was a pescetarian for a while, but reverted back to eating meat, et. al., because she "felt better" after eating it. As best I can tell, she became a vegetarian for ethical reasons, but later eschewed that practice because she considered animal consumption part of the Circle of Life. Plus, she felt better. (Full disclosure: I've been an ovo-lacto vegetarian since 1988, so I have opinions about this.)

Finally, she was pretty whiny during the entire book. It was hard. Not having gelato in Italy? Hard. Not having s'mores at a campout? Hard. Christmas without cookies? Hard.

You know what? She's right: living a lifestyle outside popular culture is a challenge. Most people dabble in it, from time to time, like my co-worker who gave up "sugar" one December. It wasn't a long-term activity and there wasn't a specific goal, and when she wanted to, my co-worker began eating birthday cake again. I expected more long-term commitment and lifestyle change to someone who, early in her book, explained, "Agave syrup may be 'natural' and 'raw, but, you know, so is arsenic."

If she could shrug off this huge lifestyle change with little long-term impact, just how important was it in her life? As best I can tell, now the experiment is over, she tries to cook with dextrose from time to time and she eats only a few bites of sugar-laden desserts, but that's about it. I was hoping she had a more life-altering experience, that the impact was so great that her family continued to want to be sugar-free, that she kept up the good fight. However, there was no follow-up, as if she just finished last week and wrapped up the manuscript for the printer at the same time. (Whew! Done with that! What's next?)

As noted above, I am a vegetarian. I also don't drink alcohol. Those two decisions have allowed me to understand sacrifice, decision-making in the face of popular culture and reasonable expectations. I had hoped to find a kindred spirit, someone who also was waging a battle against the absurdity of the "typical" American diet. What I found was someone who tried a sugar purge almost as if she needed a reason to write a blog (which often garners a book deal these days).

In the end, I finished the blog-book with great disappointment.

Have you read it? If you liked it, please tell me: what did I miss that could have made this book more enjoyable to read?