Monday, April 14, 2014

You Gotta Read This Book

Two weeks ago, Barb Aronson, one of my favorite sales reps dropped off this book saying "You have to read this.  Everyone is talking about it."  Turns out, this book got more recommendations for the American Booksellers monthly flyer than any other book...ever.  I get why booksellers like it.  It's about a bookstore and a cantankerous bookseller named A.J Fikry.  Fikry has been angry since the tragic death of his wife and bookstore partner, but despite that, I found him charming and fascinating.  As a bookseller, Fikry's palette is narrow.  He does not like postmodernism, or postapocalyptic works.  He won't read celeb bios, ghost written books, stories with post mortem narrators.  Books must be more than one hundred twenty pages but less than four hundred fifty.

That's the first info we learn about Fickry when (oh how ironic) a sales rep drops by with a book that he just "must read."  Beyond the title character, I found the book simple, predictable and overly sentimental.  It wasn't until I got the final pages that I learned why so many hold this book tightly and with great fondness.

Bookstores attract the right kind of folk...good people...
And I like talking about books with people who like talking about books. 
 I like paper.  I like how it feels, and I like the feel of a book in my back pocket.  I like how a new book smells, too
....this to me is as close to a church as I have known in this life.  It is a holy place. 
 With bookstores like this, I feel confident in saying
 that there will be a book business for a very long time.

I kind of get that.  When I first opened LaDeDa I switched my full time teaching job with a part time teacher.  It worked for both of us and for the school.  Eventually, a time came when class sizes increased and I was again needed full time.  From a practical standpoint it made no sense to own a bookstore and have someone else run it for me.  I had to choose between teaching and the store.  The thought of closing the store clutched in the pit of my stomach, making the decision easy.  I knew I was giving up benefits and a great pension plan, but that didn't matter.  Still doesn't.  

Spend some time with A.J. Fickry.  You can breeze through it quickly and maybe it will make you feel better about a risk you have taken....or one that has been on your mind for a while.


Last weekend I watched a strong but troubling film called Iris, about the author Iris Murdoch and how she lost her being to Alzheimer's.  Hugh Bonneville.  Dame Judy Dench.  Kate Winslet.  You can't find a much better cast than that.  This film will stick with me for a long, long time.  I wonder, has Kate Winslet ever stayed clothed through an entire movie?

There's still time to get Heart-A-Rama tickets.
Tons of fun and good will for only $15.00
Manitowoc Piggly Wiggly and Inman's in Two Rivers

Thanks for stopping by.

Monday, March 31, 2014

The Week of All Weeks

I'll never know what I did to deserve all the goodness that come my way last week.  Wednesday is typically my day off, and when I got in on Thursday morning, there were some beautiful yellow flowers dropped off by a customer.  On opening my emails, I found a touching note from a friend.

Life is good, right?  It got even better on Friday when I received an autographed copy of Flora the Flamingo along with print of one of the book's illustrations signed by the artist.  Something I said during a phone conversation with a sales rep prompted her to pull that little gift together.

Saturday brought another surprise - signed copy of the book you see above, along with another print autographed by the illustrator.  Also included was a little poem written by author Debra Frasier.

Ode to Picture Books

The picture book is first a story,
but it also gives us
proximity to each other,
as it is most often delivered by
an older person to a younger person.

You must sit close
to turn the pages,
to see the pictures.
Your fingers point
and touch the paper.
Shoulders can rub lightly together.

Repeated often,  reading a picture book with a child becomes
a doorway that is recognizable as as opening to beauty - reliable,
surprising, safe, and adventurous all the same moment.

Just lifting the cover of the book between you
can become the silent signal that the way is opening
and beauty beckons.

This is not a small thin at the edge of a complicated century.

Originally published for the Read With a Child campaign,
Association of Booksellers for Children 1997

Wishing you a lovely week filled with surprises.
Thanks for stopping by.

Monday, March 24, 2014


Finally.  Ruth Reichl has returned.  Tender at the Bone and Comfort Me with Apples remain two of my favorite memoirs.  In those books, Reichl shares her adventures and mis-adventures with food having been strongly influenced by a mother whose cooking ineptitude nearly killed several dinner guests.

Luckily, Reichl learned what not to do, and her early books take us on adventures through windy roads in the hills of Italy, into the secret passages of New York's culinary centers, and into her own kitchen.

Delicious! is a novel - The Devil Wears Prada meets Julie and Julia.  Billie Breslin has travelled from California to take a job at Delicious! the most iconic food magazine on the planet.  From the moment she enters the centuries old mansion housing the heart of the publication, she is tested.  Can the shy small town girl keep up with the snobbery, and the blatant jealously of the seasoned staff?  Before she has a chance to discover what, if any, impact she can make, the magazine is shut down and she chooses to remain in New York at an interim job.

A series of complex events leads her to a collection of correspondence exchanged during WW II between a twelve-year-old girl and legendary chef James Beard.  That's a far as I am.  this is a gentle novel with a Maeve Binchy feel.  I am especially enjoying the local color and the collection of characters that work as food artisans in the city.

These arrived today.  Great pictures and bits of local history.  We'd be happy to set one aside for you.  Click on the EVENTS tab for information on an author signing.

Thanks for stopping by.

Monday, March 17, 2014

To the Moon, Alice

This book took me back to some of the grad school documents I read for my thesis - totally boring, studied, academic writing - yet totally fascinating subject.  Lawrence Wright has packed his book with bizarre facts and incidents presented in the most matter of fact manner.  I imagine he had to struggle to keep his words from becoming sarcastic, or worse - glib.

For those of you who think that Scientology died with L. Ron Hubbard in 1985, never fear.  Hubbard simply chose to "drop his body" and move to a new level of existence.  If Hubbard followed the same path he asked his acolytes to accept, he first went to Mars (yes, Mars) where he spent time before a huge wheel depicting significant moments in his life.  As the wheel spun, Hubbard's past grew weaker and weaker until it no longer existed.  He will be back.  He promised that.  After spending time with the wheel on Mars, a Scientologist finds a new baby's body to occupy.  If no baby is readily available the Thetan (believer) energy simply lurks around a pregnant woman until she goes into labor.

Yup.  You're right.  I'm not going to be signing up for these fun and games any time soon.  Seriously, Hubbard was dangerous, delusional and a bigamist.  And that is only the beginning.  Some will say that this book is certainly the work of a conspioracy theorist, but the amount of research that went into this is evidenced by footnotes and over fifty pages of end notes documenting sources.  This isn't a Kitty Kelley expose type book.  Wright never tells us that his sources have asked to remain anonymous.  He never quotes the cousin of a neighbor who one had a sister who sat next to Hubbard's son in second grade.  He names his sources and presents them as credible by explaining their background and association with Scientology.

What I don't understand is how this organization has managed to maintain its status as a religion.  That position has been challenged more than once, yet it continues to enjoy the privileges granted to more traditional churches.  Maybe that will be answered for me in the coming chapters.  I was also curious about how this group enticed so many celebrities, but now I understand that.  I just began reading about Tom Cruise's early involvement, while he was still married to his first wife, Mimi Rogers.

I haven't decided how much more time Ill spend with this book.  It's an eye opener, for sure, but the I can't imagine that my opinion will change if I continue to read.  200 pages to go....skimming might work (not that I every skimmed in grad school., mind you).

Thanks for stopping by.

Monday, March 10, 2014

Because I've been binge watching British mysteries on PBS, this advance reader seemed like a great choice for some weekend reading.  I figured I'd scan a few chapters and that would be that.  Nope.  This turned out to be both fun and enlightening reading.  Lesley and Roy Adkins created a fully painted picture of the 18th century, validating my long held belief that I would not have survived long under those conditions.

The past ten years or so have been good to Jane Austen.  Most of her books have been made into movies, some being big Hollywood ventures, others smaller offerings by the BBC or public television.  The pictures of rural England, serene, slow, with gallant men in breeches and women in empire waist dresses writing in journals tells only part of the story.

The Adkins tell us the rest.  This book portrays to daily lives of ordinary people with discussion topics as diverse as childbirth, marriage, religion, sexual practices, hygiene, highwaymen and superstitions.  Fetching water from a well or river every day?  No thanks.  Medicinal leeches.  Nope. Children working in the mines meant certain early death, that is if the plague from really creepy bathroom practices didn't get them first. Oh, and how about  the corpses left in public swinging from gibbets for everyone to see?

Yes, it was all quite bleak by today's standards.  Most people could not afford lawyers so many couples suffered intolerable marriages as a result. A woman could not divorce her husband on grounds of cruelty since it was legal for a husband to beat his wife.  But if he did beat her to the brink of death, he was punished, and asked to "be good" for about three years.  A husband could end a marriage by selling his wife. Sometimes the woman consented, but not often. The woman was led into the public square with a rope around her neck and auctioned off. Once money exchanged hands, the deed to her ownership was transferred to the highest bidder.  

And of course, there were the gypsies. Apparently child stealing was common in parts of England; the gypsies were often credited for the abduction.  Kids were stolen for various reasons - couples desperate for a child, for cheap labor or to sold into slavery.  Local newspapers reported these abductions with most reports ending with "....the child is probably gone forever."

Oh, these were not easy times for those people who did not live between the covers of an Austen novel.

By they way, if you have time, try to catch an episode or two of "DCI  (Detective chief Inspector) Banks" , Scott & Bailey, or Father Brown Mysteries.  Sometimes I have to use the closed caption button of the TV since these Brits talk quickly and quietly.  PBS doesn't always keep a consistent schedules with these shows, but check them out ifyou can.

I'm also re-reading Tom Maltman's Little Wolves for our books discussion this week.  I must have read it too fast the first time, because I certainly missed a lot.  Not sure about the ending, though.  We'll see what the discussion offers.

Thanks for stopping by.

Monday, March 3, 2014

A World of Mess

No post today.  I am moving shelving around so that some drywall work and painting can start tomorrow.

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Time to Take the Cure

Years ago I saw a movie called The Road to Wellville starring Matthew Broderick as Dr. John Harvey Kellogg.  Yes, one half of the Kellogg team that brought us corn flakes.  I remember cringing at several scenes as Dr. Kellogg treated patients at his sanatorium with all sorts of terrifying cures.  A bit of follow-up reading revealed that the movie wasn't far from the truth.  In the 1870's, Dr. Kellogg did indeed open a sanatorium in Battle Creek, Michigan where he inflicted all manner of tortures on his "guests".  Treatments ran the gamut from extreme enemas (you can picture that any way you'd like) to amputation as a cure for 'self abuse."  Ironically, his facility was a favorite spot for the very rich  seeking an end to their ills.

In 2004, Milwaukee novelist and playwright, Ludmilla Bollow, published Dr. Zastro's Sanitarium For the Ailments of Women, providing me with an equal dose of skin crawlies jeebees.  Poor little Yana, being treated by Phillipe Zastrow with hypnosis sessions and electromagnetic shocks, quickly finds herself longing for the very emotional tingling she had hoped to eliminate from her life.  Who know these places and these methods really existed?

Now, thanks to Erica Janik, producer and editor of WPR's Wisconsin Life series, the facts have been gathered in the informative, enlightening, and yes, frequently creepy, book pictured above.  Janik looks at the myriad of experimental treatments that rose as alternatives to bleeding, blistering, and induced vomiting and sweating.  She talks about the variations of "water cures" including tightly wrapping patients in wet sheets to squeeze sickness out.  Then there are the magnetic cures and  the "Thought" cure.  This is interesting - similar to  the "Think "method of learning to play an instrument developed  by flim-flam man Harold Hill in The Music Man.  In this leap of faith cure, "diseased" thoughts are magically replaced with "healthy" thoughts resulting in a healthy body.   

Silly as these may seem, Janik assets that many of these innovations are precursors to practical, medical wisdom still used today.  Frequent baths.  Regular exercise.  Eight glasses of water a day.  All that, and more, Janik says grew out of early holistic therapies.  If it all sounds goofy, just remember, Louisa May Alcott believed in homeopathy.  We all know that she hovered on the fringes of transcendentalism - one of the richest movements in American literature - but I guess Alcott died eventually anyway, so skeptics, there's your antithesis.  

Whether you choose to read this book for it's historic significance, or just for a afternoon spent trolling the bizarre - check it out.

Thanks for stopping by.

Yes, this is Saturday and this is Monday's Fine Print on a Monday post.  My Monday schedule has changed so you might be finding Fine Print on the Saturday before the anticipated Monday, or on the Tuesday after, or on the Monday itself depending on how things go on Saturday and Sunday.  Confused? Don't be, It's only a blog post and so basically, Fine Print on a Monday will appear with some degree of irregularity between Saturday and Tuesday of any given week.

Monday, February 17, 2014

Bird Watching Anyone?

I have a vague recollection of reading this book, or at least starting it once before.  No matter.  For some reason, I expected not to like it, but since I promised to read down the pile of books on my living room floor, I committed to this one to start.

Mr. Malik, the story's protagonist, reminds me so much of Major Pettigrew in Major Pettigrew's Last Stand. He is charming, witty, astute, classy, very British.  This isn't simply a love story, nor is it a treasure trove of information on unique ornithological sightings.  Tucked neatly within the competition that pits Mr. Malik against  Harry Khan for the right to invite Rose Mbitwa to the Hunt Club ball are tales of Kenyan people who thrive despite corruption, violence and poverty.

I especially enjoyed the narrator who interrupts the story form time to time and warns the reader that all may not be as it seems, or to share some tidbit about life in Nairobi.  He (the narrator just sounds like a "he" to me) possesses a wicked sense of humor - again very British.  I could just imagine him sharing one of his poshly clever lines, and then, smugly satisfied with his offering, chuckling to himself even if no one else caught the joke.

Atop the first page of each chapter you'll find a tiny line drawing of an African bird - gentle and whimsical like the novel itself.  You don't have to like birds to enjoy this book.  The cover compares it to The #1 Ladies Detective Agency series by Alexander McCall Smith.  I sure would like to see Mr., Malik and   Smith's unpredictable Mma Ronotswe get together.

Thanks for stopping by.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

The Dogger Blogger Returns

Since You-Know-Who is at it again - too busy watching the Olympics and futzing with Heart-A-Rama - I have commandeered the blog this week.  Note the updated selfie.  Pensive, isn't it?  Much better than that silly thing with the Groucho gear plastered all over my face.  

I had a bout of illness in the past weeks, giving me time to read the novel you see here.  There's nothing better than a good love story, and just in time for Valentine's Day, too.  Henry is a nice little boy who brings Charley home to be his bestie.  Henry gets to do everything with Charley.  He gets to walk him, he gets to feed him, and he gets to play with him.  But his parents say that Charley can't sleep with Henry.  Oh, that Henry.  When Charley cries on his first night, Henry walks him around the house.  He lifts him up to peer out the window and look at the moon.  They sing together.  Love. Love.  Love.  I won't reveal where Henry's parents find Charley the next morning, but, let me tell you, it took me three whole nights before I made my way into a bed that was bigger, softer and warmer than  the one YKW stupidly thought I'd sleep in.

YKW has a couple projects in the works, I think.  Her New Year's resolution was to write one haiku a day. You know, a haiku is just three lines, seventeen syllables in all.  Well, guess what?  She's now twelve days behind.  I have also seen great piles of books appearing from everywhere.  Over the years they have slipped beneath beds, in closets, under chairs, in the refrigerator.  They all have bookmarks in them.  I am guessing that she plans to finally knock them off before buying and reading anything new.  We'll see how that goes. This is a list of some of those dusty, bent up books that are now neatly piled on the floor next to my favorite blanket.

A Guide to Birds of South Africa
The French Lieutenant's woman
Berlin Stories
High Wind in Jamaica
Persian Pickle Club
Readers Companion to Cuba
The Book of God
The Scarlet Feather

I'll be watching that pile which is crowding my personal space.  If it doesn't begin to shrink, I know exactly what to do.

Barks to you.
GB (Mrs. George Burns) the Blogging Doggy

Monday, February 3, 2014

A Retro Read

You can't deny the similarities between Donleavy's cover and the poster art for the 70 hit film, The Graduate.  But, the similarities don't end there.  The Graduate, based on a 1963 novel by Charles Webb, and the "Beastly" book fall into the sub-genre of picaresque novels.  Neither strictly adheres to the pure definition or style which originated in 16th century Spain, but they're close enough.  In episodic bursts of bawdiness and sentimentality, both books follow the adventures of roguish youths in existential searches.  In both cases, the search mostly boils down to sex - but some ethos and pathos creep in between the lurid scenes..

In my college "History of the Novel" class, we read Joseph Andrews by Henry Fielding.  I recall being the only person in class not appalled by the story.  I thought that odd at the time since my class was filled with students who were regular class skippers who preferred cussing over sheepshead in the lounge to discussing any piece of literature that wasn't jammed with pages of fast paced dialogue.  I figure they were pretending to be alarmed in order to garner much needed brownie points from the elderly, but brilliant literature scholar - who just happened to be a nun.  But, Sr. Salome was cool.  She enjoyed that I smirked and nodded my head in recognition of double meanings.  She and I enjoyed Joseph Andrews and then she suggested novels of similar ilk to me.  Don Quixote.  Catcher in the Rye.  Tom Jones.  I can't say I enjoyed all of them, but she did a great job of selling me on the style.

So....Balthazar made me a little uncomfortable at time, especially when the proper little 12 year-old boy dives head first into an affair with his 24 year-old nanny.  Thankfully the author didn't get too detailed, but Donleavy is a master of innuendo, so the intent is there for sure.  Hi unique narrative style, certainly experimental in 1968, proved to be tedious at times.  Fragments.  Weird punctuation.  Internal narration.   Voice mixing.  Too much.  Cormac McCarthy pulled off the fragmented narration in The Road with greater dexteruty and purpose.

The book made me laugh at times but mostly, I kept my fingers crossed that Balthazar and his sidekick, Beefy, would stay clear of the law.  These boys were living on the edge as they searched - B for love and, ironically, Beefy for spirituality.  I'm not sure if I would recommend this book.  Have to let it settle in for awhile.

In the meantime - I might grab a not yet published book for this week.  

Heart-A-Rama auditions this Thursday at 7:00 and Sunday at 1:00 at the Capitol Civic Centre.