Thursday, April 30, 2015

Breakfast at the Bookstore with Brad and Nick #29

Daily Dose

From The Country Wife, by William Wycherley


“Marrying to increase love is like gaming to become rich; alas, you only lose what little stock you had before”

From Act IV, Scene 1

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Late Snow

Relearning the Language of April

Daily Dose

From Darling Monster: The Letters of Lady Diana Cooper to Her Son John Julius Norwich 1939 - 1952, edited by John Julius Norwich


"Get hold of a typewriter when you can because you write with much greater abandon on the machine, unlike everyone else."

From July 25th, 1940 (John Julius Norwich is now the author of roughly two dozen books to date.)

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Hold April

Daily Dose

From Darling Monster: The Letters of Lady Diana Cooper to Her Son John Julius Norwich 1939 - 1952, edited by John Julius Norwich


"It is out of farm fashion to give ducks swimming space, and yet they keep those awful feet.  It seems dreadfully cruel, like taking us off the snows but leaving our skies on."

From June 14th, 1941

Monday, April 27, 2015

A Caricature

Daily Dose

From The Poems of John Keats


"The shut rose shall dream of our loves and awake
Full-blown, and such warmth for the morning's take"

From Song, III

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Charles Dickens writes to a little girl

Daily Dose

From Boswell's Enlightenment, by Robert Zaretsky


"God would not have formed such a diversity of men if he had intended that they should all come up to a certain standard... Let me then be Boswell and render him as fine a fellow as possible."

From Chapter 7, Waiting for Frederick, quoting Boswell's Holland Journal for July 20.

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Sydney Smith's Letter to a Little Girl

Daily Dose

From A Shaping Joy: Studies in the Writer's Craft, by Cleanth Brooks


"Through the voices of Bertie Wooster and his incomparable servant, the godlike Jeeves, Auden is able to hear, in spite of their comic intonations, 'the voice of Agape, of Holy Love.'"

From Auden as Literary Critic

Friday, April 24, 2015

Moving On from Legoland

Daily Dose

From New and Selected Poems, by David Lehman


Did you know that Evian spelled backwards is naive?
I myself was unaware of this fact until last Tuesday night
when John Ashbery, Marc Cohen, and Eugene Richie
gave a poetry reading and I introduced them
to an audience that already knew them,
and there were bottles of Evian at the table.
As air to the lungs of a drowning man was
a glass of this water to my dry lips. I recommend it
to you, a lover of palindromes, who will also
be glad to learn that JA read us three "chapters"
of his new poem, "Girls on the Run," a twelve-
part saga inspired by girls' adventure stories, with
characters named Dimples and Tidbit plus Talkative and
Hopeful on loan from "Pilgrim's Progress."
As Frank O'Hara would have said, "it's the nuts."

The poets' books were on sale and afterwards
two of the poets signed theirs happily and the third
did so willingly and Joe took photos and I smiled
for the camera, shaking hands with people
I knew or didn't know and thinking how
blessed was the state of naivete
my naive belief in the glory of the word

Thursday, April 23, 2015

A Caricature

Daily Dose

From The Poetical Works of George Crabbe


WE'VE trod the maze of error round,
   Long wandering in the winding glade;
And now the torch of truth is found,
   It only shows us where we strayed:
By long experience taught, we know--
   Can rightly judge of friends and foes;
Can all the worth of these allow,
   And all the faults discern in those.

Now, 'tis our boast that we can quell
   The wildest passions in their rage,
Can their destructive force repel,
   And their impetuous wrath assuage.--
Ah, Virtue! dost thou arm when now
   This bold rebellious race are fled?
When all these tyrants rest, and thou
   Art warring with the mighty dead?

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

A Caricature

Daily Dose

From The Collected Poems, by James Merrill


Then when the flame forked like a sudden path
I gasped and stumbled, and was less.
Density pulsing upward, gauze of ash,
Dear light along the way to nothingness,
What could be made of you but light, and this?

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

A Caricature

Daily Dose

From The Collected Poems, by James Merrill


I thought I would do over
All of it. I was tired
Of scars and stains, of bleared
Panes, tinge of the liver.
The fuchsia in the center
Looked positively weird
I felt it—dry as paper.
I called a decorator.
In next to no time such
A nice young man appeared.
What had I in mind?
Oh, lots and lots of things—
Fresh colors, pinks and whites
That one would want to touch;
The windows redesigned;
The plant thrown out in favor,
Say, of a small tree,
An orange or a pear . . .
He listened dreamily.
Combing his golden hair
He measured with one glance
The distance I had come
To reach this point. And then
He put away his comb
He said: “Extravagance!
Suppose it could be done.
You’d have to give me carte
Blanche and an untold sum.
But to be frank, my dear,
Living here quite alone
(Oh I have seen it, true,
But me you needn’t fear)
You’ve one thing to the good:
While not exactly smart,
Your wee place, on the whole
It couldn’t be more ‘you.’
Still, if you like—” I could
Not speak. He had seen my soul,
Had said what I dreaded to hear.
Ending the interview
I rose, blindly. I swept
To show him to the door,
And knelt, when he had left,
By my Grand Rapids chair,
And wept until I laughed
And laughed until I wept.

Monday, April 20, 2015

A Caricature

Daily Dose

From The Collected Poems, by James Merrill


The panes flash, tremble with your ghostly passage
Through them, an x-ray sheerness billowing, and I have risen
But cannot speak, remembering only that one was meant
To rise and not to speak. Young storm, this house is yours.
Let our eye darken, your rain come, the candle reeling
Deep in what still reflects control itself and me.
Daybreak's great gray rust-veined irises humble and proud
Along your path will have laid their foreheads in the dust.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Top 10 Reasons Internet Lists Are Stupid

1) Lists reduce complex philosophical concepts like “the good” to dumb, even dangerously oversimplified cliché – with statements like this one.

2) Almost everyone is “most like” either Dorothy from the Wizard of OZ, or Jane Eyre.

3) Cats and dogs are largely unaware of any ongoing contest for our affections, and, moreover, cats could give a damn.

4) Everyone's favorite color is probably a primary, unless we're just being perverse and or actually love pink, in which case, congratulations, you are Barbara Cartland.

5) It doesn't matter how many of the 100 Best Books you've read if that list includes Harry Potter and you are not eleven years old.

6) No one needs a reason to call his or her mother on Mother's Day, let alone ten reasons. (Call your mother.)

7) If you have either a lease or a mortgage – or a Sugar Daddy --where you should live has already been settled for the time being.

8) Which Disney Princess you are is only relevant if and when your lawsuit for residuals or copyright infringement is actually found to have merit by a judge.

9) Which tree, cheese, compact car and or Iggy Azalea song you are does not matter as you are, in fact, not a tree, a cheese, a compact car nor an Iggy Azalea song – none of which have thumbs, or a soul.

10) No, you would not survive the coming ______ apocalypse. That is the very nature of an apocalypse.

Daily Dose

From The Poems of Leigh Hunt


There is May in books forever;
May will part from Spenser never;
May's in Milton, May's in Prior,
May's in Chaucer, Thomson, Dyer;
May's in all the Italian books:--
She has old and modern nooks,
Where she sleeps with nymphs and elves,
In happy places they call shelves,
And will rise and dress your rooms
With a drapery thick with blooms.
Come, ye rains, then if ye will,
May's at home, and with me still;
But come rather, thou, good weather,
And find us in the fields together.

Saturday, April 18, 2015

A Caricature

Daily Dose

From New and Selected Poems, by David Lehman


Can't swim; uses credit cards and pills to combat
intolerable feelings of inadequacy;
Won't admit his dread of boredom, chief impulse behind
numerous marital infidelities;
Looks fat in jeans, mouths clichés with confidence,
breaks mother's plates in fights;
Buys when the market is too high, and panics during
the inevitable descent;
Still, Pop can always tell the subtle difference
between Pepsi and Coke,
Has defined the darkness of red at dawn, memorized
the splash of poppies along
Deserted railway tracks, and opposed the war in Vietnam
months before the students,
Years before the politicians and press; give him
a minute with a road map
And he will solve the mystery of bloodshot eyes;
transport him to mountaintop
And watch him calculate the heaviness and height
of the local heavens;
Needs no prompting to give money to his kids; speaks
French fluently, and tourist German;
Sings Schubert in the shower; plays pinball in Paris;
knows the new maid steals, and forgives her.

Friday, April 17, 2015

Bad Sign

A friend posted this to me on social media.  I've seen it elsewhere, of course, if never in such fancy calligraphy before. To put it plain again, it reads:

"If you must steal books steal from a richly stock'd Corporate Bookstore."

Oh, please.

First, it's that word, "must" that just does my head in.  Who exactly, in a country with the largest system of public libraries in the history of the world "must" steal books?!  Jean Valjean stole from necessity.  Bread.  He stole bread.  He stole to feed his widowed sister and her seven children, remember?  Hunger and the suffering of others are compelling reasons to steal.  (And keep in mind, it didn't really work out all that great for him.  The consequences of his theft were monumental, measured in plot or pages, and the suffering?  Prisoner 24601.  Chapter One, Book One.  Need I go on?)  Nobody has to steal a book in this country.  Nobody.

Then there's the second fallacy in this argument, nearly as bad as the first.  The "richly stock'd Corporate Bookstore" is very much a thing of the past, but even when Borders and Barnes and Noble were still going concerns, the idea that the harm done by shoplifting was to their corporate bosses was ridiculous.  Those losses were written off, it's true, but not by the managers and staff, the honest booksellers who worked for low wages and who were made to suffer for not controlling their inventory.  Trust me, the consequences were felt by the very people least able to afford them.

So, where does this come from, this persistent lie that somehow petty theft can be justified by politics?  And just why does it still exercise me so?

When I was young, I read Emma Goldman, Peter Kropotkin, Tolstoy.  I called myself an Anarchist, now and then.  True, I never "liberated" books as a contribution to the coming Revolution, but I understand the urge to strike a blow here and there.  And when AIDS came along and defined my generation, I marched with the rest.  I even got arrested a couple of times.  (I was not a very committed activist though.  I once begged a policeman to let me go pee after I'd been arrested, promising I would come straight back and go to jail with the rest.  He cut my zip-tie and told me "don't come back," and I didn't.)  Still, I marched against Apartheid, and for a woman's right to choose.  I was there when we shut down the Capital in Sacramento once, and the Golden Gate Bridge.  I was there when we surrounded a drug company's headquarters because they wouldn't sell AZT at a reasonable price.  I blocked traffic.  I shouted "The Whole World Is Watching" and knocked over police-barriers when the cops were beating Delores Huerta.  I marched on Washington.  I didn't actually join much, or organize anything.  I put out the chairs a couple of times for meetings at the Women's Building.  I was an "emotional support" volunteer, briefly, for the Shanti Project.  I learned that I hated consensus building, cold-calls and sharing.

So maybe I'm not the best example.  Still, I was there, kinda.

Fight the power.

I also learned that the idiots who broke out the windows at the Wendy's on Market Street every single time we went marching by inconvenienced no one but the developmentally disabled employee who invariably came out to sweep up the glass.  I learned that the kids in Berkley who invariably tried to turn over the cop cars were always going straight back to their fully-paid dorm-rooms and supper on a meal-plan at the cafeteria after.

Working in bookstores nearly my whole adult life, I've learned that for every street kid who shoplifts to get a fix or a meal, there are two shoplifters who work as part of an organized gang and three more who steal art supplies or textbooks with the money to buy these things in their pockets --money from their parents who can afford it.  It's that last sorry lot who most often subscribe to the silly sentiment expressed in the sign above -- at least until Security catches them.  They always cry when they're busted.  They're always more afraid of what Dad will say, and how this might affect their transcript than of actually getting arrested.  None of them has ever expressed, in my hearing anyway, how it will all be worked out, come the Revolution.  It seems there are no committed revolutionaries ever handcuffed to the bench in the Security office.

It's a dodge, plain and simple, a way to avoid doing anything meaningful by assigning meaning to something done for the thrill of being bad, or sounding cool.  Sentimental anarchism of this kind has all the political veracity of "compassionate conservatism," or 'market communism."  It's just another way of being dishonest without feeling so bad about it.

So.  If anyone under twenty-five should ever happen across these words, and the mood should come upon you to steal a book from the independent bookstore where I work, should you want in this way to stick it to the Man, or whatever the phrase is nowadays, just come find me.  I'm almost always right there, on the sales floor.  Easy to spot: the little fat man with the big white beard.  Just stop by and say "hi."  We can talk about Slovoj Zizek and I'll tell you about the time we scared the Secretary of the Interior so bad he refused to get out of his armored car.  I can recommend a great book by Errico Malatesta.

And, hell, kid, I'll buy you the fucking book.

Just don't be such a jerk.

Daily Dose

From The Lunatic, by Charles Simic


Death asking an old woman
To please sew him a button,
And she agrees, gets out
Of bed and starts looking
For her needle and thread
With a lit candle the priest
Had placed above her head.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

A Note on Cart Art

Art happens when and wherever it can.  In every bookstore in which I've worked, corporate environments and independents, companies large and small, people have found space to put things up in unlikely places, unapproved, just... 'cause.  It's nesting as much as decorating, I should think, marking territory.  "Kilroy Was Here" -- none of it's graffiti as such, though I know graffiti has become respectable lately.  It's less message than mess, and all the better for that.

The best of it sticks around, curls at the edges, gets a patina on the tape, ceases to mean anything if it ever did.  I like the idea of these things getting on, going on even when the people who put the pictures on there have gone.  These carts are like crab-shells.

Sooner or later, someone with the authority to do so will have the lot scraped off.  Doesn't matter.  It always happens.  It will just start over; a clipping here, a comic strip there, a bit of colored paper and it will be art all over again.

I find it all strangely cheering.  Thought I'd share.

Cart Art

Daily Dose

From The Lunatic, by Charles Simic

All we got, mister,
Is an empty bowl and a spoon
For you to slurp
Great mouthfuls of nothing,

And make it sound like
A thick, dark soup you’re eating,
Steaming hot
Out of an empty bowl.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

A Caricature

Daily Dose

From Children of the Days: A Calendar of Human History, by Eduardo Galeano, translated by Mark Fried



In the year 1588 Spain's Invincible Armada, then the largest fleet in the world, was defeated in a matter of hours.
In the year 1628 Sweden's most powerful warship, the Vasa, also known as Invincible, sank on its maiden voyage.  It never made it out of Stockholm's harbor.
And on the night of this day in 1912, the world's safest and most luxurious ocean liner, humbly named Titanic, hit an iceberg and went down.  This floating palace had few lifeboats, a uselessly small rudder, watchmen without binoculars and warning bells that weren't heard.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

A Caricature

Daily Dose

From The Poetical Works of Sir Walter Scott


"What voice was like thine, that could sing of to-morrow,
Till forgot in the strain was the grief of to-day!
But when friends drop around us in life's weary waning,
The grief, Queen of Numbers, thou canst not assuage"

From Farewell to the Muse (1822)

Monday, April 13, 2015

And Yet Another Unlikely Audio-Book

Daily Dose

From The Greatest Show on Earth: the Evidence for Evolution, by Richard Dawkins


"When creationists say, as they frequently do, that the theory of evolution contradicts the Second Law of Thermodynamics, they are telling us no more than that they don't understand the Second Law (we already knew that they don't understand evolution.)"

From Chapter 13, There Is Grandeur in this View of Life

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Another Unlikely Audio-Book

Daily Dose

From Collected Poems, by Stevie Smith


The shadow was so black,
I thought it was a cat,
But once in to it
I knew it
No more black
Than a shadow's back.

Illusion is a freak
Of mind;
The cat's to seek.

Saturday, April 11, 2015

A Caricature

Daily Dose

From What About This: Collected Poems of Frank Stanford


When the rain hits the snake in the head,
he closes his eyes and wishes he were
asleep in a tire on the side of the road,
so young boys could roll him over, forever.