March 10, 2018

Bookstore Travelogue

So the other night I heard the sad news that probably the biggest and best Columbus used bookstore, Acorn Books, is closing after 25 years of business. Although I only went there maybe four or five times, it was nice just knowing it was there and the community will be poorer without it. Of course I was part of the problem as I didn’t go there often. (I like to think I would’ve had I lived close by.) They are going the way of all flesh due to the fact you can buy used books online of course, and that e-business is killing brick and mortars (almost wrote “brick and mortals”).

They are having a whale of a going-out-of-business sale, every book under $25 was marked down to $1.  I picked up over 25 books, and a couple of bookends for $5 each. Time evaporated under the “pressure” of trying to filter tens of thousands of books into a manageable number.

The joint was packed, as well it might. One eccentric old gentleman, dressed sportily in a vest and tie and tweed hat, thought to ham it up by singing, apropos of nothing, a ditty he made up. It went something like this: “Why doesn’t Trump go / on Fox News anymore / It’s because of Stormy Davis / a man could suffocate / between those bosoms....”. He added that he wished Trump would. People smiled to themselves but didn’t look at him, preoccupied by our book frenzy.  It helped that he had a British accent. Eccentricism is more tolerated in foreigners.

The place comes by its characters honestly since the owners themselves are rather unique, exemplified by the unusual decor.



I felt the obligatory amount of greediness. This was one of those rare situations where books are well-nigh free for the taking, as if dollar bills were floating down and people were grabbing all they could. I wouldn’t have minded filling up with a long row of 19th century books in old leather bindings, but I was intent on content uber alles.

Now I’m doing a sort of “reverse tourism” (call it “reverse book research”) in discovering what I bought. Shades of “let’s pass this bill and see what’s in it”. Pleasantly surprised by most of them.

The Mark Helperin novels look pretty keen. Scored a CEB Thinline Bible (sadly, without deuterocanonicals). The Nabakov “Speak, Memory” filled a big hole in my library. The poems of Francis Thompson cheer me, as it is indeed that Thompson, of Hound of Heaven fame.

The Rise and Fall of Adam and Eve by Greenblatt. Thrilled I could get this for a song given I was tempted to get it anyway. Major find. Secular author of course, but that’s par for the course.

Mother Ireland by Edna O’Brien looks like a fail, a typical hit piece on Catholic Ireland.

The Maidens on the Rocks was written by an Italian 19th century poet and looks not so good:
“D’Annunzio’s literary works are marked by their egocentric perspective, their fluent and melodious style, and an overriding emphasis on the gratification of the senses, whether through the love of women or of nature.”
Interesting that the love of nature and women correlation. This volume: “featured viciously self-seeking and wholly amoral Nietzschean heroes.”

A Traveler’s Book of Verse - looks very promising, as it’s early 1900s descriptive anthology of Europe through the lens of poetry.

Portrait of Those I Love by Daniel Berrigan. Looking forward to getting his viewpoint of Thomas Merton and Dorothy Day.

Parnassus on Wheels by Christopher Morley.  Said to be delightful book tangentially related to bookselling craft. Mentions a rather lazy male which sounds like me:  “He spends a good deal of his time tramping about the countryside, chronicling the life of country folk, leaving Helen to take up the slack at home.”

The Secret Museum: Pornography in Modern Culture - unfortunately written by a Village Voice editor, so it’s probably safe to assume he comes at it from a pro-porn point of view, but this looks interesting inasmuch as a history of censorship and how pornography as a term exists only since the 18th century.

Little Chapel on the River: A Pub, a Town and the Search for What Matters Most - what an unexpected gem! Seems right up my alley, and written by talented author (WSJ reporter). Fish out of water story about Manhattanite forced out of her apartment by 9/11 and coming to small town in Ireland.

Dark Rosaleen - a historical novel about the Irish famine. Reviews suggest the writing isn’t that strong, alas, but I’m always on the lookout for a really good Irish famine novel.

The Private Papers of Henry Ryecroft - George Gissing. Looks potentially like a gem. From amazon reviews:
What a pity most contemporaries, obsessed with the superficial chop suei from their laptops and cellphones, have forgotten this little classic, a fine collection of belles-lettres pieces which displays a keen sensitivity to Nature and to the subtle changing seasons. I recommend it to anyone who still keeps a longing for beauty and art in life...
And another:  “Gissing was not a Christian but in this book he shares a generally positive view of the influence of Christianity on England. He had in his own life also found solace in the Stoic philosophers.”

Irish Journal by Heinich Boll. It’s a translation from the German, so that’s not ideal, but still looks potentially very strong. From an amazon reviewer:
Amazingly, a native German, managed to distill Ireland down to its essence. Perhaps this is why Heinrich Boll is a Nobel Laureate. Such a concise work, yet so powerful and beautiful.

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