Yeah, But Do They Have the Penguin #Books Coffee Mugs?

So I’m in an independent bookstore in Toronto, looking for those wonderful striped Penguin books coffee mugs, designed like the 1950’s book covers.

I give them to new members of our English department. When I first did this, I sent the staff a list of the titles, without telling them they were coffee mugs. Just tell me your favourite book.

English teachers. “Are we going to teach these?” “My favourite book to read, or to teach?” Oh, brother.

When they got the mugs, they loved them. So with the arrival of a new staffer, I went looking for the mugs again.

The store I went to didn’t have any. When I asked what other book store might have them, I suggested a competitor. The store owner said, “Screw them,” and recommended a different one. When I asked what he had against the first one, he said they were no longer any good since they got bought out. By whom? By Chapters.

Really?

“They’re a subsidiary”.

The fact that all of this was ridiculous didn’t strike me and make me want to blog as much as the needling question: why have any preferences about the world of independent bookstores at all? Aren’t they all an endangered species these days, to be savoured and celebrated, no matter what their particularities?

Just give me the phone number and let me decide which store is best. Based on the above comments, it might not be the store I went into this morning.

I’m still looking for the coffee mugs. Maybe online?

 

 

 

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A Whole Separate #Language

I wandered into a bookstore, and when I told them they were missing Anne Tyler’s best novel, they looked it up and told me it was being rereleased this Tuesday.

So I get to blog about one of my favourite novels. It made Nick Hornby want to write; it made me want to write also.

I’ll tell you enough to entice. Dinner at The Homesick Restaurant (1982) is about the Tulls, after the father leaves the family at the start of the book. The rest of the story is how they fare without him, with each member of the family (except for dad) advancing the story in cryptically titled chapters (“Teaching the Cat to Yawn”).

Son Ezra works at a local Baltimore restaurant and then takes it over. He renames it The Homesick Restaurant, where only one entree is served each night, just like at home, made with love.

Though I am tempted to tell where the book goes, amongst various aborted family dinners at Ezra’s cafe (at Thanksgiving and Christmas), I won’t. Suffice it to say the ending pays off very satisfyingly indeed.

My favourite quote:

“There ought to be a whole separate language for words that are truer than other words- for perfect absolute truth.”

The Underground Railroad

From Colson Whitehead’s Pulitzer prize-winning #novel.

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What did you get for that, for knowing the day you were born into the white man’s world? It didn’t seem like the thing to remember. More like to forget.

Cora… fell asleep.. sometimes so quickly she was like a candle being blown out.

“That evil soaks into the soil. Some say it steeps and gets stronger.”

The man moved with exquisite calm, like a leaf drifting on the surface of a pond, making its own way on gentle currents.

Sometimes a useful delusion is better than a useless truth.

 

Good #Words Well Written

Thank you Garth Greenwell  (What Belongs To You) for words and sentences like these….

“Love isn’t a matter of looking at someone, I think now, but also of looking with them, of facing what they face….”

“… I never felt it would summon the person I wanted him to be with me.”

“What would it mean to do enough, I wondered, as I had wondered before about that obligation to others that sometimes seems so clear and sometimes disappears altogether , so that now we owe nothing, anything we give is too much, and now our debt is beyond all counting.”

What Belongs to You

Specific (meaning true) #writing in Garth Greenwell’s novel What Belongs to You.

The following passages are from the narrator’s nervous visit to a health clinic: 

“… the kind of doctorly banter I hated most, a chummy preliminary to unpleasantness.”

“…. the stock visual language of medical admonishment and reassurance.”

“I grew up at the height of the AIDS panic, when desire and disease seemed essentially bound together…. Disease was the only story anyone ever told about men like me where I was from, and it flattened my life to a morality tale, in which I could be either chaste or condemned. …when I finally did have sex, it wasn’t so much pleasure I sought as the exhilaration of setting aside restraint…”