• Bridge Ladies

    Bridge Ladies Sometimes I think a meteor could strike the earth and wipe out mankind with the exception of my mother’s Bridge club — Roz, Bea, Bette, Rhoda, and Jackie — five Jewish octogenarians who continue to gather for lunch and Bridge on Mondays as they have for over fifty years. When I set out to learn about the women behind the matching outfits and accessories, I never expected to fall in love with them. This is the story of the ladies, their game, and most of all the ragged path that led me back to my mother.
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You Can Radiate Everything You Are

Small World Books on Venice Beach is so wonderful and not just because they seemed to stock every book I’ve worked on in the last six months INCLUDING the poetry.  And it’s not easy competing with a beach. I was so in love with the place, I forgot to check if they had my frickin’ books. But I did peruse the entire poetry section, as is my wont. Wont? This, to me, is always the measure of a truly great store — the depth of the poetry section and it was superb.  But SWB also has a great small press display. Amazing paperback section beautifully displayed. They have recently reviewed books up front. Tons of front list — but you could feel a really smart buyer behind the selection. Looking at the books was like having a really great conversation with well read and charming stranger. God, it was like breathing fresh air.

How do you case a bookstore?

p.s. Extra credit. We are reading To Kill A Mockingbird with our eighth grader and came upon the sentence that title comes from.  Anyone remember?

21 Responses

  1. Mmm…I’m paraphrasing, but it’s something like “Kill all the other birds you want, if you can, but it’s a sin to kill a mockingbird.”

    I just read that book last year, for the first time. It was like finding a $20 bill in a pair of pants you haven’t worn in a while.

    • Yes that rings a bell. And then I seem to recall an explanation by Atticus as to why? Something about they cause no harm? Another great Atticus quote “its not time to worry yet” although I personally find it’s always time to worry

  2. The Twig Bookstore is the only abiding bookstore of interest in our area. It; however, was purchased and moved from its venerable old location into a slick new multipurpose development. Hard to say how that will turn out.

    Since you spent some time on poetry in this blog, and you love poetry, are a poet, and represent poets, I have to admit something. I’ve always thought poets wrote in code so English teachers could have a job decoding it for the masses. Example: I’ve read everything Jim Harrison has written both fiction and nonfiction, but I just don’t get his poetry. Maybe it has something to do with my not having a soul.

    You’ve inspired me to try again. So I brought up some Rilke on the Internet, and it looks like I might be able to break the code. I just ordered Life of a Poet: Rainer Maria Rilke by Ralph Freedman as my textbook. Ralph is apparently revered in Germany for this book and for his other academic works on German writers. Amazingly, he is often in town visiting a member of our Daedalus writing group and attends our meetings, participating with critiques on the submissions. Amazing at age 90.

    FYI: Ralph Freedman’s recently released novel Rue the Day won the “INDIE AWARD” for historically based novels.

    I will report back after I rip into Rilke.

  3. A great bookstore has books I’ve known and loved, books I’ve heard about and been meaning to read, knowledgeable staff who READ and engage and no DVD section.

  4. I am sure August will let you know where that sentence comes from, I know it’s his favourite book.

    • I am so pathetically predictable, and will now scurry back into my hole. (And at least it’s not Catcher in the Rye. You know the movie “Alien vs. Predator?” I’m currently working on the literary equivalent, Holden vs. Scout. It’s a bloodbath.)

  5. I saw a bumper sticker recently:

    What would Atticus do?

  6. I was fourteen, lived in the bayou country all my life, but my mother let me visit my sister in New Orleans.
    Sister took me out for chinese food, my first excursion to a restaurant (except Mr. Rod’s – real name was Rodriquez, but hell, I’m Cajun and we only go so far with foreign words – hot tamale stand) Chinese food reminded me of biology class and the stuff we put frogs in for the week of cutting them up. Then she lent me her car…
    yeah, big deal, so I didn’t have a driver’s license. I drove around the French Quarter- with a pillow under my ass- I’m only 5 feet tall. and swerved and ended up at a place called Port-o Call- They served me a hurricane and back in the car I went down to St. Charles, turning now and then on side streets until I got to Maple Street, cruised a little and there, there before me was an acutal bookstore (no bookstores on the bayou) THE MAPLE STREET BOOKSTORE. There my life began…books, stories, poetry, the smell of it all, the touch of pages, the world became new and clean and I started a new life and spent all of my money (10.00) and went out to Lake Pontchartrain, sat on the sea wall, took out a Lark cig.. lit it, and opened the book. It was The Magic Mountain and I was and am and will forever be in love.

  7. Small World Books is one of my favorite places on earth that just happens to be located in one of my favorite beaches on earth. I could spend my last minutes there and I’d leave content… well, only if I could take my books with me.

  8. I googled the quote because I knew it had sin and music in it. Ahh, I won’t paste it here, someone will have it memorized.

    I so rarely get a chance to go to a bookstore. I want quiet. No one rushing me. A place to lounge. And nice people.

  9. There are books and authors I feel I should know in a number of fields. Sometimes I find a bookstore in which these talismans appear in many sections. Random examples, not particularly up to date: Peter Brook and also Peter Handke in the drama section; Simone Weil and Ludwig Wittgenstein in philosophy; Edmund Wilson in lit crit; Ursula K. Le Guin and Stanislaw Lem in science fiction. I can’t begin to say what I hope to find in classic lit, or whatever they chose to call it. I’m big on backlist, you see.

    When I find a store where even a few of these magic mushrooms are sprouting, I feel thrilled, and also humbled.

    I once worked in such a store. It actually had the three volumes of Russell and Whitehead’s _Principia Mathematica_ on the shelf, and the entire New York edition of Henry James (though not for sale–it belonged to the owner), and many other marvels. I got a job there because I loved being there so much.

    That’s not the only kind of bookstore I like. I think I like all of them, except maybe the smaller shops in airports, and even those have something to say to me.

  10. I always look for bookstores like the one my mother owned when I was growing up–lovely, charming, lots of nonbook items like Madeline dolls and so on, tables with piles of new trade paperbacks I can’t wait to read (fiction and nonfiction). I also like excellent used bookstores. where everything is well organized and you can find a book written by Jacques Cousteau in the 1950s for $5 etc.

  11. Signs of a good book store: it has everything written by Ivan Doig and Jim Harrison; someone works in the children’s department who can pull every picture book off the shelf that deals with trains (without referring to a computer); a knowledgeable well-read staff that can give opinions (even unsolicited is fine) about the trade paper back I’m thumbing through. And of course that wonderful smell of ink on a page.

  12. Living in Denver, I’m lucky to have the three Tattered Cover stores nearby. My favorite has become the new one in, god forbid, the suburbs, where the staff is clearly in love with the books, all kinds, all of them, and where they let me and other writers sit for hours and hours and hours (9 yesterday) to work. They have an actual poetry section that features work by poets one needs to know but won’t find in the big box stores, and the collection of trade paperbacks is superb, including especially lots of indies. Of course, the classics are all there too. And, as a plus, in summer they have these fruit slushes that kill!

  13. Philosophy, poetry, wide ranging fiction. They won’t put Proust in a gay fiction section-what the he’ll is that anyway?- and will provide employee picks that are not self help and a clean well lit public toilet.

    You are in my neighborhood Betsy.

  14. I often find that the bitchiness of the coffee shop twerps (Tattered Cover, Denver I’m looking at you) and the knowledge of friendly grey-haired floor personnel need to be in homeostasis. From one I see a boost in the indie cred by the lack of smiles and from the other, the sense that I’m talking to a former English teacher who really knows her stuff.

  15. BTW, dude, if you’re a screenwriter–um, and you ARE, even if you have an inferiority complex about it because your sister wrzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz…oh, sorry, I dozed off. AS I was saying, if you’re a screenwriter, being in Los Angeles is not a vacation, regardless of how much time you spend jockeying for parking and dodging drunk semi-homeless teens on the Boardwalk. Go to Ojai.

  16. Shanna’s so right. Had a business in Venice…and lived in Ojai for five years. Go…quick… before you are murdered for four dollars and thirty-seven cents and the keys to your rental car.

  17. “Mockingbirds don’t do one thing but make music for us to enjoy. They don’t eat up people’s gardens, don’t nest in corncribs, they don’t do one thing but sing their hearts out for us. That’s why it’s a sin to kill a mocking bird.”

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