Category Archives: sort of about books

Library Materials

No Library Materials in the Restrooms

Really? Really? Is this something we have to tell people? I am mystified by this sign on the library bathroom door. Are people bringing books in there? Why?

Ok, I know why. But this is not the privacy of anybody’s own home, so I’m thinking that no one would seriously bring reading materials into the public restroom.

Obviously, I’m wrong. Otherwise there wouldn’t be a sign. But you have to admit, The Library Materials would be a great name for a band.


The Library Materials with their first single, "Dewey to Me One More Time"

Other signage I feel we could do without:

 My state has a concealed carry law, so citizens are out there roaming around armed. Very important in my small, suburban town, where one could easily be attacked even in broad daylight by a gang of rampaging squirrels.

The bank, and the library and the churches and the temple all have these please-don’t-bring-your-gun-inside notices stuck on the doors. It sort of reminds me of that old country song, and makes me feel a bit like I’m living in the old west.

Maybe we should post a please-check-your-gun-at-the-door notice at the bookshop. We could use the old umbrella stand for rifles, and get a hat rack for balaclavas, hockey masks, and Halloween Nixon-faces. Hmm…

Please place smaller weapons in basket.

It’s harder to know what to do with sawed-offs and pistols. They’d just rattle around at the bottom of the umbrella stand and somebody might put their eye out on the barrel of a .22 while reaching in for their glock. I’m thinking a nice Longaberger basket, attractively perched on a slim end table, for the smaller weapons. Cuz you know, that would be tasteful.


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Goodnight Moon

Usually this time of year I’m not at the bookshop. In years past, I’ve been at BookExpo helping out our regional independent booksellers’ association. I’ve always enjoyed the big convention; talking to publishers about new titles, meeting other booksellers, meeting authors, and just generally poking around and seeing what’s new. The educational sessions are great too – they always got me psyched up to try something innovative and different at the shop. I wore flat shoes and worked the floor all day, everyday. Camaraderie, good galleys, free drinks – what’s not to love? Tired feet were a small price to pay.

But this year, due to various kinds of upheaval I’m here at home. The last week in May is beautiful in Ohio. There’s lots to do this time of year too. We have a whole bunch of different authors coming to the shop that I need to get ready for, there are the air conditioners to put in the upstairs windows, flowers to be tended –  we can put out the outdoor furniture and enjoy the breeze. I didn’t know what I’d been missing.

I really didn’t know what I’d been missing.

Today a man came into the store and asked, “Is this Barnes and Noble?”

There was a pause.

We said no.

He said, “But it says here on my iPhone that there’s a Barnes and Noble here.”

“Um, well… there’s not. Can we help you? We’re a locally-owned independent book store.”

“Did there used to be a Barnes and Noble here?”

“No, there’s never been a Barnes and Noble in this town.”

“But it says on my iPhone.”

“I’m afraid your iPhone must be wrong. We have lots of books, though.”

“Will you take my Barnes and Noble Gift Card?”

Sigh… “Yes.”

To appreciate the real weirdness of this scenario, you have to know that the bookstore where I work is located in a 200 year old building on a street entirely devoted to small, independent businesses. It has a large sign on the front with the name on it as well as the sort of clever, hanging sign you see on pubs in England, sporting our logo and name. We’re not shy about this whole who-we-are thing.

“Are you sure there didn’t used to be a Barnes and Noble here?”

“Yes, I’m sure. This shop has been here for 41 years.”

And no, this was not a teen prank dreamt up to mess with people. The fellow was at least 50 and did not seem parted from reality in any significant way that did not concern books. Though we are right next door to a bar, he was not drunk, nor was he discernibly high.

“I want to show you on my iPhone.”

We demurred. He insisted. He then held out the device so that the staff could all see that indeed, it seemed to say there was Another Bookstore at our address. I think he expected us to morph into a Barnes and Noble before his very eyes once we could see the evidence.

We remained stubbornly ourselves.

Shamelessly stolen from someone I don't even know on flickr. See: mosand's photostream

It’s a full moon tonight, variously called the Flower Moon, Milk Moon and Corn Planting Moon, but now I will think of it as The Bookshop Moon.

Goodnight stars. Goodnight air. Goodnight booksellers everywhere…

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Chet Meets His Match

I’m cat sitting this week. I like all animals (some more than others – for instance, if a car salesman’s family were to go out of town for the week, I would not agree to look after him until their return). But I’m normally more of a dog person than a cat person.

This cat is a dog.

Her name is Nessie (after the chocolate, not the monster) and she comes when she’s called. She loves to be brushed. She’s a Persian and has more hair than any creature I have ever met. Beautiful, shiny hair, with all that brushing.

She does not fetch (so far), but then I’ve had dogs who wouldn’t fetch either. She is also affectionate to the point of self-destruction. Cat sitting almost became a literal description of what I am doing when she crept silently onto the the chair I was about to plunk down in this morning.

Not Nessie. Not my picture either.

She thinks she likes coffee. I am trying to persuade her otherwise. Worst case scenario: her people return from their vacation and I must report that their cat has not slept all week. So far I have been successful at keeping her away from caffeinated beverages, but she is persistent and my morning reflexes are not all that fast.

The whole thing does sort of remind me of Chet, the giant vampire cat from Christopher Moore\’s books. Except Nessie is a force for good. And all she wants is a coffee buzz.

Off to ply her with cat toys…

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Waiting in traffic today, I noticed an odd thing. There in front of me, stopped at the light was what looked a lot like a hearse but was certainly an SUV. It was black with curious silver trim and tinted windows in the back.

Well, I thought, that’s practical. Our society has reached a point in automobile manufacture where ordinary vehicles are large enough to schlep the dead. Undertakers and Mafia hitmen, rejoice! The strange thing? It had a roof rack.

So I suppose if you were hoping to take your skis with you to the afterlife, you’re in luck.

Maybe it’s just a family car owned by someone with strangely funereal tastes. I picture a goth soccer mom in striped tights with ironic tats and black-black dyed hair. In the greater suburbia of my mind, she stands on the sidelines, her arm around a tearful little girl in cleats, saying, “It’s Ok, Sweets. Winners are losers.”

I hope they come into the bookstore. Maybe they’ll bring Christopher Moore…  Click here to see a wee video about his latest book.

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Nom de Guerre

The upper branches of my family tree are just chock full of lovelies. There’s scandal, suicide, possible spies or war profiteers, black people having to pass as white, white people fleeing various countries one step ahead of the law, and somebody who could potentially qualify me for membership in the DAR if we were sure he wasn’t a mercenary.

But the thing I like best is the names.

Sure, you’ve got your Abrahams and Hortenses. You never meet a Hortense anymore… Horaces abound. There’s a Thaddeus, whom we do not talk about. But my absolute favorite name of all time from my family tree is: Anastasia Murphy.

I know nothing about her. Her name makes her sound like she ought to have been a Vaudeville showgirl in 1918, but I’m guessing not. Our distaff side does not seem to have had that much fun.

It’s possible that somebody was a fan of late-medieval manuscript borders & decided to tip their hat to an illuminator by that name who Christine de Pizan lauds in her proto-feminist opus, The_Book_of_the_City_of_Ladies.

Knowing my people, probably not. And since I think she was around quite a while before the Russian revolution, Anastasia was likely just born near Christmas time, when the feast of St. Anastasia is held – or was, back in the day.

The point here? Is that if I ever join a rock band I have the perfect stage name at the ready. Just a wee change to the first part of her monniker & I could be: Anesthesia Murphy, drummer for the Grrl Group, The Peppermint Westies. First single: When Plaid Goes Bad.

Not that I know how to play drums. But I feel that this is only a minor setback.

I’ve always been a huge fan of Dave Barry’s proclivity for extracting band names from everyday occurrences & it’s become a habit to do so myself. He’s got a new book out this month that you might want to peruse: I\’ll Mature When I\’m Dead, or watch the man himself:   If the Westies don’t go big, I’m thinking maybe we could form a They Might Be Giants tribute group. The Mesopotamians would be an awesome name for a band..

(Thanks for your link, Inveterate Optimist!)

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A Classical Education

Today years of labor on the part of dozens of educators bent on enriching young minds and keeping the great knowledge of ages past alive paid off.

To the tune of approximately 34 cents.

Yes! The trivia question of the day (which, in case you do not visit the fine beverage emporium known as Caribou Coffee, is always written up on the blackboard behind the counter and entitles a patron with the correct answer to 10% off their order), was:

Martha Graham as Clytemnestra. She'd have made an awesome ninja...

Who killed Agamemnon?

Easy. Peasy.

Sometimes there are sports questions, or questions having to do with musical entertainment or reality TV, and then I must pony up full price. But today I Win.

Why was this particular question so delightfully simple, while others remain baffling? Two reasons: 1) I have actor friends. 2) I live under a rock.

So, while I was attending a nifty little liberal arts mill out in Ohio, where they tried their best to fling a few seeds of wisdom, discernment and wonder into the largely fallow, yet heavily irrigated (with grain alcohol and cool-aide) fields of youthful intellect, my two best friends were at drama conservatories.

One went to Carnegie Mellon, where, during her stint, they produced the entire Oresteia. She played Clytemnestra. The other went to Adler at NYU, and had the great misfortune of participating in something called The Cassandra Project (not to be confused with the current Cassandra Project going on in and around that institution. The new one seems to be about online communities and sharing and draws on drama, art and dance in a more peripheral way). The one I am talking about took place in 1992 (or maybe ’91 or ’93 – I’m fuzzy on this. See grain alcohol, above.).

I recall only two things about The Cassandra Project from the performance I was privileged to view:

1)      It smelled like a sweat sock. They covered the performance space in sand and finding it dusty, watered it. This is not a good idea for the indoors.

2)      A substantial person had, at one point, to perch above the stage (and much of the seating – it was stadium style) on what resembled an abbreviated diving board, rend her clothing, and declaim in what used to be called a Brooklyn accent before Brooklyn got all trendy: “I bear my breasts to thee, Apollo!”

 But of course these things are meant to be learning experiences.

And learning experiences they were, since, fortified with a sketchy but vivid knowledge of Greek drama, I could cry, “Clytemnestra!” and keep my thirty cents.

 The classics never die.

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From the Department of Don’t-Try-This-at-Home

Ignorance is not always so blissful.

I am losing a fingernail because of this. Not in a girly sort of oh-I-broke-a-nail kind of way, I mean losing a fingernail as in my-fingernail-is-falling-off-of-my-hand.

This, and a bad knee combine to make me feel a bit like a leper.

Or a zombie.

Mmm… zombies… Make it a double.

Ever wonder why they don’t call those toxic, pink drinks with all the fruit in them “lepers?” It would be way more appropriate, as the next day you will resemble a leper. And, if memory serves, be about as popular.[1]

There are some basic things a single girl needs to know. Married girls too, unless you’re married to a forest ranger or physician or something. A generation or two ago, most public educational systems in the U.S. thought they could remedy this knowledge-gap by instituting what is euphemistically called “Health Class” in the schools.

I am, as a result, blessed with a general knowledge of birth control techniques, and know what “reds”[2] and quaaludes looked like in 1987.

Also, I know how to treat venomous snake bites.

I grew up (and took Health Class) in New Jersey. There are about three venomous snakes in New Jersey.[3]

What I did not learn and what I now pass on to you:

If you, the intrepid woman who Can Hang Her Own Pictures, Damnit, or Finds Herself Inspired by Martha Stewart to Attempt Reupholstry, or Who Just Wants to Nail Something – Is That Too Much to Ask, ever hit your finger with the hammer (or slam your finger in a car door by accident, or whatever), and you wind up with a Very Nasty bruise underneath your fingernail, you should do something about it.

What you should do is this: if it is throbbing, and the nail turns all kinds of colors, and your finger swells way up, go to the doctor, in case you have broken something. If it just throbs and hurts like hell and turns colors and swells up a little, do this:

1)   Take six or eight Advil (or scam high-dose ibuprofen from your boss, who takes them for her back and is a Saint).

2)   In a few days, when the swelling has gone away, get a needle, heat it way up with a match or a candle. If the tip is a little bit red, that’s more than plenty hot.

Take the needle and make a little hole in the top of your nail (no, not underneath, a la the Viet Cong). I mean put your hand on a flat surface and puncture the nail from the top, just a little, until you can see serum (clear liquid) or dried blood. The point (Heh, heh. Ick. But you gotta) is to relieve the pressure that the blood will have built up between the layers of your nail (yes, your nail has layers — which you already know if you’ve ever a) been bulimic, or b) had a Bad Acrylic Nail Experience). If you do this, you will not lose the whole damn nail (as I am about to) when the pressure of the dried, congealing blood forces the nail’s layers apart and the top part falls flat off.

There you are. Forewarned is forearmed. Any good Outdoor Medicine, what-to-do-when-you’re-camping-and-something-gross-happens-to-you Guide will tell you this. I recommend Medicine for the Outdoors, by Paul S. Auerbach. It’s good to invest in a book like this to keep around the house, even if you don’t camp or hike or think you’ll need it, because, as I wail over my Way Ouchy fingernail, I ask:

Who knew?

[1] You’d like to be known as the spouse who challenged all the CEOs at the telecom conference to a who-can-sing-Danny-Boy-the-loudest competition? Drink up.

 [2] Surprise: they weren’t all red! I think these may have been amphetamines of some sort. I very much doubt anyone calls them “reds” anymore, or indeed calls them anything at all, since crack is probably the thing now. 

[3] They all listen to Sinatra.

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A great, big thank you

A lovely blogger friend has given me a prize! It just made my day. She is the Inveterate Optimist at and her posts always make me smile. And how can you not like the idea of sending people an award with cupcakes on it?

When receiving an award, one is instructed to do the following:

1. Post-back to thank the person who recognized you. Naturally, etiquette is observed.
2. Offer 10 things that make you happy. Though I’ve noticed straying from that number is acceptable.
and 3. Pass along the award to 10 bloggers who make you happy.

So, in the things that make me happy department:

1. Bulbs coming up in my yard – mini-daffodils: yayy!

2. The fact that the giant thump that scared the heck out of me this morning was caused by a pair of dare-devil squirrels and not by the tree in my backyard falling onto the house.

3. Ian Drury and the Blockheads. Seriously. Nope, no idea why there’s a sea turtle involved. He’s cute, though.

4. Rescue dogs.

5. My amazing friends and coworkers. You make my heart sing. And save my butt.

6. The 12 year old friend of the the bookshop who exclaimed last week, “Mom, look! They have the Iliad AND the Odyssey!” I love my job.

7. Our local humane society moving to a brand new, extra-nice building.

8. A sweet thank you note from a wonderful new author. This is her book:  I think it’s quite a big deal. Sure to give readers many happy hours.

9. Green marshmallow peeps. I only wish I had found them in time to send to my dad for St. Patrick’s Day… Oh, well, I’ve got more time to pre-stale them for him now! Did you know you can make peeps joust in the microwave? Yes, yes you can.

10. Nerdy comics. 

Oh, and? Owlcam.

My Ten Favorite Blogs (not counting The Inveterate Optimist above): Author Jen Lancaster’s funny, funny blog. Author Mimi Smartypants’ (hey, it’s her pen name – I can’t help it) funny, funny blog. Our Pack Inc. pit bull rescue’s informative & heartwarming blog about all things dog. Best Friends Animal Sanctuary’s stories about happy endings for animals in need. Tartitude: smart, funny commentary on just about everything. For immense fun, scroll down to her British Humor post. Knitgrrl, AKA Shannon Okey knows everything about yarn, as far ask I am concerned, and can tell you how to do just about anything. She writes books & patterns too.  This is her cat, Spike, who is preternaturally patient.

For horsey types, Janie Rentz always has some neat ideas for stuff to do with your equine friend, from coping with exercising in deep snow, to nifty how-to dressage videos. I’m mainly in this for the comics, but he does do a blog too. makes me laugh & counts because there are book reviews.

And last, but certainly not least: a group blog for new authors, featuring the incomparable Emily Winslow, author of “The Whole World” (a literary mystery coming in May)

Thanks to all you guys – you make my world a happier place.


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Careful what you wish for

Today we had an author event at our local retirement community. All sorts of organizations in town meet & host activities at this venue. It’s a logical choice – a nice place with a good sound system.

It’s very cheery, really. I know lots of the residents, and one in particular is always a top contender in our yearly book shop poetry contest.

As you walk in the front doors, you pass through a greenhouse area with some really impressive staghorn ferns. There’s almost always a fire lit in the gas fireplace next to the lobby. A room nearby holds the snack bar and a big-screen wii set up. Another large-screen TV in the main hallway lists upcoming events:  Thursday is Movie Night!

“Wow,” I think, “can I move in?” It’d be like college, but better: no exams (plenty of classes to take if you want, though – a book club did Russian Round-Up last year: Tolstoy, Turgenev & Dostoyevsky), instead of kegs of Blatz, there’s basically decent wine – and your whole world is a co-ed dorm…

As I go to bring in another carton of books from the car, a well-dressed middle aged woman gives me a friendly wave and asks quite earnestly, “Ready for your tour?”

Have I been mistaken for a potential resident? Suddenly the proliferation of tattoos & piercings among the 40-plus crowd in my town is completely understandable. It may be time to dye my hair magenta, or green… before somebody gives me a blue rinse.

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This year, it’s quatrains. To celebrate National Poetry Month this April, I am trying to get our customers and friends to send in four-line mini-poems of their own creation on the subject of reading or books. The one whose poem I pick will win a prize. Maybe a dinette set… Oh how I revel in the awesome power I wield as a bookseller!

Wouldn’t it be great if there was a poetry game show?

You have five seconds, contestants. Now: for what’s waiting behind door number three, give us a haiku!

Or you could have teams and make them write a sonnet. Up next: X-treme SonnetSmackdown.

Or for a really vicious & terrifying reality-TV feel: Critique Each Other’s Work with Simon Cowell!

But our contest is totally benign. I give out fliers that say Enter Your Poem on one side, and on the reverse get all educational (sort of) and tell you a little about the form.

But what to call the contest? I have come around to the idea that it is inappropriate to call it Show Us Your Quats. It took me a while to get this. And thank you, Kris, for explaining to me exactly why that would be wrong.

Quadrophenia? Like the Who album? Doesn’t that sound like a good name for a quatrain contest?

Hmm… maybe I’d better find out what it means first. But back in the Paleolithic, my first boyfriend made me a mix tape with a bunch of stuff from the album on it, so how bad can it be? After brief jaunts to Wikipedia & a Who fan page, I find out:

Apparently, the idea for the album was to present four different narrators, recorded in quadraphonic sound, so that each could speak to the listener from a different direction. I guess it didn’t work out like that. But whew! – Pete Townshend makes me kind of dizzy and exasperated just reading him:

The whole conception of Quadrophenia was geared to quadraphonic, but in a creative sort of way. I mean I wanted themes to sort of emerge from corners. So you start to get the sense of the fourness being literally speaker for speaker. And also in the rock parts the musical thing would sort of jell together up to the thunder clap, then everything would turn slowly from quad into mono and you’d have this solid sort of rock mono … then a thunder clap and back out again. We spent months mixing it and then found out that MCA was using the CBS quad system and … you might as well forget it. So our engineer remixed it in the same manner that it was mixed in stereo, the same sort of creative approach.

See what I mean? Strangely, First Boyfriend made me feel exactly the same way…

I read on to discover that “quadrophenia” used to be a popular term for dissociative identity disorder. So much for that.

But I am left with this Gem of Knowledge:

“The 8-track tape version of this album has the distinction of being one of the few 8-tracks that is arranged exactly like the album, with no song breaks. ”

All you vintage 8-track collectors out there should be thrilled to hear.

Thank you, Wikipedia.

And a Happy National Poetry Month to Us, One and All.

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