Thursday, March 13, 2008


On 6th Ave. and 21st Street is a big Barnes-Noble; that is to say at the other end of the block on which is the place I work. My route is usually limited to 7th Ave. unless I specifically want to shop at one of the stores on 6th. So I was stunned when people at work today mentioned the ongoing sale at B-N becasue they're closing. Seems their rent has been increased six times in two years. They are having a 50% off sale -- not everything in ths store which would have een disaster for my credit card -- but off big tables of books in the whole center aisle. The table tops are filled and each side of the table has two shelves beneath -- possibly 500 books per table. And not as much repetition as one might expect.

I sent 30 or 40 minutes browsing, not minutely but, I think efficiently and got off cheap, only a couple of design books and a magazine I was planning to buy anyway. But as I looked over books and books and more books, many novels and nonfiction but also many "junk" books, i.e., picture books, little books of warm fuzzy sayings, books abou cats or dogs or horses, cookbooks, how-tos I began to feel sad about all the stuff that is printed, has no intellectual content, is meant to be eye candy and brain candy. Also, so many novels that someone put a lot of time into with more or less artistic intent and often less artistic accomplishment.

Meanwhile I have added a very eclectic mix of books to my usually eclectic mix. I'm still reading the big quilt book I got a the Metropolitan Museum six weeks ago, and reading the best poetry of 1989-90. But because Gary gave them to me, I've read Maryanne Wiggins, The Shadow Catcher, a novel ostensibly about Edward Curtis who photographed Native Americans, although in fact the books is more about Curtis' wife Clara and about a "character" named Maryanne Wiggins. I had mixed feelings about this book partly because I think the device of becoming a character in a novel you're writing is in a way unfair. It doesn't work because the reader doesn't know whether to believe or not; it's a kind of betrayal of the novelist's job. However, Wiggins can be a very fine writer I thoughtas she wrote a portrait of Curtis. The shortish middle section where he's a character was vivid and masterful.

I expect to finish later this evening, Subtext by Charles Baxter. He's an academic who also writes novels with some critical success. Much of what he write about the subtext of a novel or short story or play makes a lot of sense and is actually useful to a working writer even though this is not at all a how-to but a work of literary criticism

And I've finished Serpent of Light which may be called new age or lunatic ringe or for those who can believe in the importance of ceremony and rite may be a true story. The thesis, if there is one, is that the Mayan calendar which ends at 2012 actually heralds a new age -- one of feminine energy which will replace the masculine energy of the last 12,000 years. I won't go on, there is some informaiton in the book that I find interesting and maybe useful but I always resist the fuzzy thinking of self-styled mystics.

LIke the tables at B-N, I have a bookcase full of unread books - I don't NEED any of those many books for sale. I probably won't get these read because others will come my way, mainly via the thrift stoes. But nothing is more wonderful than books that give useful and interesting and challenging informaton as well as fiction that takes me into other lives. Love books!

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