Recent word-related things

I’ve felt especially word inspired recently. Maybe it’s the winter? The erractic seesaw between bitter cold, freezing rain and numbing snowstorm means that I want to spend a lot of time curled up in bed with something to read. On my bus rides to work I make a beeline for the first available seat and read steadily until it’s my stop. No dreamy window peering; I can barely see out the window.

  • True Grit – Charles Portis: These days I just want to read books that take place in the steamy, dusty South. I want to read about horses and heat. I guess it’s another response to the weather. This book met that criteria, was laugh out loud funny, had a scrappy 14-year old heroine and was written beautifully. I was truly sad when it was over.
  • Let’s Talk About Love: A Journey to the End of Taste – by Carl Wilson: I’ve been a little disapointed with the 33 1/3 books I’ve read to date, but this one was a pure delight. Wilson examines sentimentality, the politics of taste, Quebecois culture, uses a Gilmore Girls episode to make a point about what works with Celine’s music, travels to Las Vegas and has a horrible time, quotes “The Book of Love” by the Magnetic Fields and more.
  • Went to a zine reading featuring Jeff Miller (Ghost Pine zine) and Julian Evans (One Way Ticket), and I don’t know why zine readings never occured to me before. Zines are so chatty by nature – they work so well in this format. Speaking of readings, this month’s Pilot was also fun and there is just something vaguely satisfying about drinking a gin and tonic at the bar while listening to writers read on a late Sunday night when I’m normally home cuddled in pjs and thinking about the work week ahead of me.

Tags and books.

I was tagged by An Endless Banquet, so voila, a post.

1. Link to the person that tagged you and post the rules on your blog.
2. Share 7 random and/or weird things about yourself.
3. Tag 7 random people at the end of your post and include links to their blogs.
4. Let each person know that they have been tagged by leaving a comment on their blog.

Instead of 7 random things about myself, here are 7 of my favourite bookstores I’ve encountered during my travels, a list I’ve been meaning to compile for awhile. In the past few years I’ve realized that my favourite kind of souvenir is of the printed paper variety. Kitschy t-shirts shrink in the wash, postcards get shoved into boxes, the novelty of a gift-shop trinket fades. Books have staying power, and it’s nice to look at my bookshelf and remember when I bought a certain book or where I read it. Most of these shops are East Coast/New England heavy, but that’s just because I take a lot of roadtrips and since I live in Montreal, that’s about as far as I can venture in a car on a weekend.

1. The Country Bookshop, Plainfield, VT. – Plainfield, Vermont is the kind of small town I sometimes think about escaping too. It has all the necessities: a pizza parlour, a Southern BBQ restaurant (River Run, which is one of my top 5 restaurants of all time), beautiful countryside and a used bookstore. The Country Bookshop is a house crammed full of books, shelves running up to the ceiling, stacks along the floor. We usually visit after eating too much food at River Run, and flipping through books is the perfect digestif. Memorable purchases: A slim, blue-cloth hardcover of sparse and strangely beautiful poetry by Jose Garcia Villa.

2. Atlantis Books, Oia, Santorini, Greece. When you’re in Santorini, you Must watch the sunset in the village of Oia. Everyone talks about it. It’s one those jaw-droppingly beautiful events, the huge sun turning pink and purple and getting all streaky and ablaze before disappearing into the sea. The thing is, it’s kind of surreal and eye-roll inducing to see the hoopla around it – people filming the sunset (seriously, who is going to watch a filmed sunset, ever?), clapping when it’s over, rating it against other sunsets, etc. It was pretty, but the thing we got most excited over in Oia was Atlantis Books. It’s a tiny bookstore that looks like it was carved out of a cave, with shelves and shelves of amazing books, the kind of trove a travelling bookworm dreams about. There was a lazy dog sleeping in the corner, and the girl running the shop for the evening was wearing an “Ithaca Is Gorges” t-shirt and playing Belle and Sebastian. Memorable purchases: The Greek Islands by Lawrence Durrell and Wonder Boys by Michael Chabon.

3. A&E Books, 1000 Islands Parkway, Ontario: Driving back from Toronto this past September we took the more scenic 1000 Islands Parkway route after Kingston so that we could see some water and trees instead of transport trucks. Along the way I noticed a “Bookshop Open” sign (the one pictured in the upper right corner of this very blog!). We drove a few minutes and then decided we didn’t want to pass it up and turned back around. A&E Books is on the top floor of a house and is small, but has a nice selection of books on topics like birdwatching or cartography. Memorable purchases: A gorgeous illustrated edition of Robinson Crusoe and an early edition of Scouting for Boys.

4. Black Sheep Books, Montpellier, Vermont: There is an amazing concentration of spectacular independent bookstores in Montpellier, at least 5 of them within one city block. Whenever Andrew and I take a little trip to Vermont (which is much easier now that we live in Montreal), we always seem to come home with a trunk load of books. Black Sheep Books is a little anarchist bookstore with a decent, but limited collection of books. The best thing about Black Sheep Books is that if it weren’t for their recommendation for River Run, we would’ve never discovered Plainfield. The people who work there are just friendly like that. Memorable purchase: a graphic novel about Emma Goldman’s life, of course.

5. Corporate chain, New Jersey, NY. There was nothing charming or unique about this bookstore – it was just a regular big box kind of place – but listen, it was a few years ago, late summer and I was stuck in the depths of New Jersey on a business trip. One night after a long day of work, instead of sinking into the hotel bed I took the rental car keys and drove around, trying hard not to get lost on the endless maze of highways. I was having one of those nights where I felt a little bereft, a little too far from home, and was comforted to find myself at a bookstore. I bought Joan Didion’s newly published Year of Magical Thinking and, for nostalgia reasons, “For the Roses” by Joni Mitchell, just so I could listen to “You Turn Me On, I’m a Radio” in the car. I read the book sitting in a McDonalds and felt a lot more restored. Memorable purchases: Self-explanatory.

6. Big Chicken Barn, off of Route 1, Maine. When I went to Maine one of my main(e?) goals was to find books by Robert P. T. Coffin. I had read a few of essays in a collection Gourmet writing and after falling for his exuberant, passionate enthusiasm for Maine cookery wanted to read more. I wasn’t able to find any of them in Toronto, and even in Maine had some trouble. I found a novel of his in Portland, but the book I really wanted was Mainstays of Maine, all rhapsodic food writing. I finally found a well-read hardcover of it in the depths of the Big Chicken Barn, a barn stuffed with good and bad books, antiques, junk and who knows what else. Memorable purchase: Mainstays of Maine, obv.

7. Pages, Toronto, Ontario. I visit Toronto once every two or three months now that I live in Montreal, and I rarely let a trip pass without stopping to visit Pages. It’s just one of those stores that I know I can rely on for something good and interesting, and sometimes I’ll schedule plans with people in the area so that I can get there early and spend a good 30-40 minutes browsing until I have to meet them. Memorable purchases: Too many to count, but on my last trip back, Let’s Talk About Love: A Journey to the End of Taste by Carl Wilson
and the Maisonneuve food issue.

For reference, here in Montreal my book needs are met by the endlessly charming Word (469 Milton), the solidly stocked and perpetually open Paragraphe (2220 Mcgill) and the huge and awesome Bibliothèque Nationale. I am always keen on bookstore recommendations, in Montreal or elsewhere.

And I tag whoever wants to do this. (Sorry for the rule breakage).