Monday, February 23, 2015

My Bookstore


My Bookstore : Writers Celebrate Their Favorite Places to Browse, Read, and Shop

A truly enjoyable read, and make me the more envious.

Like Luis Alberto Urrea - one of the writers in the book, I didn't grow up with a local bookstore in my hometown - Sandakan, East Malaysia.  As far as I can remember, the only place that I could get some children periodicals (兒童樂園) and comic weekly (漫画周刊) when I was a kid was more of a stationery store that happened to carry a limited number of magazines/periodicals, mostly from Hong Kong.

Since my family migrated to Singapore eons ago, the place I frequented the most was the library from which I borrowed my favorite mystery cum sci-fi novel series, the Wisely (衛斯理) by Hong Kong author Ni Kuang (倪匡) and some romance novels by YiShu (亦舒) .  However, I was not much of a reader back then.

In the years between then and now, I've gradually become a proper bibliophile.  Thanks to the many bookstores in our local book sanctuary Bras Basah Complex, Popular, MPH, Borders (unfortunately closed in 2011) and Kinokuniya.  When last my family shifted one year ago, I had more than 50 boxes of books.  Though to be honest, 30 boxes of them were manga.  Last count is about 5000 copies, and still growing.

If memory serves, my beloved indie bookstore BooksActually was only opened in year 2007.  With the addition of Littered With Books and Woods In The Books few years later, making the book scene here more vibrant.  And yet with the ridiculously souring rental in Singapore,  a number of bookstores have closed down in the recent years too.  Coupled with the booming of ebooks, it is nevertheless a worrisome trend worldwide.  Still, I do believe that book and technology can co-exist.

Now I am anticipating my chance to be in New York this summer.  If my application goes successfully (pray hard!), it will be a dream come true and I can visit the bookstores mentioned in the book.


Excerpts from the book :

Wendell Berry pg16

I am hardly a materialist, but I am not an immaterialist either.  The material, tangible presence of the things of this world is important to me, and I understand its worth increasingly as human experience becomes increasingly immaterial. A "text" existing only on a screen and in the mind is not, to me, a book. To me, it is not enough that a book is thought realized in language; it must also be language further realised in print on paper pages bound between covers,  It is a material artifact, a thing made not only to be seen but also to be held and smelled, containing language that can be touched, and underlined with an actual pencil, with margins that can be actually written on. And so a book, a real book, language incarnate, becomes a part of one's bodily life.

One's bodily life, furthermore, is necessarily local and economic.  And so to the life embodied in books must be added the life of bookstores.

Sometimes I go to buy a certain book.  Sometimes I go with no purpose but to see what books may be there and to visit a little while with the people who work there.  The place has the quietness, the friendliness, the smell, and the tangibility that a bookstore ought to have.  It is a fair incarnation of the manifold life of books.  To go there and find a book I didn't expect or didn't expect to want, to decide I want it, to buy it as a treasure to take home, to conduct the whole transaction in a passage of friendly conversation - that is in every way a pleasure.


Douglas Brinkley pg32

The summer sun pounded mercilessly down without a single layer of cloud to snuff out the UV radiation,  In the scorching streets of Austin, it was dry and hot, with no gusts of wind to make the 104° Fahrenheit temperature any less suffocating. The heat was starting to make me irritable.  Why wasn't I in some nirvana like the Hampston or the Upper Peninsula of Michigan? That's when I directed my little Volvo to the only true oasis in this downtown-cum-hipville: BookPeople.

(Typical Singapore weather.  Love the way he described such merciless sunny day.)


Peter Geye pg132

The are many reasons I love books: for the worlds they show me, for the things they teach me, for the way they feel in my hands or in my satchel, for the way they look decorating my house, for the questions they arouse from my children, for their mystery, for their cold or warm truths, for their lies, for their promise.  But mostly I just love being transported to some place outside of my everyday life.


Edith Pearlman pg267

Diversity is not the Booksmith's mission; it just happens - the town is home to people of all ages, ethnic groups, skin colors, degrees of education, degrees of craziness.  All are welcome here, as long as they keep their voices reasonably low and their clothing mostly on.


Les Standiford pg313

It was close to five, and time for a drink, I thought.  Another sultry summer afternoon in Miami, circa 1981.   Thunderheads boiled over the Everglades a few miles west, promising a downpour any minute.  No point in hanging around the office any longer.  Business was lousy.  Who needed a private eye in a town where everything is public?

And that is when she came in.

"I'm sorry," she said as she appeared in the doorway.  She was a trim brunette with curls and the kind of figure that makes men want to write sonnets. "I knocked," she said, "but it looks like your girl is gone for the day."

Gone for the year.  I wanted to tell her, and still wanting her last two weeks' pay, but why shake a client's confidence? I pointed to a chair.

She sat down and crossed her legs.  I admired the process.  "How can I hep you?"

She dabbed at her eyes with a tissue. "It's my boyfriend," she began,

"There's always a boyfriend," I muttered.

She looked at me plaintively. "His affection have been alienated."

I nodded. "So he's fooling around, and you want me to find out who with?"

She shook her head, "It's worse than that," she said, "He wants to open up a bookstore.  It's all he thinks about."

I leaned back absorbing it all. "So you want to have him Baker Acted.  Why didn't you just say so?"

She dropped her gaze. "It's all so shameful," she said.  Out on the street a klaxon sounded.  What's a Klaxon? I wondered.

"He'd been going to law school," she was saying, "And then, when that didn't work out, he started teaching high school English.  But I know that was only because he got to read books and talk about them." She looked up, shaking her head. "Now he wants to sell them.  He's in love with books."  Tears were running down her cheeks. "Books and books," she said helplessly.

I came around my desk and put a hand on her shoulder. "Listen," I said. "I'm just a fictional character, so I'm prejudiced,  But your boyfriend....what's his name?"

"Kaplan," she said, "Mitchell Kaplan."

"Right," I told her. "What this Kaplan's doing is important,  Books are important."

"But this is Miami," she said. "People fish. They drive fast boats.  They commit fantastical crimes. They don't read."

"That could change," I said. "This Kaplan's a smart guy."

"How would you know that?" she said.

"Well, he picked you, didn't he?"

(Interesting way to introduce the bookseller Mitchell Kaplan of Books & Books through a fictional character Exley from one of his Miami crime novels)



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