by Dick Loftin.
Up until recently, I was seriously worried about the future of books. It seemed everyone was buy e-readers and the book as we know it was headed for certain doom, much like the vinyl 45 and LP. Not quite. Recent articles in the Wall Street Journal, backed up by the rise of independent bookstores in a piece in the Writer’s Chronicle, support the book as we know it and love it–with covers and pages we can turn, dog-ear, highlight, and write our impressions in the margins. Books are here to stay according to “Don’t Burn Your Books–Print Is Here To Stay,” in the Wall Street Journal in its weekend edition of January 5-6, 2013.
I have been under the impression that everyone on earth had purchased an e-book. My wife bought one. I even bought one [but I barely use it]. The Journal piece says only 16% of Americans purchased an e-reader in 2012. And the article points out the strongest support for books vs. e-books: “The fact that an e-book can’t be sold or given away after it’s read also reduces the perceived value of the product!” This was my ah-ha! moment. People want to own things. The biggest problem with e-this and e-that, is you don’t own anything. You download it, there it is on your reader, but so what? There is no there, there. A book is a book. It is solid, with pages and binding and photos. You can touch and feel it. And when you read something in a book that is particularly moving, you can stop, take a moment, pull the book to your chest and explore the sensation of emotion that only books can bring. The book is right there with you. And when you’re done, you close the cover–maybe it creaks a little bit by this time–and you can put it on your shelf to rediscover again and again. The second time can be even more meaningful. Years later, you may find a passage you underlined, a section you high-lighted, a corner turned down, a marker inserted. Finding something you read that was important to you when you were 25, can mean quite a lot when you’re 55. This is the essence of a book. A book is a good, good friend that stays with you over the years and rejoices when you come back to visit it again. Try that with a thirty-year-old e-reader.
Books are truly making a comeback. In the May/Summer edition of The Writer’s Chronicle, in a piece called “Very Good News for Independent Booksellers,” the magazine says 2012 was the best year ever for independent booksellers. Apparently, karma works not only in life, but especially in the book business. The collapse of Borders and the on-going struggle of Barnes and Noble left tremendous holes in communities served by the corporate bookstores. Opportunity knocked for former managers and employees of Borders. While some of them found other jobs outside of the book business, others opened their own stores in the communities formerly served by stores like Borders. Sales are up and this is very good for books. People want to shop and support their own local book store. These independent stores are successful because the owners are smart book sellers, but I think the added ingredient of being book lovers makes for a better book store and a better shopping experience for customers. It makes all the difference in the world–the world of books.
Read “Don’t Burn Your Books–Print Is Here to Stay,” from the Wall Street Journal [January 5-6, 2013], Here.
Photo of the rows of books in ABC Books in Springfield, Mo., by Endpaper Review.
by Dick Loftin.
Blake Bailey has quickly become one of my favorite writers. He has written compelling biographies of Richard Yates (a troubled guy, but seems to have been someone you could like) and John Cheever (a guy with so many issues, I wouldn’t want to be in the same room with him) and now he has written about Charles Jackson, a seemingly unlikely candidate for a book, but Bailey tends to go for interesting subjects with interesting lives and Jackson is a very interesting fellow. The new book is Farther and Wilder: The Lost Weekends and Literary Dreams of Charles Jackson. Read a review of the book from the Wall Street Journal, Here. Next for Bailey will be the authorized biography of Philip Roth. Bailey’s books are intensely researched and well-written. By the end of each book, I felt as if I knew his subjects. This is what great biography should be. David McCullough said once that he doesn’t work on a book, he is working in it. Meaning, he is getting into the life of his subject and tries to walk in his subjects shoes. McCullough reads the books, visits the places and even eats the foods of his subjects. Bailey is very similar in that he digs and digs and digs, asking questions and letting the answers lead to more questions. This is where Bailey shines in his writing. He came to Tulsa, Oklahoma, in 2011 for a book signing. He is a very likable fellow, chatty and friendly. He signed my Yates and Cheever books.
I found Blake Bailey quite by accident. A Tragic Honesty, was on a table at Barnes and Noble and around the corner, a copy of Yates Collected Stories. I had never heard of Yates, but I’m attracted to the lives and stories of writers. With the book of Yates’s stories available too, I decided to buy them both. A Tragic Honesty is excellent and I became a fan of Blake Bailey.
A couple of pieces have appeared discussing Blake Bailey’s approach to writing, research and biography. Read the excellent 5 Writing Tips from Blake Bailey, from Publisher’s Weekly, Here. And from Reader’s Almanac, the Library of America blog, an interview with Bailey on the upcoming biography of Philip Roth. Read it Here. On March 29th, PBS will present Philip Roth Unmasked, part of their American Masters series. A link about the program is Here.
Image of Blake Bailey from BlakeBaileyOnline.com. Visit BlakeBaileyOnline, Here.
Read an excerpt of Bailey’s book on Charles Jackson, from Vanity Fair, Here.
Read my review of Blake Bailey’s, “Cheever: A Life,” Here.
by Dick Loftin.
There are few things I enjoy more than the book fair. One of the best is the Holland Hall Book Fair, held every year on the last Saturday of February. I make my annual pilgrimage to jostle among the equally excited book lovers and buyers, buying not just one or two books, but bags of books. It is just too easy. The books are moderately priced, few are more than five dollars, so if I come up on something that looks the least bit interesting–Six Existentialist Thinkers, by H.J. Blackman , for instance and for only a dollar–it goes right in my bag without a second thought. I may have set a record this year with 20 books purchased. Last year, I found Stephen Kings On Writing, in paperback for a couple of dollars. This year I found it in hardcover [always my preference] for three dollars. “Score!” I said to myself.
The beauty of the book fair is the unexpected–the books I have been looking for–to fill out my collection. There were two written by Robert F. Kennedy (To Seek A Newer World,  and The Enemy Within, ) and volumes of poetry by Ogden Nash and John Beecher. I had heard of Nash, of course, but Beecher was new to me. I put both volumes in my bag right away. So many of these books are long out of print and to find them at all–never mind in hardcover!–is a book lovers delight.
There is a personal, emotional aspect to the book fair. These books once belonged to someone. Poetry, essays, fiction, history, biography, every genre. They were in their personal library. They mattered. They were purchased years, decades ago, and they were loved. They were a part of their lives and now, most likely after they have passed on, are resting at a book fair in Tulsa, Oklahoma. But things are always better when they are handed down, and I know in buying these books they pass from one book lover’s hand to mine. And I will love them as much as they did. That, I promise to their former owners. Sometimes, the books will be inscribed, or notes will be left in the margins or somewhere else in the pages. I can’t bear to write on the pages of books myself, after years of reprimanding by my school teachers, but I enjoy discovering this marginalia in the books I buy. In the book of poems by Nash, on the inside was written, “From Amy, Mother’s Day, 1978.” Mother probably cherished the book from the moment it was given to her, and up to, most likely, the day she passed on. The book could have very well been discovered again by Amy while going through her mother’s things. She probably had a tearful moment. Or two.
After I bring them home, my wife amused by the great piles on the coffee table in the living room, I go through each one looking for something about them, a scrap of paper, a receipt, a book marker. I’ll reflect on the past owners of these books and appreciate that they are mine now.
This explains why I love books so much. They are so descriptive of our times, our tastes, the things we believe, the stories we enjoy, the life we have lived or wished to have lived. They are very much who we are.
So maybe the act of discarding the long held books of someone after they have loved them for so many years, in a noble, respected place like the book fair, sending them into the hands and lives of someone else who will love them just as much, and perhaps hand them down again one day, is a good thing. There were a lot of filled up bags at the Holland Hall Book Fair–and that is something to celebrate.
Learn more about Holland Hall School and the Holland Hall Book Fair, Here.
Tulsa World article on the Holland Hall Book Fair, Here.
Photo of the Holland Hall Book Fair on February 23, 2013 by Endpaper Review.
by Dick Loftin.
Bookish.com, is a new site backed by three publishers, Simon and Schuster, Penguin Group USA and Hachette Book Group. But don’t worry about falling under the influence of ‘Big Book.’ This is a site for book lovers.
On the home page, which announces, “We Know Books,” is a tempting piece: Elizabeth Gilbert takes on Philip Roth. Apparently, Mr. Roth has suggested to would be writers to “quit the ‘awful field’ of writing.” To which, I think, ‘Easy for you to say, Philip. You’ve already made your millions!’ I haven’t read it yet, but I’m already rooting Ms. Gilbert on.
Scrolling down, there is a search window. “It’s never been easier to find Books You Love.” I bite, and type in “John Adams.” The David McCullough biography of our second president is the example for biographical writing. I hit ‘enter’ and up pops six suggestions for books about Adams. Under “Subjects” at the top of the home page, I click and find “History and Politics.” Under “New and Noteworthy,” “Bookish on Books,” and “Featured Books,” recommendations are listed. A particularly helpful link is the “History and Politics Essentials.” Books on “World War II”, “Ancient and Classical History” and “Vietnam and Korea” are offered, considered “Essential” by Bookish. Click “World War II,” and on the left side of the page are books released from the last thirty, sixty and ninety days and books that are “Coming Soon.” Click the “Essentials” link (a different link from the link above) and a wealth of titles appear and you can read samples of the books you find interesting. If you want to buy a book, you can. Just click the link and online stores are offered, including Amazon, iBookstore, IndieBound, and Kobo, along with Barnes and Noble and Books-a-Million. Quick and easy.
Bookish will be helpful when you want to find a great book to read or simply want to browse around in the book world. I searched “David McCullough,” and not only did the books he wrote come up, but books where he had made a contribution, being interviewed or wrote the forward. Here is where I became ‘sold’ on Bookish. We will be spending a lot of time together.
Visit Bookish, Here.
Read the Bookish article in the Wall Street Journal, Here.
Source: Bookish logo from their Facebook page.
Happy New Year from Endpaper Review! May your 2013 be full of great reading and books!
Image from thebookcoop.wordpress.com. Photo taken by Kalyan Chakravarthy.
by Dick Loftin.
For those of us who love words, the pleasure in books is immeasurable. What I particularly enjoy is reading about writing. Reading what writers have to say about their craft inspires me and makes me practically run to the typewriter [yes, I'm old school.] This leads us to quotes about writing and reading. There are books galore, and websites with thousands of quotes attributed to the writerly mind. One of history’s greatest writers has to be Thomas Jefferson. He is often quoted from his works, including his greatest, The Declaration of Independence. But a recent Wall Street Journal article shows that while he is often quoted, he is more often misquoted. Lovers of words and writing will find the piece very interesting as I did. I have added a link below. Enjoy. And you can quote me.
Read the piece from the Friday, December 7, 2012, Wall Street Journal, Here.
Image of the recently released biography “Thomas Jefferson: The Art of Power,” by Jon Meacham. Photo by Patricia Wall of the New York Times. The book was reviewed by Janet Maslin in the New York Times, November 20, 2012. Read the review Here.
“Many people love good bookstores, but writers? We completely lose our heads over them.”
- Richard Russo, in the introduction of ‘My Bookstore.’
by Dick Loftin.
After several months of some pretty heavy reading, including a big biography of John Cheever, I decided to read something a little lighter over the Christmas holiday. “My Bookstore: Writers Celebrate Their Favorite Places to Browse, Read, and Shop,” is perfect late in the year/winter holiday reading. The book is a collection of essays from writers telling about their favorite experiences in bookstores and how they influenced their reading life. I have just started the book, reading the first few pieces. It is extremely enjoyable, relaxing reading. Being a book lover, it is very easy to identify with the writers’ passion for books and reading. And how much joy can be found in simply looking around the shelves in bookstores.
Source Material and Information:
The ‘My Bookstore’ page from the publisher,Black Dog and Leventhal, Here. It also has a link to their Facebook page.