Friday, April 13, 2007

Friday Cleanup: Links, Appeals, Speculations

Friday is going to be a catch-all day on the blog: some weeks I may use it for longer musings, or for reviews, or for links if lots have accumulated since Monday.

Today I can't stop thinking about the author event we had last night with Noah Lukeman's book A Dash Of Style, and his suggestion that your use of punctuation reveals something about you as a writer. Does my excessive use of dashes mean I'm a scattered thinker (or just a quick connection maker)? Does my reliance on exclamation marks in email mean I'm a teen drama queen or hungry for attention (or just passionate)? Does my obsession with parentheses mean that I feel I need to spell it out for the reader, or that I'm secretive, or just that there's a lot that needs to be fit into every sentence? Then again, almost anything can make me question myself... but only for a minute.

More importantly, sharp-eyed reader and good friend to bookstores Miraida Morales has drawn my attention to an article in Chicago's Windy City Times about her favorite local bookstore, Women and Children First. They've been around for 28 years, but like many specialty stores (W&CF is primarily a feminist bookstore) they've struggled as the internet offers folks an easy way to buy specialized merchandise. The owners of the store aren't asking for handouts or sympathy; they're just asking folks to spend their money where they live. If you're anywhere in the Chicago area, drop in and chat with them, and buy a book, gosh darn it -- there's no other way to sustain what co-owner Ann Christopherson rightly calls "an actual place".

You know my loathing of one-sided doom-and-gloom media articles about indie bookstores, but this one from the San Francisco Chronicle is complex enough to give me pause (thanks to Ed for the link). Its merit is that it addresses readers directly, asking them to put their money where their mouth is and shop indies, rather than dreaming about their own fantasy bookstore as they shop online. It does focus on the defeats in the Bay Area rather than the victories, and doesn't acknowledge those 97 new indies open last year or the rumble of fear at chain bookstore headquarters these days, but it does drive home the point that someone's got to buy from a store if it's going to stay in business. Duh, right?

Speaking of shopping where you live, holy cow! Bookselling This Week reveals another great Brooklyn bookstore I was totally unaware of that seems to be going gangbusters: The BookMark Shoppe in Bay Ridge. You know they say that only the dead know Brooklyn, and it is a big place, but I'm ashamed I'd never heard of this bookstore that's only a few stops down the R line from me. What with Word in Greenpoint and Pranga in Cobble Hill, looks like I've got a Brooklyn bookstore tour cut out for me...

Thank goodness for Robert Gray's column in Shelf Awareness, which turns a loving but critical eye on indie bookstore websites; I've learned a lot and discovered so many great shops I'll likely never be able to visit. My favorite in his recent roundup was Milestone Books in Alabama, which has an amazing page dedicated to National Poetry Month. The best suggestion: write a poem in chalk on the sidewalk! I think I'm going to throw down some Bishop or Whitman on the sidewalks of Park Slope today.

And if it's not too gauche to be proud of my own bookstore, Sarah McNally has posted a shining new installment in her monthly series of columns. She's a passionate reader, and a writer with flashes of brilliance (and that's not just because she covers my shifts when I need it...) You can give it a read, and even post comments if her thoughts inspire some of your own.

The ALP is taking me to the circus tonight as a special post-Easter treat -- I'm giddy with little-kid excitement! I've often thought circuses, carnivals, and especially the Coney Island Freakshow lent themselves especially well to literature, or were somehow literary: all that compressed human drama and oddness, the physicality and immediacy of it, the strange symbolism and small-scale grandeur. GEEK LOVE comes immediately to mind, of course; Bakhtin's concept of the "carnivalesque" if you want to get all lit theory-ish, and poetic imagery from Hart Crane to Red Skelton.

What about you, Ladies And Gentlemen of the Blogosphere? What are your favorite literary circus adventures? You have the weekend to ponder; I'll be eating peanuts with the elephants while I anticipate your reply.

Happy reading!