Sunday, January 15, 2006


The Daring Young Man on the Flying Trapeze & other stories
by William Saroyan
ISBN: 081121365X New Directions Publishing Corporation

The title of this book always reminded me of Bugs Bunny singing the song in a cartoon so I treated this book as a sentimental relic of the 1930’s Depression Era America, like I Remember Mama. How really wrong I was. When New Directions came out with an edition, it forced me to examine just what I thought this book was: literature or twaddle. I was first impressed with the writing skill (it’s finely written) but then I was taken by his breath of humanity and by the force of its' character’s passionate convictions. I remarked to someone that it is a young man’s book (Saroyan was 26 when it was published) but it has a universality to it, a humanity to which anyone could relate. It’s one of those books that inspires hungry young people to write. It’s a pity Saroyan is not read as much as he used to be.

I keep this book near the bedside and dip into it again and again so when people ask me what I am reading and I can't think of what it is, I just say The Daring Young Man on the Flying Trapeze because it's not that far from the truth.

Tribute site:

“The most solid advice for a writer is this, I think: Try to learn to breathe deeply, really to taste food when you eat, and when you sleep really to sleep. Try as much as possible to be wholly alive with all your might, and when you laugh, laugh like hell. And when you get angry, get good and angry. Try to be alive. You will be dead soon enough”
William Saroyan 1908-1981

Saturday, January 07, 2006


The big clean up of the store begins and I keep finding lost titles in very odd places. The general public quite often uses us a resource (read: library, research room, place to go to read magazines for free and leave a stack of 15 for the booksellers to reshelve at close) and as often leave their books either in piles on the floor (annoying) or shoved onto the improper shelf from where the books came from (will get you lodging in the 8th circle of the Inferno, bub!) When our customers ask if our books are filed alphabetically I say yes, until we open the doors to the public.

Our store is rather large so when I see a quantity of one in stock on our computers I die a little inside.

Actually I head to the section praying that the blessed book is where it is supposed to be while simultaneously running through my head the range of places it could be from the slightly off to the incredibly stupid. Can’t find Knitting for Dogs (ISBN: 0743270169) in Knitting, let’s try Pets. Steven Millhauser’s wonderfull Martin Dressler: The Tale of an American Dreamer (ISBN: 0679781277) not in fiction under M for Millhauser, see if it’s under D for Dressler. David Foster Wallace’s Consider the Lobster (ISBN: 0316156116) not in essays, try fiction, try nature, try new releases and, gosh darn it, try seafood.

Genre novels hide in fiction; fiction, if the title is off beat, everywhere else. Regional history titles vacation in travel. We have foreign language phrase books in the foreign language section AND in foreign travel. Books that were bestsellers a few weeks and months ago seem to stay around the stacks of current bestsellers like the former High School graduate who keeps hanging around school with nothing better to do. New releases are a good place to look before giving up the search. When I exhaust all that, I just look around the nearby shelves cause people are so %$#@ lazy and dump books where ever the stop looking at them.

I really don’t expect any customer to reshelve our books but the one thing that really boils my asparagus is when someone dumps a book just inches/next to/on top of the empty space/pile of/the gap they just made when they pulled it out too look at it. That, as mom would say, is laziness personified. ( I was going to post a picture here to illustrate my point, but I didn’t want to come off THAT crazed.)

A few years ago when I was at the university store I had this one customer who would drink his single cup of coffee over a huge (10 to 15) pile of books he pulled down then leave us to clean up his mess while he then went to hog our free phone line. Customers reading while sitting in our cafe was not that unusual, but that huge of a pile of books and that he did it every single, was. Some of our staff even had a less than polite name for him, especially the wait staff for whom he left the smallest of tips. One day I was shopping for clothes in a department store when guess whom I discovered was in charge of the men’s department - old Piley himself. He had broken the fifth rule of retail: it’s a lot of work to keep your store neat, thou shall not mess up someone else’s store! I proceeded for the next 30 minutes joyfully and quietly wreck his department. I unfolded as many sweaters as I could find, moved handfuls of shirts to the wrong racks and left piles of clothes strewn over displays. He didn’t see me there (evidentially customer service was not one of his skills either) but when I left, I saw him frowning as he scurried over to fix everything. It was petty and small, but I really enjoyed doing that.

Tuesday, January 03, 2006


Yes, I know I know. Shame on me for not keeping up the blog. Okay I’ll try better in 2006.

When I first started as a bookseller years ago, the first thing that I noticed was the amazing amount of self-improvement books we sold even in the small independent store near the ivy league university. In the bigger store its even worse. Being of Irish extraction, my people view the need for “self help” as some sort of personal failure, an expression of weakness so when I get the umpteenth call for the same badly reviewed relationship book someone saw on Oprah, the little sarcastic bastard inner me makes a very rude comment silently while the outer me grins and finds the book for the customer in a friendly and polite manner.

Since the store is piled high with the requisite diet, exercise and self help books that will be sure to change your life, I’ve decided to let the little sarcastic bastard inner me out to make all the comments those books. These are not reviews, just pent up frustration at the glut of these books that crowd out the good stuff this time of year.

The Sonoma Diet Connie Guttersen etc. ISBN: 0696228319. The diet of hippies, pot heads and drunks.

How the Rich Get Thin: Park Avenue's Top Diet Doctor Reveals the Secrets to Losing Weight and Feeling Great Jana Klauer ISBN: 0312340389. Darling, it’s called LIPOSUCTION.

The Good Housekeeping Supermarket Diet: Your Shopping List for Delicious and Healthy Weight Loss Janis Jibrin ISBN: 1588164683. Salad, salad, tofu, chocolate frosting container, anything Entenmanns, anything Hostess.

Natural Cures They Don't Want You to Know About Kevin Trudeau. Damn those “Theys”!!! I guess there really is a conspiracy to keep your fat butt on the couch.

Then there’s the abs diet, the low carb diet, the no carb diet, the high protein diet, the grapefruit diet, the blood type diet, the stone age diet, the Japanese diet, the Okinawan diet, Mediterranean diet, the cabbage soup diet, macrobiotic diet, the raw food diet, the Bible diet, the Israeli Army diet, the detox diet, the Florida diet (you know the one) etc etc etc. A search on Barnes & came up with 2,836 diet books, yeesh! I had to stuff the little sarcastic bastard inner me back into his hidey hole as he was starting get get really nasty and this is a PG rated blog.

So instead of some whiney crap (a book shaped object) that you will read once then ignore, I give you life inspiration and a dietary rule ala Monty Python & the Meaning of Life: “…try and be nice to people, avoid eating fat, read a good book every now and then, get some walking in, and try and live together in peace and harmony with people of all creeds and nations.”

That will be $25.95 please.