Nonplussed: speechless, perplexed

At a book launch the other night, a woman came up to buy a copy. She made bookstoreish small talk as I rang her through - So many books, such a beautiful store, the usual - and then paused, looked at me intently, and lowered her voice.

"I don’t actually read," she said, as though I could redeem her with this confession. "I have a big collection of books, but I don’t really read them."

Nonplussed, I managed to ask why.

"It’s such a lonely activity, isn’t it?"

I couldn’t tell her that’s exactly why I like it.

I would link to Judith Thurman’s excellent profile of Alison Bechdel in this week’s New Yorker, but it’s not available online, so you’ll just have to find yourself a copy of the magazine. It made me all the more excited to tuck in toAre You My Mother?(Bechdel’s latest graphic memoir) this weekend.

On what to really double and then triple check that your boyfriend wants for Christmas

A few months ago (before Christmas, obviously), I fielded a phone call from a girl looking forMein Kampf. We don’t stock it, although we will order it, and I told her so. “Well, it’s for my boyfriend - could you get it in time for Christmas?”

That is quite the Christmas gift. “Your boyfriend wantsMein Kampffor Christmas? That sounds like a red flag,” I said.

"Oh, no, he’s just into…history and that sort of thing…you know what, maybe I should double check with before I order it, though."


On what not to read when you’ve just moved into a creepy new apartment

A girl who reminded me of me brought three Murakami titles with her to the front cash. “Have you read these?” She asked. “Are any of them not creepy?”

One of the books was Norwegian Wood. It’s about as not creepy as Murakami gets, and I told her so. But another one of the books was The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle, which is the best, but also terrifying. I begged her to be brave and read it, but then I mentioned Twin Peaks and she visibly recoiled and told me she had just moved into a creepy new place, and I conceded that perhaps this was not the best time for her to read The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle and then she bought Norwegian Wood.

Last night I overheard an obnoxious blonde girl discussing Joan Didion’s last two books as if they were her only books. I refrained from giving her the stink-eye because I am a grown-up and we were in a nice restaurant. But this morning, I’m concerned that perhaps by not gently correcting her, I failed in my duty to literacy.

Oh my god, cereal.

Dear Bookstore, can we please please stock this book? And then eat some cereal. I could really go for some chocolate-peanut butter flavoured Es and Ts right about now. 

This has nothing to do with books, but who doesn’t want to watch old-timey stars swearing?

A day late, but...

I’m just disappointed that “Poe Toaster” refers to a guy who leaves flowers and booze on Poe’s grave, instead of a kitchen appliance that specializes in gloomy toast. 

Last night, the Toronto Public Library used New York Times reporter Jodi Kantor to try and lure literate young moderns* to join their chi-chi exclusive library club. I’ve never seen so many shiny young folks so well turned out at Metro Ref, where I used to skip out on high school classes to go listen to Broadway musical soundtracks and read plays**.

Kantor spoke about her new book The Obamas (which we were there to sell), gossiped respectfully about the First Family, and pondered the depressing question of who we can look to as our political leaders, when the world of politics beats the shit out of anyone who has integrity, intelligence, or vision.

*My mom’s expression. Using it almost certainly ensures that I am not one.
**I may once have been young, but have never been modern.