Sunday 30 September 2012

Last post for September...

It's a cool, wet Sunday morning, exactly what one would expect for the last day of September.  Of course my cup of chai tea is sitting on the table as I write, and the house is filled with the smell of freshly made zucchini soup... mmm... it really feels like fall.

I'm not sure what the weather will be like for the rest of the day, but I'm hoping that the rain will hold off for part of this afternoon, as I would like to venture downtown to visit Casablanca Bookshop, the used bookstore that has been operating in Kitchener for about 25 years.  Today is the last day it will be open, which makes me a little bit sad.  I have been a patron at that bookstore since I was a student here in KW in the '80s, and have purchased many books (and more recently DVDs) from them over the years.  Sometime during the years I lived in Toronto, it moved from its original location on Ontario Street to a much larger location around the corner on King Street, where it seemed to be fairly busy whenever I went in.  At the end of the day today, it will close its doors to the public forever.  We're fortunate in downtown Kitchener to have a few used bookstores to shop at.  Second Look Books has recently moved from their original location on Queen Street and expanded to a much larger space on King Street.  K-W Book Exchange is still in its original location, but has downsized its space.  In Waterloo, Old Goat Books is still in its original location, and is hopefully doing well, especially now that the students are back.  There's something wonderful about a used bookstore that is very different from a regular bookstore that stocks new books.  There is a sense of history about a used bookstore, a knowledge that someone else has read this book before you.  Not only has someone read it, but he or she purchased it because he or she wanted to add it to his or her collection.  Sometimes there are inscriptions written on the inside pages of used books.  Sometimes a bookmark or slip of paper, a receipt or other item, is left between the pages of a book, that gives the new book owner a glimpse into the life of the previous owner.  There's also the aspect of "user-friendliness" about a used book that I love; that is, the book is often already physically "worked in" so that the pages stay open a bit easier than a new book with a stiff spine.  And there's the serendipidous finds at used bookstores that don't usually happen at new bookstores, and if they do occur at regular bookstores, they are often cost-prohibitive.  Last weekend I was at Word on the Street for a bit, then went to Casablanca to see what they still had left in stock.  I found a book and a DVD to purchase, the book by an author I have never read before, Kate Grenville, and the DVD a copy of a film I've seen before about Rubin "Hurricane" Carter and his wrongful imprisonment and ultimate release from prison with the help of a team of Canadian lawyers.  Those were serendipidous finds, but I then went to Second Look Books and found a copy of Bill Buford's Among the Thugs which is hard to find these days - I think it may be out of print.  This non-fiction book addresses the issues surrounding mob brutality and soccer in Europe, particularly in Britain.  I had a copy of this book once-upon-a-time, but at some point, it disappeared - perhaps I lent it to someone and it was never returned.  Now it is back in my collection, the same edition as I had before, and I'm thrilled!  I am excited to reread it, but I think it will be something my husband will also be interested in reading, and I like to encourage him to read whenever possible.  So, clearly, I love used bookstores, and will certainly miss having the opportunity to pop into Casablanca whenever I'm downtown with a few minutes (or hours!) to spare.

I finished listening to Long Gone by Alafair Burke on Friday, and I'd say I enjoyed it.  It certainly held my interest and kept me guessing until the end, although I found it somewhat predictable and slightly far-fetched and convoluted.  Having said that, I think it was the perfect book for me to listen to, as I need more "plot" or "story" in an audiobook than I do in a book I read in the traditional way.  Books I love to read and reread are often "un-listenable" for me.  For example, I have read Lady Chatterley's Lover by D H Lawrence at least twice (well, I read Lady Chatterley's Lover at least once and The First Lady Chatterley once), but when I tried to listen to it, even read by my then-favourite narrator, I just couldn't do it.  I think that when I read a book, I often read more for language or character than story, and I often prefer more realistic or literary fiction.  I can see the words on the page so I think I can register them more easily and they mean more to me than if I just listen to them.  I can also go back in the text and reread relevant passages if necessary to keep track of a character's development or to review a particularly poignant description, thought or setting.  So I've learned to look for plot- or story-driven books to listen to and literary or realistic books to read, and this seems to suit  me well in most cases.  Here again is an example of a reader (me!) identifying her reading needs and moods, not always as easy as it sounds.

And speaking of used bookstores, I reread (well, actually I skimmed) Diane Setterfield's The Thirteenth Tale last week in preparation for our book club meeting which, incidentally, did not happen.  It tells the story of Margaret Lea, a young woman who works with her father in a used bookstore and who receives a request from a famous author,Vida Winter, to write her biography.  Lea accepts with some hesitation and goes to Winter's house to discover the truth behind the many facades she has offered to her public until now; this time, Winter promises to "tell the truth", and Lea hopes to finally uncover the elusive "thirteenth tale" that is missing from Winter's collection of tales.  This book is at once an homage to gothic novels such as The Woman in White, Jane Eyre, and Wuthering Heights, with all of the requisite family secrets and mysterious houses, and a study in one's search for self.  I have read this novel before, once for my own enjoyment and again for discussion with my volunteer book group, so I didn't really need to reread every word to remember what the story is about.  I would absolutely recommend this novel as a real escape for anyone who enjoys gothic novels, maybe not so much for male readers, but definitely female readers who can appreciate swooning heroines and hidden rooms.

And I just started reading Angels in the Gloom by Anne Perry, which is my next volunteer book group selection.  It is a mystery novel set in England during WWI that appears to involve spies and government conspiracies.  It is the third book in her "World War I" series, and I'm sensing that it would have been helpful to start with the first book in the series, as there seems to be some history about a character called the Peacemaker that would have been useful in understanding what is going on in this novel.  Having said that, I have really just started reading it, so everything may be explained sufficiently by the end of the book to make reading the earlier novels less important.  It is certainly written well, so if I find I like this novel, it would open up a vast selection of novels for me to read, as Perry is a prolific writer.

OK, the sun has come out and it's time to start my day.

Bye for now!

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