Saturday, February 26, 2011

Happy birthday, John

Dear Reader -  It's been an absolutely lovely week. I was open on Monday, Thursday, and part of Friday (before I headed up to Dover for the Diocese of Delaware's 226the convention). These winter weekdays are gentle and quiet, allowing me a nice chunk of time to research the pricing on some of my out of print books.

You see, while I've kept all of the stuff that I've known is rare tucked away off site for future pricing and shelving, I went ahead and put everything else up on the shelves, simply marking the yet-to-be-priced books with a yellow dot on the spine:

I've made my way through most all of the fiction and biography, and am about to turn my attention to politics and history.

So as I neared the end of the fiction shelves, I came across two unassuming, un-dustjacketed volumes of John Steinbeck. One Grapes of Wrath and one East of Eden. As a girl growing up in a windy, sometimes dusty tiny town in Kansas, with a father whose lungs were visibly scarred by his days as a boy in the dust bowl, I gravitated to Steinbeck's work. Looking back, I'm not sure that I always "got" it all as a girl, but something about it resonated, and I loved it - particularly East of Eden:

Besides reading, one of my other favorite things to do on Saturday afternoons as a girl was to curl up in my daddy's big, brown vinyl recliner and watch the classic movies that the local networks would run in the middle of the day. And I'll never, ever forget discovering Elia Kazan's genius and his gems of movies, like "East of Eden" itself. Kazan brought the work to life in such compelling and evocative ways, with Dean's help (man-alive, this is what I love most about Kazan - how he again and again took little-known talent, like Dean, and gave them their break-out roles - his work is a treasure):

Anyhow, I hadn't thought much of these two Steinbeck volumes - as I said, they were pretty darn unassuming. Some first editions are clearly marked and often even stated as such. But many are not, particularly those that are less contemporary. And first printings are often even harder to reliably identify. Both of these books merely had the standard copyright year info behind the title page, so I figured that they could have been from any number of printings or editions:

But when I started to do a little more rooting around on some book sites about identifying first editions of these two books in particular, I found some helpful information. The first 3000 volumes of East of Eden that'd been printed included an error by a proofreader, who thought that the word "bight" was used by mistake and who replaced it with "bite."

I picked up my volume and carefully turned the pages, making my way to 281. And there is was on line 38: "bite":

I felt this profound sense of gratitude that somehow the universe had rescued this book - one of just 1500 first printed for the general public - from the oblivion of some forgotten, anonymous stack. And with John's birthday coming up tomorrow, it feels fitting that it should be discovered so happily close to this occasion, ready to be treasured again. The Grapes of Wrath, also a first edition, does not appear to be a first printing, but I have more research to do to confirm that for sure.

I've told several of my friends that my books feel like puppies to me - they each find me and then I hold and love them for awhile 'till their true owners show up to take them home. It's a joy every single time to see which books find which owners. I don't know if I'll be able to part with John, but if he's meant to live with someone else, I figure it'll be clear when the time comes.

In the meantime, I'm getting "East of Eden" again from Netflix. I haven't brought Mr. Kazan home for Miss C, yet, but I think it's time. I couldn't get the scenes that I wanted to upload from YouTube onto Blogger, so here are some links for you. Here's the seminal birthday scene (pure Dean genius), and here's a gorgeous follow-up, showing Kazan's genius mixed with Dean's.

Happy birthday, John.  - Jenny

P.S. And here's some Latin tunage worthy of John's Salinas roots, thanks to the inspiration of my buddy Todd:

P.S.S. Steinbeck's dedication to his editor, Pascal "Pat" Covici is tender and moving, particularly to my little editor's heart:
Love that the manuscript made its way into that hand-carved box.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Worth a thousand words

Dear Reader -  Today was another gift. Words fail.

But pictures are good, right? So I thought I'd snap a few with you as I was preparing to close down for the day. I hadn't yet taken the time to tidy up, so forgive the happy dishevelment of a day of browsing, but this at least gives you a little taste of how the space is beginning to take shape.

Here I'm standing back with the Borealis cards behind Miss C's couch, looking  toward the street:
(See Josephine's beautiful turtle rug in the foreground?)

And here's the view as you walk in the door:
(We made our way through several rounds of coffee table books on those front stands - guests kept adopting them almost as soon as I added new ones.)

Here's the nook to the right of the door:

And here's the one to the left:

The pictures of Miss C's couch and the darling rocker came out too dark - I'm not smart enough to tell the flash what to illuminate. I'll work on getting that one during the day for you sometime soon.

God willing, we'll be in again tomorrow - closed for Tuesday and Wednesday, while Sue helps me ready some more volumes. If you were among the many visitors this weekend, whether corporeal or virtual, thank you. Truly.  - Jen

P.S. Today I was digging Ray Lamontagne - I dig Ray a lot:

To kneel and kiss the ground

Dear Reader -  One of my favorite authors is the late John O'Donohue. After setting up my previously-scorned cash register this evening (that's a story for a later time), I toodled on up to bed, expecting to settle in with a few passages from his To Bless the Space Between Us. But when I couldn't put my hands on it, I grabbed my well-worn copy of Beauty instead.

A page and a half into the introduction, this quote from Rumi caught me in a way it never had before:
    Let the beauty we love be what we do.
  There are hundreds of ways to kneel and kiss the ground.

I wept, dear Reader, for today I kissed the ground.

And I realized that I needed to tell you about it before I slipped off to sleep, where the dances of my dreams might overtake the magic of this moment - of this day.

First, you need to know: Tamiflu is a miracle in a little capsule. I started on it right away after my trip to the doctor, and by the next day my fever was gone, never to return. And since I was fever-free for 24 hours and therefore no longer posed a health risk to anyone, I opened up the shop just after Noon on Saturday after taking Miss C up to meet her dad.

As soon as I had everything settled, my first guests found their way inside, and the steady stream of visitors never ended 'till the Second Street shops began closing down around 5:00 or so.

Dear Reader, the wonder of it all is that it was everything I'd hoped it could be and more. People found their way in. Friends and lovers pulled out books and cards, giggling about them or striking up a conversation about history or philosophy or art. Children had a blast pulling out Miss C's children's books, finding affordable volumes to take home for their very own. People found Miss C's favorite little couch or the chairs around the shop, sitting down to thumb through volumes. Many found just the perfect gift or card. And total strangers connected over books and ideas. I met poets and artists and more kind people than I can count.

It was absolute bliss.

If tonight were my last, I'd end my days as a utterly fulfilled book-seller.

But as I anticipate the sun, I look forward to what tomorrow brings.  - Jenny

P.S. Folks were digging Rosa Passos today. Thought you might, too. Blessings on your night and on your tomorrow.

Friday, February 18, 2011


Dear Reader -  I apologize for not having written this week. Thanks to the help of my lady friends, we're ready to take our semi-soft opening of last weekend (for which I still owe you a post which I've begun drafting) to a fully-soft opening today. However, a rather virulent flu bug as caught me, so I've been spending more time here than at little biblion:
Note the extra pile o' blankets that Miss C kindly came and put over me two nights ago when I was so cold I couldn't stop shaking. Note my pathetic aim for the waste basket. Note my deep appreciation for all medicines of the red dye number whatever persuasion: Cepacol, Sudafed, Ibuprophen, and now, thanks to the pharmacist's recommendation, Benedryl, which helped me sleep through the night for the first time in days. I just thought it was a bad cold, but my friends Libby and Margaret said "Get thee to a doctor!" They were right - now I'm on antivirals, awaiting that magic 24 hours without a fever, so that I can get back to greeting folks at the shop.

I need to get one picture to finish last week's blog, and then I'll get it off to you, dear Reader. Thanks so much for your patience!  - Jenny

P.S. I've been in need of something a little more mellow from my music box. Elizabeth Fraser and the Cocteau Twins have been keeping me company:

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Progress, by the grace of God and my lady friends

Dear Reader -  My heavens, it's been a roller-coaster of a week here at Casa J & C. We have been working our little fingers to the nubbins, and, thanks be to God, our friends have been helping, big-time, along the way!

Here's some of what's been happening . . .

We've been unpacking books. Books like these:
and . . .
and . . .
and . . .
and . . .

And . . . our lady friends have been helping us each day. Friends like Margaret, who, when dutifully alphabetizing the biography section, cried out, "Oh my gosh! This is my absolute favorite book of all time! I don't know about his politics, but I totally love the man . . . and I loaned mine to someone years ago, and I've never been able to remember who - and I've never been able to find another copy 'till now!" This, dear Reader, is what I've been waiting for all these months - moments like these when the little books that've found me find the new homes where they're really meant to live. I was in absolute heaven as Margaret passed over her $5 for Airborn, our first book sale:

While every one of us has done our own fair share of label removal, returning the books to their un-besmirched state, Ms. Sue has been the Goddess of Goo Gone:
(See that water bottle, dear reader? That water bottle was later used by Libby to put out a little fire [not started by us] on Second Street - the crew at biblion is so darn industrious.)

And speaking of Libby . . . Libby has worked wonders with the blue seat cushions on those lovely Duncan and Phyfe chairs:
(What the heck happened on this one, I wonder . . .)

I went to Dreamweaver fabrics at the Midway shopping center, and they couldn't have been more helpful and lovely. They assisted me in picking out a few different fabric choices for the chairs, pointing me in the direction of this upholstery fabric in particular (which was super cool, since it'd been a discontinued model by the manufacturer that they'd picked up at a discount that they likewise passed generously on to their customers):

Angie's daughter (whose name I can't recall in the moment) and Beth helped me. When I went back to make my final selection after looking at the fabric at our shop, Beth cut it for me and then helped me determine if I needed to get new padding:
She cut away the decades-old blue fabric to see that I had near-perfect, high-quality cotton batting underneath. I left their shop with my gorgeous upholstery fabric and some instruction on how to proceed with the installation.

Well, I tried doing one with the help of my friend Judy. The results were just fine (we were actually pretty doggone proud of ourselves, Reader), but nothing like what happened when Libby up and decided to grab this ball. These old, once tired, chairs now look blissfully happy and absolutely stunning:

Finally, my friend Denise was the Book Whisperer. Her brilliant practicality and keen aesthetic could take any shelf of books and make sense of it. I turned my back for half an hour or so, helping the birthday cards find their new home, and when I came back around, she'd taken a problem with the fiction and biography sections and completely resolved it, tout sweet:

Oh, and speaking of cards, I'd be remiss if I didn't, once again, acknowledge the help of one of my gentlemen friends as well. Mr. Phil helped my assemble the Borealis card rack from Maine. One of the primary supports needed a little repair, so he did that, and then we tag-teamed the Lucite racks. Here's the result:

There's just one more card line that's on its way to us, but the rest have found their homes. The birthday cards are ready to celebrate:

The special occasions are spinning at the front of the store:

The Sigmund and all his buddies are ready for guests to choose them and then choose how to greet them with their unique little stickers (could there be a better Mother's Day card?):

And the letter-pressed bellamuse cards have joined Jonathan Wright on the rack:

Folks keep asking "when," and I keep chuckling away. I dunno, Reader, I figure it could be any day now, but I've realized that I'm not going to know when it's time 'till it's time (just call me the Queen o' Intuition). I told my lady friends that we're gonna do a little burlesque routine as our means to a soft opening. We're gonna slowly peel away bits of that paper, sending a titillating little mixed signal to our passersby, 'till we eventually get it all off.

If you're wandering by and the papers peeling and the lights are on, be brave, come knock at the door - we'll welcome you in!  - Jenny

Saturday, February 5, 2011

The new bookshelves are here! The new bookshelves are here!

Dear Reader -  With a boatload of thanks to my friends Paul and Dan Somerset (who lovingly schlepped them all, and then some, back from DC), Phil Kless (who helped me do an emergency assembly round for the last batch), and Randy Burton (who's responsible for them looking so mind-bogglingly level and even and being solid as solid can be), I am now ready to celebrate the installation of biblion's bookshelves! Hooray! Let the book sorting begin!:

Oh! And we had our first sale! (I gotta admit that I did a little happy, clappy dance all the way home!) A friend stopped by to consult with me on my fabric choice for our Duncan and Phyfe chairs, and said friend found the perfect card for his/her Valentine! (Being intentionally vague here, 'cause I don't wanna blow his/her Valentine's Day cover.)

My register's not up and running, yet, but it still holds the money just fine:

So, all you Valentines out there: know that you can stop by anytime the lights are on and pick out the perfect one for yours from the rack by the door:

Just knock. I'll be in there behind the paper in the windows, hanging with my lady friends who're helping me sort and shelve all those cases of books. We'll see if we get enough done this week to be able to open - even if it's super-squishy soft!

And let's have a love song to go along with that happy, clappy dance, shall we:

Heck, who else but King's gonna give you "mouth," "spouse," and "house" in a rhyme?

Happily  - Jenny

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Suzanis and Ikats and Gabbehs, Oh My!

Dear Reader -  You know how folks say everything happens for a reason? Well, I had one of those moments this week.

I need rugs for biblion (we gotta cozy up all that wood floor and lovely yellow slatwall, right?). I was bummed 'cause I missed an auction a couple weekends back, losing out on some lovely, accessibly-priced rugs as a result. I'd been thinking about establishing a relationship with a local rug dealer, but I hadn't gotten around to that, yet, in my list of priorities - mostly 'cause I'd heard that the one I'd known of in Lewes was leaving town, and the shape of my days hadn't afforded a drive over to Reho in the last few weeks.

Well, I was on my way home from the recycling center, and I passed the storefront of the Lewes dealer. It looked like they were clearing things out, so I thought I'd stop in and see if there were any deals to be had.

It didn't take me long to find out that my small town understanding of their status was completely wrong: they were not leaving, just reorganizing their space, as the designer who'd been sharing their storefront was likewise re-organizing his Lewes/DC life.

I quickly connected with Josephine Keir, who'd started her business back when she was pregnant with her now 20-something twins (talk about an inspiration for me and Miss C!). She couldn't have been more lovely. She was gracious through my foot-in-mouth-I-thought-you-were-leaving-and-was-gonna-talk-to-your-competitors-in-Reho spiel, and she was enthusiastic about the idea of marketing her artisanal rugs in biblion.

Rugs like this gorgeous Suzani from Afganistan:

Or this hand-spun wool Kurdish:

Or one of her many folk life rugs, like this koi pond from northern India:

Josephine knows her stuff. She told me all about her rugs, most of which are one-of-a-kind, made with hand-spun wool and silk with the highest-quality vegetable dyes. She's all about educating buyers and connecting rug-lovers with one another.

One of her favorite people is James Opie, an expert in Islamic textiles. She spoke with passion about his Afghan Carpet Project to benefit the people of that war-torn nation:

She offered to place some of her pieces toward the back half of our shop, perhaps even adding some on the walls to bring even more cozy-factor.

So that still left the front of the store to address, which I'd initially thought I'd accomplish through another auction; but Josephine cautioned me about buying antique and used rugs at auctions. She said that while you can find some lovely, quality products, there's also a reasonably good chance that second-hand rugs can be infested - eeewww! - with moth larvae or carpet beetles. And then she told me these gruesome horror stories about folks who'd bought infested rugs and had their whole houseful of textiles eaten up - eeewww, again!

Look at 'em! They're so darn tiny!:
And here's a story from another blogger who met them face to face (or face to rug, as it were), replete with a picture of the devastation they can wreak.

Josephine did say that one way to deal with killing the little buggers is the freeze 'em to death. Sticking the rug in a bag and putting it in a deep freeze for at least 72 hours. It's good to know that there's a possible solution.

However, particularly with the thought of having her gorgeous, tasty pieces lyin' on my floor, I'm gonna opt for her other suggestion and buy something new. My wallet has to have a definitive affect on the outcome - either I'll get a really cool new sisal or woven-vinyl piece from her, or I'll just go and get a cheap, short-sighted-but-affordable-for-new-business-owners Oriental at one of the home center stores - we'll see.

But for today, I'm feeling so grateful that I spaced on that auction and so very grateful that I met Josephine instead!

And I'm thinkin' Miss C and I will be doing our own little happy dance on one of her pretty rugs!
Gratefully  - Jenny

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...