There are two universal truths known to all booksellers.
1. Most books in a store never sell.
2. Most books that sell are never read.
I can attest to the first truth. I have shopped in stores I worked in twenty years ago and picked up books that were still priced in my hand. As for the second truth, I also have first-hand knowledge of this. There are many volumes in my own collection that I still intend to read. Yes, one day I will get around to reading the Decameron. I really will. But, as I look around my shop on this cloudy Saturday afternoon, I can’t help but wonder will anyone ever buy this book currently residing in our fiction section: The City of Bees, by Frank Stuart? They should. It is, for the moment, top of my list of odd books that will probably never find a home away from Imagine’s shelves. This is from the back of the book:
The City of the Bees is the beautifully told story of a colony of wild bees living in the heart of a
forest oak; their adventures, disasters, triumphs, fears, and hopes.
I cannot help but wonder what would make a bee feel triumphant. Fear is more universal, and the book
describes “battles in which the sacrifice, even by human standards, is appalling.” Indeed, since “the
death of a whole population is preferable to the death of one queen bee,” I would have to agree. And from the first page:
Even the primrose and the daffodil have memories of cold silences… but
this bee had been born on a day when Persephone stole back from Hades, smiling so
that black trees, gray grass and ruffled birds stirred like sleepers kisses. To begin on
such a day is to enter life with warmth that never ebbs, but throws its own sunshine from within.
Surely this bee, the protagonist, is fated for great things. It has to end badly.
I remember being drawn in by one of these books. It was about a wombat. I cannot remember much about it, because I read it when I was fairly young. I do remember how it ended, however. A fire, started as a
means of clearing land, I think, consumes the wombat’s habitat, and our hero, whom I’d grown to love by this time, perishes as a moral lesson about man’s inhumanity to unhumanity.
So, as much as I would like to give this book a home, I haven’t. Not because I never take books from my
shop home, though one has to be careful with that kind of thing. No, I have not taken it home for two reasons. First, I am afraid of being sucked-in once more, afraid of being put in the ridiculous position of caring what happens to this heroic little bee that carries summer in its heart. But there is an even more honest reason why I have not taken this book home. I know, however willing I am to care about bees, or a bee, however much I’m a sucker for this sort of thing, this book would just sit on my shelf for years to come.
I’d never read it.
When Rusty Hoke called me up on Saturday to tell me he’d found a great deal on more than 2000 records, I was excited and a little leery. After he described them to me, I knew we would find a lot of junk, a lot damaged records, a slew of 101 Strings and the like. But he’d also spotted some real gems. There had to be more, hidden treasures snuggled up against the ubiquitous thrift store staples. We had to go.
So, on Sunday morning, when I wanted nothing more than to stay in bed a few more hours, I got into the car and drove out to meet Rusty. An hour later, I saw what we were getting. There more than twenty boxes of records, most containing a hundred or more discs. We did not bother to curate the items: we took it all, loaded them into my van, and hauled them back to Rusty’s house. We spent the next two hours going through. As expected, there was a lot of dross. But we also found the treasures we were hoping to find. Art Tatum, Jonah Jones, Oscar Peterson. Three mint discs from the early Punk band Nine Nine Nine. We also found two LPs by the great Flamenco guitarist Carlos Montoya, albums by John Mayall, two choice Jimmie Lunceford platters, a Foggy River Boys singed by all, Marian McPartland, Ahmad Jamal, Les McCann. The list goes on and on.
It’s now early Monday morning and I am listening to the great Betty Carter, one of only two records I had to keep for my own collection. I can’t help but think of all the time I’ve spent in my life hounding for records. The thrill of finding some great wax has never left me. Now I have the added pleasure of watching our customers come in and find that one record that has eluded them for years.
Betty Carter is singing “The thrill of it all...” I couldn’t have said it better.
Dear Patrick Bateman,
It is with sincere regret that we have to infom you that Billy Joel's magnum opus, The Stranger, has been purchased by a customer with a greater apreciation of Mr. Joel's genius than yourself.
Congratulations to Drew on his purchase.
Also snagged today by Frank:
We must also bid a fond farewell to Omar Khorshid With Love, which was recently featured in our Staff Recommendations.
Here are the some of the more interesting books we got in this week.
FIrst up the Oxford Book of Science Fiction Stories. This collection contains many notable short stories from the likes of Wells, Clark, and Niven. These stories help trace the development of the sci-fi genre from it's infancy to the end of the 20th Century.
Amazing Tales for Making Men Out of Boys is a collection of true stories about heros of old, from Thermopylae to Omaha Beach. The use of these tales are meant to give boys an understanding of manhood through the ages and present them with emulatable heros.
Next up is a pair of books about religious organizations that have a shade of suspicion about them. Clausen's Commentaries on Morals and Dogma is a guide to Freemasonary as written by Sovereign Grand Commander, 33rd Degree, Henry C. Clausen. Heavily illustrated, Clausen discusses the history and morality of the Masons.
What is Scientology? discusses the history and basic beliefs of Scientologists. Thetans and E-Meters are discussed but nothing on Xenu and his space cruisers. It is also heavily illustrated, including pictures of many of the life changing books the Church of Scientology has to offer as well as an extensive section on the life of L. Ron Hubbard.
Coming soon- our new arrivals in records.
The Freudian aspects of this picture will haunt me for a long time.
Chris Carrillo scores an original copy of The Velvet Underground and Nico just hours after it arrived in our shop. Chris is a longtime friend of the store ever since he arrived on our doorstep peddling cheap knock-offs of name-brand colognes.
So the big question we all have is: What's under the banana?