“I have come home at last! This is my real country! I belong here. This is the land I have been looking for all my life, though I never knew it till now…Come further up, come further in!” (C.S. Lewis, The Last Battle)
I’m pleased to announce that the first month at Swan’s Fine Books has gone exceedingly well. Not in terms of sheer dollars (although as we all know, the rent must be paid) but rather in the truly important ways – in the delight on the faces of customers when they walk in the door, in watching them take a book from the shelf and sink into a chair, losing themselves in the tale, in having countless visitors saying “THANK YOU for opening! We needed a bookstore here in Walnut Creek!” And from a purely selfish perspective, in the happiness I’m feeling every morning upon awakening, knowing I have a day in front of me filled with all manner of book-related delights. I have come home.
And what delightful companions I have! A few days past, three young people came in and browsed – perhaps 19 or 20 years old. They searched through the entire store, the young man clearly deeply pondering several potential purchases. He eventually made his decision, and brought up to the desk a 2-volume set of Proust and Ulysses. I was so very impressed – given the fact that I have yet to even attempt Joyce – and told him so. If ANYONE says that young people are no longer interested in reading – please tell them that is an urban myth, and not at all true.
Speaking of Ulysses, if I may digress for a moment….just this morning I found this fascinating article by Nigel Beale on how the book arrived in the United States:
The first copies of James Joyce’s Ulysses to enter the U.S. came via Windsor, Ontario. The books were printed in Paris and mailed by Ernest Hemingway to a friend in Windsor who worked for the Curtis Publishing in Detroit.
The friend, a reporter named Barney Braverman whom Hemingway had met during his days either in Toronto or Chicago (found references citing both), commuted from Detroit to Windsor each day on the ferry. Braverman apparently lived on Chatham Street in a house kitty-corner to the back of what is today The Windsor Star building. Once the smuggling plan was devised, 40 copies of the novel, published by Sylvia Beach owner of the Shakespeare & Co. bookstore, were sent over from Paris…” For the entire article, see: http://literarytourist.com/2013/06/first-copies-of-joyces-ulysses-smuggled-into-u-s-via-windsor-ontario/?goback=%2Egde_108740_member_246524232
How devious we book-lovers can be when need dictates. And kudos to Ernest for his part in bringing Joyce to the U.S.!
I also have been fortunate to meet, via the internet, new friends both here in U.S. and abroad. This past week I sold a T.S. Eliot (signed) book to a professor from the University of Kansas. Come to find out, he’s recently published a book on Alexander Pope – which, being a HUGE fan of Pope’s, I turned around and promptly purchased. And just this morning I sold a first edition Sylvia Plath to a fellow bookseller in London. The internet, reviled as it sometimes is (and in certain circumstances deservedly so) has enabled me to connect with those literally around the globe, which never would have been possible prior to George Stibitz, Steve Jobs and Bill Gates.
Each day has been different, each day has been filled with the joy of working with books, the joy of being surrounded by others who also love books. Many of the days have also had some challenges, but we’re tackling those as they come and hopefully with a smile.
And so, friends far and wide – let’s raise our collective glasses and offer a resounding cheer for bookstores, booksellers, and the joy they each bring to their communities!