Your bookseller and the perfect fit

Yesterday, while recharging my brain through an online walkabout, I stumbled upon a tumblr that kept me rapt in a state of scrolling and “next” clicking. The site, Things Fitting Perfectly Into Other Things, features nothing more than pictures (and a few gifs) of unrelated objects fitting, well, perfectly into each other: a pickle jar lid fit snuggly into a kitchen sink drain; a Ritz cracker perfectly filling the recessed bottom of a paper cup; a venti-sized Starbucks cup sliding slowly down a cylindrical public garbage bin, etc.

I found these images hypnotic and strangely satisfying. I suppose they feed that part that finds synchronic order to be soothing amid a chaotic world. But I also think these images activate the same pleasure centers that my love of books and being a bookseller do.

Like all booksellers (at least all the ones I know), I am a lover-of-books. Outside of people and some abstract ideals, there’s nothing I’m more passionate about. I read for many reasons—stimulation, entertainment, education, comfort, curiosity, connection, etc. In talking with a co-worker last week, I articulated the unifying theme of all the books (all entertainment, really) I’m most passionate about: they all, in some way or another, surprise and delight. This is not just whiplash plot twist *SURPRISE!*, though those can be fun, too. Books that make me see the world (or part of it) in a new way. Books that make me think about things I’ve never considered. Books that make me feel with unexpected acuity or depth. There are many different ways books can surprise and delight. I think—I hope—any book lover can relate.

The greatest satisfaction of a bookseller resides here as well. We truly want share with you the passion we feel for “our” books. If you’ve ever asked, you know what I’m referring to. You feel it when her voice intensifies, eye-widen and cadence accelerates. You see it when he takes off to grab a book, returning to present it to you—two-handed—like a holy text. We’re passionate about books. It’s why we’re here, working at Booksellers.

We’re here to get you the books you want. Sometimes you’ll know what you want. Sometimes you won’t. If you want something—something new, something unexpected, some really good—but don’t know what that something is, ask a bookseller. We’ll be thrilled to help.

We’ve got something that can’t be reduced to a formula nor coded as an algorithm. We’ve got a passion for books and a desire to share it. We want to put the book in your hands that will surprise and delight you.

We want to match the right book with the right person. We want to find the Thing that Fits Perfectly Into the Other Thing, like a Ritz cracker in the bottom of a paper cup.

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In Loving Memory of Steve Corrigan, Forever A Part of Our Bookstore Family

It saddens us to share with you that on June 29th, The Booksellers lost someone very dear to our hearts, Steve Corrigan. I know I speak for all past and present booksellers when I say working at this store is more than being a staff member, it’s about becoming a part of a book-loving family. Having been with us since the beginning, Steve was a vital part of that family and losing him is one of the hardest trail we as a store have faced. Below, we’d like to share some memories and words from our booksellers throughout the years. As our customers of over 29 years, we consider you all our family as well, and we want to include you in our dedication and give you an opportunity to share in our remembrance, as families do.

Steve was a great manager, lover of books, and getting things done right the first time. He taught me to pull the books to the edge of the shelf so there would be less dust, and he “did not suffer fools gladly”. That’s when you would see Steve get his Irish up! He also was very helpful in assisting me with my graduate school application, with a letter of reference he was more than happy to write for me. He thought teaching would be a great fit for me. As I prepare to start my first teaching job, I will always remember Steve Corrigan with fondness, affection, and appreciation. – Patty (Became a part of our bookstore family in 1999)

Steve was the first person I met at The Booksellers. He interviewed me. We sometimes had lunch at the same time. He often ate cereal and I would bug him about poetry, and I mean poetry I had written. He read one of my poems and said “This is pretty,but why should I care?” It was brutal but he was right. “You have to make the reader care,” he added. Steve told me the truth that day. I respected him for it. To this day when I am working on a poem, story, or essay, I pause and ask myself “Why should anyone care?”  And I always think of Steve. – Kat (Became part of our bookstore family in 2011)

Dear Steve,
I am very grateful for your friendship over 12 years. Your compassion and conversation during losses in my family will never be forgotten. My heart is with your family and friends.
Pat (Became a part of our bookstore family in 2002)

We at the Booksellers have recently lost a dear friend and colleague, Steve Corrigan, to cancer. He was a member of our original staff, beginning his bookselling career in Memphis in January of 1985. Over the years, Steve wore many hats. He was our first inventory manager, our first buyer, and the man who conducted our first interviews.

In other words, he was often the first face many of us saw before joining the Bookseller family. In many ways, he was a living, breathing history of both our store and of independent bookselling itself. We will miss his wit, his passion, his fondness for the underdog, and his kind-hearted discipline. He helped to make us what we are. And then strived to make us even better.

My personal friendship with Steve dates back to those early icy mornings in January, 1985. We probably could not have been more different in temperament but more perfectly aligned in purpose. Perhaps the often quoted words of one of his favorite authors, Albert Camus, sums up our relationship best:

“Don’t walk behind me; I may not lead. Don’t walk in front of me; I may not follow. Just walk beside me and be my friend.” – Eddie Burton (Became a part of our bookstore family in 1985)

There’s not much I can say about Steve that hasn’t been said already, and much more eloquently. So I made a list instead. Things I will always remember about Steve Corrigan: He didn’t believe in wasting time – he was always working, or reading, or eating (always Wheaties!), or taking a walk. When there was a big event at the store, you always wanted him there, because things always ran smoothly when he was around. He would never ask you to do something he wasn’t willing to do himself. I lost count of the number of times he cleaned up unspeakable messes in the restrooms; how many managers do that? For a little while we had a crew of night shelvers, which Steve led, and it was great. You could work in comfortable silence, or you could talk with him about anything. He could be excruciatingly honest. But he was never condescending, malicious, or cruel. He was incredibly kind to me when my father passed away unexpectedly, and it meant more to me than I was ever able to express to him. He was a gentleman and a scholar, devoted to his family, and he will live on in the community of booksellers that he mentored.  – Kori (Became a part of our bookstore family in 1997)

I first met Steve as a 19-year-old kid looking for a job nerding it up in a bookstore. He was quick to inform me, as he informed everyone he ever interviewed, that it is NOT easy work! Boy, was he right! I’m so grateful I passed muster during the strict (and legendary!) Steve Corrigan first interview–he had the most amazing instinct about who would fit well in the bookstore–he could always read people so well!!

Over the past 16 years, Steve became a mentor, a friend, my fellow curmudgeon, and there has never been a time when I didn’t feel smarter for having talked to him. I admired not only his intelligence, but his dedication to supporting what is right and just, his incredible work ethic, and his quick wit and phenomenal sense of humor (heavy on the snark!). A conversation with Steve could ran the gamut from poetic and insightful to heated and intense, to downright hilarious. My only regret is that we didn’t get to have more conversations. I am STILL learning things about this guy!! How did we have endless conversations about obscure jazz artists, but never discuss our mutual fondness for Chopin? How did I not know that he also played piano and guitar?

Simply put, Steve was a treasure. A true bookseller’s bookseller with a huge heart for not only the business, but for his bookstore family. He was was one of the great patriarchs of this store, and he will be forever missed…I’ll do my best to make him proud. – Nicole (Became a part of our bookstore family in 1998)

Steve was such a kind man. If I ever needed anything or had a question he would do it or find out. He was a passionate booskeller. I loved his energy. He did not suffer fools and I respected that as well. –Terribeth (Became a part of our bookstore family in 2003)

When I think of Steve Corrigan, I think of his half smile and particular gait, the way he wafted through the shelves of the bookstore like a jungle cat hunting prey. He knew books, and he knew people, but best of all, he knew book people. We had so many conversations together, about how he ate cereal almost every night for dinner, his love of Richard Price novels, and how Rabbit, Run is OBVIOUSLY a 300 page cautionary tale about following Jack Kerouac’s irresponsible example. No matter what I was reading, what abstraction I was pondering, I always looked forward to an info desk shift with Steve so we could philosophize together, we could dissect literature for all the best pieces, and most of all, so we could laugh together. I left a piece of my heart in the store when I left bookselling, and when I turn my memory back to find it, Steve is always there, along with so many of the special people who touched my life, and touched the lives of others who happened through the store. Steve wasn’t just a special coworker, or a special bookseller, or a special cereal-eater. Steve was just special, and I will miss him. – Marisa (Became a part of our bookstore family in 2005)

I first met Steve Corrigan upon interviewing for my position at the Booksellers. As a budding English Major, a part-time job in a bookstore (with the reputation of Davis-Kidd) was a dream too good to be true; like a child realizing that Candyland was, in fact, real. When he interviewed me, I detected that he viewed my childish enthusiasm with suspicion… well, he plainly tried to talk me out of the job. Amidst my hazy-eyed ravings of the wonderful work atmosphere of the store, he reminded me that book-selling was hard work.

Few people recognize that it takes the intense efforts of an entire staff in order to maintain the bookstore and keep it a safe, communal, and above all tranquil place. I certainly didn’t know, but Steve had a lifetime of book-selling experience under his belt. He worked seriously and proudly. When I got the job, I believe he regarded me with less skepticism, and I was keen to show him (and everyone else) that I had what it takes to be one of this elite team.

To me, Steve appeared very aloof and professional. He was the token elder bookseller (and we have a few), one whose knowledge of the intricacies of the business kept the store running like clockwork; with the dignity of words and reading siphoned in his veins! Although he didn’t suffer foolishness, he did find pleasure is simple things. I will always recall him with great fondness as he constantly teased me about my eclectic lunches that any poor college kid would resort to. As a garner of hats, I will miss the familiar provoking question of “Is your head cold?”

With honor, I worked with Steve for only a few months before he fell ill. In the months that followed Steve taught me a lot more about life than book-selling. First, never underestimate people and how they will surprise you. Upon first glance, I never expected to see the ripe wisdom and extensive kindness under the character of this grumpy bookseller. I’m proud that I could call him a friend (as we all know those come in many shapes and sizes, much alike books). Second, remember that time is not on our side. I regret that before his passing, and he passed far too soon with summoned bravery and endurance that I will never know the depth of, I never got to share with him my thoughts on his favorite book Siddhartha. I had been endeavoring to read it since he left the store. In the week of his passing, I had finished it. As trite as it sounds, my heart has never felt so full and so empty at the same time.

In Memoriam, Steve reminds me that the books that people love, so often teach us more of the lover than any writer or even the very contents itself. The distinct voice and profound essence of the novel, I will always attribute to him. I hope I can grow to be more like him: to expect more from others than they think is possible, to not “judge a book by its cover,” to never neglect the knowledge of time’s erosivity, and to read.

-To read the books of my favorite people-

As a book lover, I repeatedly find the words in books that escape me when I am speaking with people. Steve and I shared few words but alongside Hermann Hesse, I feel like we shared enough. Hermann Hesse wrote, “Not in his speech, not in his thoughts, I see his greatness, only in his actions, in his life.”

Steve was great. He was the best of us. – Corinne (Became a part of our bookstore family in 2012)

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Something Old, Something New

It’s been a while since my last post.  There’s a lot going on at Booksellers; not the least of which is our work on our Used Books section.  If you haven’t had a chance to browse the used titles, you’re missing out: we have long out-of-print gems, recycled editions of recent releases, and an astounding array of classic non-fiction works.  Looking to replace that old Junior League Cookbook?  We might have a copy.  But you have to move quickly and browse often:  our used books range in price from $2.00 to $10.00, so they don’t stay on the shelves too long.  I’ve seen some of these titles come and go in as little as fifteen minutes. If you’re looking to make some space on your shelves, we want to see good-condition, used titles.  Our buying times are Tuesday through Saturday, 8:00 a.m to 12:00 noon.  Please, no more than one box or large bag full of books at a time. There are a few other restrictions, and our needs for stock are always changing, so you might want to give us a call before you visit.

While we’re on the subject of great classics, here’s a review from one of our master booksellers.

The Razor’s Edge- W. Somerset Maugham- Vintage Quality Paperback 15.95

Summer is upon us, and it’s the time of year when I try to read a classic novel that I somehow missed in school. This year I chose W. Somerset Maugham’s “The Razor’s Edge.” I recently saw the old forties movies with Tyrone Power and Gene Tierney and was amazed at how much I liked it. I’ve never been a fan of Maugham’s. “Of MaughamHuman Bondage” and “The Painted Veil” were two of my least favorite books. Which is why I was so taken with “The Razor’s Edge,” a complete surprise to me. The main character in the novel is a survivor of WWI, whose colleague had sacrificed his own life for his on the last day of the war, which leads the character to become a searcher. Why would someone do that? Why would God allow that to happen? Why is there so much evil in a world that can be so beautiful? While the rest of the country becomes engrossed in becoming rich, Maugham’s character seeks the spiritual side of life, which means his fiance is no longer interested in marrying him. All of his friends wonder what’s wrong with him or if he’ll ever come back to himself. The questions asked by the book are some of the most basic questions that sooner or later we all ask ourselves. Which direction will we travel? Very few of us have the courage to be true to ourselves. The main character finally decides that it’s not up to him to hide from the world in a religious colony, but to offer his gifts to the world and perhaps have an influence, even if a small one, on making the world a better place for all of us. The writing is superb, and the book makes you think. What a great way to start the summer!

-Steve Corrigan

And now for something new…although I must admit, this first book in a trilogy  has been out for more than a year.  Heartfelt thanks goes to bookseller Jamie Wells for steering me to this master work of fantastic fiction.

Annihilation: Book I of the Southern Reach Trilogy- Jeff Vandemeer- FSG Originals-$13.00 paperback

As a younger reader, I read most (if not all) of the works of Howard Phillip Lovecraft.  Lovecraft was a fearful old maid of a writer with a sense of hyperbole which often stood in the way of intriguing ideas, not the least of which was: there are things beyond the frailties of human understanding that, if experienced by human beings would invariably drive them to a horribly tragic conclusion. These were  not mere tragedies  for individuals, but held the possibilities of dire consequences for the human race.

I was, and still am, a fan of the works of Phillip K. Dick.  His sense of things-not-always-as they-seem blurred the edges between reality and delusion. PKD posessed writing skills that could make the most pedestrian conversation into a paranoia-laden exchange of profound consequence.

I am also a great fan of the works of Jack Finney; particularly his Invasion Of The Body Snatchers.  There is a scene early in the novel where a young woman calls the police to say that her uncle is not her uncle.  The protagonist talks to the young woman; asking her why she thinks this madness is true.  In her list of differences, she says, “You know that mole on the back of his neck?”.  The protagonist says, ” You mean it’s gone?”. The young woman looks significantly at the protagonist and says, ” No. It’s still there.” And with these comparisons as prelude, I give you the genius that is Jeff Vandemeer.

Area X is a pristine wilderness.  Some years earlier, an unspecified Event occurred.  Since that time, the government has been sending in exploratory teams.  The first team came back to report an idyllic refuge.  One of the subsequent teams commits Southernreach1mass suicide, another team destroys itself in a gun battle, and still another team comes back to civilization, one by one, only to die of cancer at a later date.

We join the story with the latest expedition; a team of four women known only as the psychologist, the anthropologist, the surveyor and, the narrator of the journey, the biologist.  They go into Area X with a mission: map the terrain, study the local life, observe their own thoughts and behaviors as well as the thoughts and behaviors of their team mates, and, above all, avoid contamination by Area X. What they find is more than anything they could have imagined.

Mr. Vandemeer’s trilogy evokes the finest of the above-mentioned authors.  There is an evolution of their ideas in the Southern Reach trilogy that begs descriptions of genius.  At every turn, on every page, there is a menace, a claustrophobic turn of word and phrase that evokes a wealth of questions and a sense of great unease from the reader. We are also called upon to ask questions about the nature of life and mind as we know it. If you’re looking for a thought-provoking book club selection,The Southern Reach trilogy is ideal for the fearless readers who wants to ask questions about our understandings of Life and our perceptions of the world around us.

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Secretary At War

Duty by Robert Gates. Random House Publishing
Robert Gates” memoir of his time served as Secretary of Defense under George W. Bush and Barack Obama might be one of the best books of its kind in its candor and its suggestions as to how to proceed in the future. Gates was criticized for being snarky at times and for possibly giving away secrets as to how the department conducts itself, but there doesn’t seem to be a high degree of credibility in either instance. Not many secretaries could serve both parties as honorably as Gates did. He probably was one of the longest-serving secretaries in the history of the country, which is a compliment to his style.
His book reads like an upper-division collegiate course geared toward those who would prefer a life of diplomacy. Gates abhors partisanship, and seems to be one who still conducts himself on the Kennedy notion from over 50 years ago that one should serve one’s country and not worry about serving one’s ambitions. Gates comes across like the smartest man Gatesin the room in most instances. The number of instances he has to consider in making any decision is a testament to an intelligence that few diplomats have. To say that we were lucky to have had such a man replace Donald Rumsfeld in the office is an understatement. If not for Bush’s loyalty and stubbornness, Gates probably would have had even more time
to assert his influence on our foreign policy, and Rumsfeld would have had more time to concentrate on his seflf-serving memoir.
All of the major decisions that Gates was a part of are included here, most interestingly the transition from the Bush team to the Obama team, and the decision to take out Osama Bin-Laden. Just for the record, Gates was in favor of using a drone to explode Bin-Laden’s compound, but too many of his comrades were afraid that the physical evidence would never have been there to prove Bin-Laden’s death, thus giving him mythical status. Gates was no bully, but a team player, giving his arguments in sober, well-thought-out plans. If he was out-voted, he didn’t lose time complaining, but was completely on board fulfilling his duty.
If there was one pre-occupation that Gates thought might eventually play against him, it was his reluctance to put his men in danger that could be avoided. He had served eight presidents, and was a player in several debacles that cost servicemen their lives unecessarily. His final request was to be buried with the dead in Arlington cemetery from the wars he conducted in Iraq and Afghanistan during his tenure. We were in two wars every day of his service, and the writing of letters to the family of fallen warriors was a daily occurrence for him that became too much to bear.
One of the interesting parts of the memoir concerns Gates’ relationship with his fellow secretaries. It gives much insight into how a government operates. He gives high praise to both Bush and Obama for various reasons, extolling their virtues more than pointing out weaknesses. This is a valuable book that could serve either party well.
Steve Corrigan
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A life of sorrow and redemption

Johnny Cash: A Life by Robert Hilburn- Little Brown- $32.00
Robert Hilburn’s new book from Little, Brown Pubs., “Johnny Cash: The Life,” is a welcome addition to the literature on Cash in that it is the most authoritative, comprehensive biography we have of the Everyman who became the larger-than-life Johnny Cash. He shows his subject in every light, warts and all, making no excuses for the selfishness of his drug cashaddictions, his leaving his family, his recklessness in missing performances, letting down his promoters and band members, as well as his audiences, but then also sheds considerable light on the better angel of Cash’s personality in that even after all the alienation of those closest to him, so many people stayed in his corner, time and again, until Cash could finally overcome himself to be the artist he was meant to be.
He might have been considered the King of Country Music at one time in his career, but Hilburn makes a strong argument that Cash was more of a great storyteller and folk singer than anything else. Also, owing to his early Sun roots in Memphis with Sam Phillips, he could have been considered a rocker as well. He was indefinable. Because of his late association with Rick Rubin during the last months of his life, he was still evolving as an artist and winning a new generation of fans. In that, Hilburn thinks Cash resembled Bob Dylan more than anyone else.
Cash’s son, John Carter recently found a tape of songs Cash had collected back in 1984, not long after his release from the Betty Ford Clinic, which finds Cash’s voice in fine form, and the songs another example of what a great storyteller he was. That album has recently been released, adding to the Cash legend, proving him to be still undiminished by his death in the eyes of his fans.
There is much in Hilburn’s book that shows Cash’s journey into the light was a much longer and harder road than even the award-winning film about his life portrayed. It was a tribute to his honesty and integrity that he stayed true to himself through all the years. His video of “Hurt,” is now regarded as possibly the best music video ever made. It’s hard to imagine that many other artists his age would ever be held in such reverence. But then, what would we expect from a man who financed a film about Jesus Christ and wrote a novel about St. Paul. Owing to his familiarity with the genre, it isn’t difficult to think that Cash could have made a living out of being a gospel singer. He was unfailing in proclaiming his faith, often in the composition of a new song.
We will never see another like him. We’re lucky to have Hilburn’s fine biography to jog our memory and give Cash the appreciation he’s due.
Steve Corrigan
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Greg Iles signing at Booksellers

Greg Iles signing his new book Natchez Burning, on May 1st, 6:00 p.m.

Book releases April 29th

Pre-Order a copy today! See a booksellers for details.

#1 New York Times bestselling author Greg Iles returns with his most eagerly anticipated novel yet and his first in five years—Natchez Burning—the first installment in an epic trilogy that interweaves crimes, lies, and secrets past and present in a mesmerizing thriller featuring Southern lawyer and former prosecutor Penn Cage.

Growing up in the rural Southern hamlet of Natchez, Mississippi, Penn Cage learned everything he knows about honor and duty from his father, Tom Cage. But now the beloved family doctor and pillar of the community is accused of murdering Violet Turner, nbthe beautiful nurse with whom he worked in the dark days of the early 1960s. A fighter who has always stood for justice, Penn is determined to save his father, even though Tom, stubbornly evoking doctor-patient privilege, refuses to speak up in his own defense.

The quest for answers sends Penn deep into the past—into the heart of a conspiracy of greed and murder involving the Double Eagles, a vicious KKK crew headed by one of the wealthiest and most powerful men in the state. With the aid of a local friend and reporter privy to some of Natchez’s oldest and deadliest secrets, Penn follows a bloody trail that stretches back forty years, to one undeniable fact: no one—black or white, young or old, brave or not—is ever truly safe.

With everything on the line, including his own life, Penn must decide how far he will go to protect those he loves . . . and see justice done, once and for all.

Rich in Southern atmosphere and electrifying plot turns, Natchez Burning marks the brilliant return of a genuine American master of suspense. Tense and disturbing, it is the most explosive, exciting, sexy, and ambitious story Greg Iles has written yet.

Line tickets are required for this event and come with a purchase of Natzhez Burning. Pre-Order your copy today!

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Eric Jerome Dickey, Greg Iles and the 4 X 12 Reading Series

There’s a lot going on at Booksellers.  We’ve got Eric Jerome Dickey this Friday ejdnight, starting at 6:00 p.m. He’ll be there to sign his new book, A Wanted Woman.  His new book is a steaming-hot  thriller set in Barbados. Fans, you may want to get there a little early: the calls and inquiries have been pouring in.  Maybe drop by for a little browsing, a cup of coffee or a bite to eat at our Bistro. Beat the crowds and give yourself a little time to relax.

Greg Iles will be in store on May 1st. His new book is Natchez Burning , and will benb available on April 29th.  Again, another big star in the sky.  Avoid the rush by purchasing a voucher.  This will insure your copy of the book and a place in the queue. Again, you’ll want to come early for this event.  Just ask any of our booksellers about the vouchers, or give us a call.

A new page has been added to the blog.  Please take a look.  Booksellers has hosted many outstanding musical events, and will be hosting many more.  Our weekly music series in Bookseller Bistro represents some of the finest in local performers, and we have hosted everyone from Iris Orchestra to Aardvark Music during some of our Story Time events.

Finally this just in: Booksellers at Laurelwood will be hosting the 4 X 12 reading series. Our own Kat Moore will be one of the four talented MFA students presenting a twelve minute excerpt  from some of their work.


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