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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