Thursday, December 2, 2010

Books in the rain

The rooves (roofs for you 'muricans) feel and sound as though they are blowing away, a sheer pulling of air and ripping at the unseen corners of what pins us down. Sometime in the early morning a jet roared overhead towards La Guardia and I listened and was glad I was not in it. They say the gusts are topping out at 55mph but the sound is more fraught. We are at sea, with the unrolled blind on the terrace rattling and pulling rhythmically and not much imagination needed to know that the tossing ocean is in the street, grey waves and whitecaps on Henry Street. I watched the 6th season of The Deadliest Catch over the last few evenings so perhaps that has something to do with it. I watched another two earlier seasons, years ago, and then became mesmerised by this recent crabbing, the ice-locked rigging of the boats, the chain-smoking captains, toiling crews, and dramas of lives contained in floating steel vessels on the Beiring Sea in midwinter.

So it seems quite normal that the wind should be trying to rip the roof off.

Before the rain and wind started we set out to find some new books: I could not face reading anything we have yet again, and had just finished a concentrated and happy run of Kazuo Ishiguro's Never Let me Go,  Steinbeck's East of Eden (3rd time I think, far better to sink into), Jonathan Franzen's The 27th City (2nd time, and got a lot more out of that the first go around - finding windows, walls, skin, where I had not seen them before) and then Dalene Matthee's posthumously published and entirely simple - good - Driftwood, which took me suddenly from a scheming, dirty St Louis to a windswept and seablown Strandveld  in South Africa. I am now in Faulkner's Big Woods, down South, having just hunted down Old Ben, and lost Sam Fathers, and find myself smelling of woodsmoke.

Moving from one book to another is like a pain, leaving the previous, known world and engaging in the next, new, foreign, and I prowl the bookshelves at home like an unhappy panther (although on two legs and paler) muttering before I find what I want. The prowling had become prolonged and desperate, hence the book-buying trip into Brooklyn

I have always bought new books, because I keep books, usually, for a very long time, preferably forever. And I love how they they look and feel. My Kindle lies collecting dust. I read The Three Muketeers and Hamlet on it and it just does not work for me. I thought it would, but it did not. I like pages.

But we are surrounded by used book stores, and the difference between $15 and $4 is clear, and the hunt interesting. We did not even try the one on Atlantic: though new and orderly, it is presided over most days by a person who looks ready to savage the ankles of passersby at the first opportunity and the answer, to most things, is No. So no incentive to visit again. We tried one on Smith, but I couldn't find a single thing, and the darkness and suspense inside made me feel as though I should speak and think carefully. We skipped the ramshackle one on Court, near us, where books lie in piles whose contents are a mystery understood only by the kindly and shaggy owner, and I prefer to roam independently, free of questions and answers. A poor form of conversation as Stephen Maturin might say.

Headed then for the little shop down three steps from the street on Court, past Union Street, in Carroll Gardens proper: Pranga Bookstore. It is warmly lit and neat and many of the books are displayed with covers facing, so it looks and feels like a good place to be. I spent perhaps half an hour, and only at the end, in an unalphabetized set of shelves for new old arrivals did I hit gold, which was weird. H. E Bates' Elephant's Nest in a Rhubarb Tree & Other Stories, Paul Theroux's The Kingdom by the Sea, O. Henry's collected stories and Steinbeck's Cannery Row. And the cashier smiled. I love that.

So I have things to read. And yes, I did cook the books again! Ya nevva know...

The wind ripped the Iceberg from its restraints and it keeled over, off the wall and onto the terrace. I could hear it groaning. I could! I went up to the roof and tied it back up again while wearing a trashbag poncho, which horrified the orderly Frenchie, who held out his rain jacket and insisted I wear shoes. I liked my trash bag. Kept the arms free. The wrought iron tuteur also blew over on the terrace, but everything else was fine. The microgreen seeds are showing tiny green leaves on the roof, but now we have some real cold moving in.

December. Unbelievable.


  1. Hi Marie,
    I love books. I always say lightning will strike me if I pass a bookshop and not go in.(And buy!)I had a credit card, given to me by my husband, to be used in emergencies. Well, Exclusive Books had a sale.What more can I say!
    The most wonderful bookshop in the world must be "Shakespear & Co in Paris. I wanted to move in!
    Is jy nie bietjie gek om in sulke weer op die dak rond te vroetel nie?

  2. I love the MacLeods' bookstore in Vancouver, the feel is right for me...giant piles of books and the nicest owner answering all the questions you might have...Thank you for making me crave rain and books together ;-)

  3. Wow...I was watching the news this AM about the winter storm in NY and am amazed that so many people, stranded on the fwy, did not have warning prior to not travel or go home NOW! There were so many autos just stranded there. I knew it was on it way east. We had it here about a week ago and it dropped snow on us, broke the tops of trees off that still had leaves, and the winds were high. I think this winter will be one for the record books. And I agree with you about the Kindle. I don't think that I could ever enjoy reading a book off of its screen. I need the pages too. There is just something so comforting about a book...a real book. And besides, once you buy a book on Kindle, do you have it forever or can it accidentally be deleted? This is something I have never known. I could buy a lot of books for the price of a Kindle. And, where you do find such ambiance? Not inside a computer store, that's for sure!

  4. I think my boots will head, like an auto-piloted drone, to Pranga. And probably the one with the towering piles and shaggy minder. :-)
    (If I bring any home I'll cook 'em!)

  5. Hi Petro - het ek ooit dankie gese vir die kelkie sjampanje in Parys - Frankryk, nie Vrystaat, nie :-)? Indien nie, dankie! Nee, die wind het tog 'n bietjie bedaar. I'm not that crazy. But the rose was suffering and I just could not look at it bent over like that...There's a Shakesperare and Co. here, too. More reasons to visit.

    Anyes - perhaps I should brave the shop with the piles of books, then...

    Teri - I did not know about the strandings, but did see wind advisories from the previous night. What stranded them, wind or water?

    MIT - be sure to cook them on low! Or they'll boist inter flames! I'll add the bookstores to the map I'm making for you.

  6. We've debated an electronic reader, and there certainly are advantages, but we like the feel and visuals of actual books. When we go out on a cheap date (In-N-Out Burgers), we often stop by Bookman's used books, all organized and neat, but with the feel of old about it.

    We're re-readers, and keep stacks of favorites along the bedroom walls, separate from their cousins on the bookshelves in the family room

  7. Let it be known: shoes are a must for she who roams rooftops.


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