Bookmarks: As the books come marching in.


My treasured little black Penguin editions. Found more this side of the pond!


Re-building my library is a whore’s paradise, I ain’t gonna lie. But it’s also terribly sad. Why? As I search the shelves of bookshops I see titles I used to own, but can’t afford to buy back. It would cost a fortune. Visions of grabbing a couple dozen of them, running out the door – pages whipping in the breeze as I flee – dance in my head.

What I need is a good distraction. A really good distraction. Anyone want to run interference for me?

It pays, buddy.

My collection of rare and out of print books was staggering. amassed over more than 20 years. Carefully culling them every few years  like a gardener his roses, I had myself a prime library. Some of my collectibles are in showcases at Half Price Books. I absolutely loathe their ridiculous buying policy. Books they bought from me for a dollar or two sit there with $ 1,000 price tags.

What the ever-loving freak.

I owned the complete Folio Library set of George Eliot’s works. At HPB they’re marked $ 300. I didn’t pay anywhere near that, and I’m pretty doubtful that’s what they’re worth (NOTE: I haven’t actually checked). Such a smarmy business practice. I could stand by my principles and boycott them, but then where would I shop? For the interesting, older, more eclectic stuff there is nowhere else to go.

Interesting, older and eclectic. Stick that on my shortlist of memoir titles.


Not the exact set, but same publisher.


Oh, for the time and luxury to have sold them myself. God, I could have made a small fortune. I miss bookselling sometimes. It’s crossed my mind I could give it another go, for a bit of side income, but it’s incredibly time-consuming. Not only is there the locating of inventory, but entering it into a database, packing and shipping is a pain in the arse. To run a bookshop, you need a partner.

Alas, I’m partner-less.

My ex-husband despised me for all the books lying around the house, the piles by the computer, the shelves upon shelves in the basement. One time, he gathered them up from around the house and threw them down the basement stairs. I happened to be standing there, but he wasn’t aiming directly at me. Not physically. It felt violating and awful. Pages were folded, dust jackets ripped, smaller books bent by behemoths.

To this day I’m sure he has no clue how hurtful that was. If he did, he wouldn’t care.

That foul thief Amazon drove my first venture out of business. I had a dear friend in Florida who partnered with me, each of us with our own inventory, but after a couple of years it became all too obvious we were spending way more than we made.

But God it was fun while it lasted.


One of my first book purchases back in the Colonies.


How should I show you my library? With pictures? Videos? A combination thereof?

Maybe I’ll do a combination of blog posts and vlogs (video blogs, if you’re scratching your head) (video blogs, even if you’re not). And Goodreads. I need to delete the stuff that’s gone and enter what I actually own.

I’d like to keep closer track of what I own. Already, they’re getting away from me. And each one has meaning. I don’t collect indiscriminately. Every book tells a story so much larger than what’s between the covers.

So little to do, so much time.

Strike that. Reverse it.

While it’s still manageable, I’d like to share what I own and why I own it. I smell a feature here. Or maybe it’s the dog.


I like the idea of an irregular feature. I’ll show you mine without expecting you to show me yours. Wait. I’m getting ripped off.

Gather yourself, woman!

I need a couple more bookshelves, the perfect opportunity to start fresh arranging books and telling you about them. I’ll get those over the weekend, slap them together, and as soon as I can I’ll work on the first proper Bookmarks installment.

We have a plan.


NaNo…. NoNo

I fell behind. The wagon hit a bump in the road and I fell off. I was trampled by the horses, scraped off the street and tossed onto the sidewalk.

Yesterday was November 30, 2011. In order for me to have finished NaNoWriMo I would have had to write something along the lines of 30,000 words by the end of the day. That didn't happen.

What bothers me most isn't that I didn't cram 50,000 words into 30 days. I'm concerned by how embarrassed I've been to come online and admit defeat. If anyone else said to me, "Hey, I tried, but you know how much else I have going on. I just couldn't get there." I'd say, "No worries. You gave it a shot." I need to extend to myself that same empathy. Chin up, woman! There's nothing saying I can't take what I started, finish it and rework it into something, now is there. Besides, I changed my mind about the entire direction of the piece and wasn't sure how to go on, leaving the first 50ish pages hanging while twisting the plot, mid-novel, into something totally different. I just wasn't feeling it this year, I guess. Or I was, but knowing I didn't have time to go back and revise made me reluctant to go on.

I'm raising the white flag of surrender. NaNoWriMo, you have officially kicked my lily-white, Irish/Dutch/English posterior.

I haven't been idle, though. I published an interview with Michael Cunningham in the Illinois Library Association Reporter. I also submitted a couple book reviews: one on Caitlin Flanagan's Girl Land for Booklist and the other Alix and Nicky: The Passion of the Last Tsar and Tsarina for Library Journal. Don't think either of those have been published yet, or at least I haven't had time to check.

Also, there are the blog posts in our local online newspapers ( and TribLocal), book reviews and an interview on behalf of the library:  an interview with Michael Popek, author of Forgotten Bookmarks: A Bookseller's Collection of Odd Things Found Between the Pages; my thoughts on Hillary Jordan's latest When She Woke; and also Peter Ackroyd's latest London Under: The Secret History Beneath the Streets.


What am I reading now, you ask? I'll tell you!:

David Copperfield by Charles Dickens

Becoming Dickens: The Invention of a Novelist by Robert Douglas-Fairhurst

Plus my latest review book for, one I can't reveal just yet, mostly because it makes it sound mysterious and exotic. All I'm saying is: grim, short stories, southern. That narrows it down.


Soon to start:

Middlemarch by George Eliot

Bleak House by Charles Dickens

2012 being the 200th anniversary of Dickens's birth, I plan to read several other books by and about my favorite Victorian. One is Claire Tomalin's latest biography: Charles Dickens: A Life and the other possibly Michael Slater's Charles Dickens, about which I've heard only great things. I've missed Victorian literature. 2012 is my year to revisit a few old favorites and also give some new ones a try.



Also, I've been tremendously blessed by several publishers who answered my clarion call, sending me review books I requested, plus those who continue to send titles they'd like me to cover. Here are a few of those, received over the past week:




Special thanks to Coffee House Press and Yale University Press. Wow!

Loads of things bookish happening here, plus the inevitable pull into the holiday season. It's going to be a busy month.

George Eliot, Jane Austen and more

Books mentioned in this post:

Jane Austen – Emma

Fanny Burney – Cecilia

Fanny Burney – Evelina

George Eliot – Adam Bede [RR]

George Eliot – The Mill on the Floss

George Eliot – Middlemarch

George Eliot – Life and Letters (ed. by John Cross)

Elizabeth Gilbert – Eat, Pray, Love

Khaled Hosseini – The Kite Runner

Kathryn Hughes – George Eliot: The Last Victorian [RR]

Frances Mayes – A Year in the World [DNF]

Annie Proulx – The Shipping News [RR]

I’m so enjoying this recent foray into George Eliot’s Adam Bede. Reading it with an online group is adding even more enjoyment to the experience, as several of us have been fired up by all things GE since starting this read.  I’m nearly done now, and between you and me I’ll admit though I’ve read the book before I DON’T RECALL HOW IT ENDS…

I’m finding the character of Adam’s character even more fascinating than I did before.  He’s such  the quiet giant and that’s a fascinating character type to me. The concept of a man with great power but also great tenderness for a very ornamental young girl (Hetty Sorrel) is just such an interesting contrast. The dialect in this book is a bit irritating, but the plot is just wonderful.  It still isn’t my favorite Eliot.  That would be The Mill on the Floss, with Middlemarch trailing just slightly behind that (her masterpiece, I know, but I prefer the mill mostly for autobiographical elements). But I do enjoy Adam Bede, partly because the genius of Eliot is really budding in this earlier book.

Also still working on re-reading Austen’s Emma for the book group at the library.  I’ll be interested to hear reaction to this book, even more interested to see if I actually finish it in time for the meeting on Friday.  The good thing is I’ve not only read the book before but I’ve seen the various film adaptations many times.  The bad thing is I’ll feel a failure if I don’t finish!

Emma isn’t my favorite Austen but it is a charmer. I like Emma Woodhouse!  I know, not every reader does. I find her charming and goodhearted, if a bit foolish and even immature. She’s just been so sheltered by her domineering father and no doubt that’s colored her personality. When your father tells you all your life that you can do no wrong how can you NOT believe it?  Granted, Emma’s machinations are occasionally a real pain, and even do some degree of harm, but her heart is just so good.  I think I’d like her as a friend, flaws and all.  Perfect people are so boring, anyway.

I won’t be here for the library’s June read of The Kite Runner (would be a re-read for me, too), so I will have all that extra time if I don’t finish Emma by Friday. But I would like to get through this book so I can push on with other books, too.  It just FEELS better having finished, as though something’s been accomplished.

It’s your classic dilemma (no pun intended), understandable only to another fellow book lover.

Have just today retrieved my copy of Frances Mayes’ new book [A Year in the World: Journeys of a Passionate Traveler] from the library. It’s a travel book and should pair nicely in reviews with Elizabeth Gilbert’s Eat, Pray, Love. Did I mention I liked that book a lot??

Because I liked that book a lot.

Already mentioned I’m re-reading Kathryn Hughes’s George Eliot: The Last Victorian. Still at work on it. It’s a fantastic biography, in case you plan to read one, this would be it. It’s such a good book I have no problem reading it twice. Am also reading my 19th C copy of Eliot’s Life and Letters, edited by her husband Johnny Cross.  Hopefully I can manage to juggle both of these.

[2013: Spoiler alert: I didn’t finish Life and Letters. Not even close. It’s still sitting on my shelf glaring at me.]

[2015: Spoiler alert: I’ve forgotten I ever vowed to read this volume.]

The Proulx’s The Shipping News re-read is progressing nicely.  It’s also making me yearn for a visit to Newfoundland in the worst way. I’ve been to Nova Scotia, and it became a favorite spot for me, and now I’m eyeing Newfoundland. Quite a bit further than N.S., though.


[2013: Nope, still haven’t been to Newfoundland. Most likely never will.]

Am debating whether I’ll re-read Fanny Burney’s Cecilia with the 18thC discussion group.  I just recently read her Evelina, which was very good, but do I want to clog up my reading time with this weighty book?

[2013: Am pretty sure I didn’t re-read Cecilia. It’s a chunkster plus FB’s books are pretty much all the same: beautiful,  young woman comes into a fortune then gets courted by men wanting a piece of the money. There’s a good man and a bad man (well, in Evelina he’s just plain bad) and she must choose. Pretty much describes most 28th C literature.]

Terribly sleepy.  Need either a nap or caffeine transfusion!  I’m off to find a really strong cup of tea…