Sunday, September 9, 2007

Sympathy for Authors and Independent Bookstores

It's a hard world out there, Charlie Brown, and then you get recycled. Here is something every critic should read, kindly provided to me by cousin Leo in NY, and published in the NY Times Review of Books:

No Thanks, Mr. Nabokov

Published: September 9, 2007

A trove of rejection files from Alfred A. Knopf Inc. includes dismissive
verdicts on the likes of Jorge Luis Borges (“utterly untranslatable”) and Sylvia
Plath (“There certainly isn’t enough genuine talent for us to take notice”).

Lest we forget (or lest I forget, anyway), it is easy to criticize and hard to create. I've only had one* small piece published that wasn't a purely technical article on science, and that was a science editorial (called DNA enzymes: New-found chemical reactivity). Note that a Google link points only to a mediocre HTML version pulled from Current Biology; normal searches will find the article if your institution (typically a Research University, Medical School, etc.) has a subscription to the journal. The article was a short review coupled with opinion, and was largely in my comfort zone, though it wasn't easy to write. The editor helped a lot, as did the poet Doreen Salli, Director of the Writing Center at Washington University in St. Louis (a University where I once worked).

This blog is giving me an outlet to write for myself and self-publish, but today, about a week after Labor Day in the USA, I offer thanks to all those who keep the printed work alive as a profession. Those people include writers, editors, typesetters, publishers, and of course independent bookstore owners and employees.

I have to admit to using local independent bookstores less and less in recent years, but things were different for me not too long ago, when I spent way too much (time and money) in them. I seem to live on the computer, and you know what that means! Also, the day seems to have shrunk, shutting out many pleasures like browsing in a bookstore, but I spent a bit of time in the used bookstore today (Booksmarts) and thoroughly enjoyed myself. I also didn't buy anything, an important triumph of will for an acquisitive person whose house is overflowing with books. My resolution is to read up my stock, send the best books to family members, donate the other books where they might be of use, and hope nobody sends any of them back! While keeping a core library intact, of course!

I am in my smallish house, for the long haul, which doesn't suit all of my personality traits. However, I'm starting to get to the books I bought because I felt I should read them, which is going well so far, but will I be able to stay the course? Or at least stick to the that plus the public library? Can Nick Hornby be my guide (given that The Moon and St. Christopher are taken)?

Can any readers answer these questions from above?

From time to time, I'll post links to a few independent stores that I know personally. In St. Louis, Missouri, USA, the now-departed Library Ltd. and Paul's Books (we miss you) and the active Left Bank Books (LBB) were/are the places to go for choices that weren't made by computers and accountants, but by people who love books. Luckily, we still have LBB!!! You can support them at the Friends of Left Bank Books Literary Society, or of course by visiting!

*Well, how could I forget! I also published an article on my community track & field team, the UCity (University City) Xplosion, and our invitational track meet in Missouri Runner & Triathlete in perhaps 2005. The editor was kind enough to venture out in 100 degree F weather to take photos of the event.

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