A Tale of Second-Hand Book Shops

I went back to the homeland a couple weeks ago, and tore through some reading material. Vacation, to me, is lazing around reading in my parents' backyard, and yes, that's just about perfect. Perfect, other than the day I left here (32°C), and landed there (2°C and snow). Anyway, here's the lowdown from my trip to Cowtown.

Nobody Passes: Rejecting the Rules of Gender and Conformity, came with a recommendation from Busy Hands. Normally anthologies are a bit tough to get through, since the quality of writing varies widely. However, I loved this one, from start to finish. Nobody Passes should be the primer of third-wave thought. Nowhere else have I found such amazing examples of how sex, gender, race, class, ability, and a whole host of other markers of "otherness" all play a role in defining the experience of each person's life. Not one essay in Nobody Passes repeats a feeling, an experience, or viewpoint, from any other essay. Every piece is fresh, individual, and ultimately educational. Even the ones I identified with gave me new ideas. Cheers to the editor, Mattilda, for a job extremely well done. An early version of the introduction is up on hir site, if you're curious.

I hit my second favourite used bookstore while I was out and about (my favourite having been closed down and turned into a tanning salon, or some other nonsense. And the people at Bookninja are trying to tell me that Calgary's not the evil yuppie nonsense scene that I know it to be. Puh-leeze). While there I picked up a random Anne Tyler book, having remembered another Femjay recommendation. I was not pleased. Ladder of Years is predictable in the extreme, and reads a bit like the romance novels the main character is addicted to... without the romance. Requisite happy ending, after specious empowerment journey. Hey, I'm down with low-lit, and "beach reads" and all that, but this one was just meh. Since I was not pleased, you don't get a picture for this one.

On my last day, needing something for the plane, I popped into the only remaining used book store in Kensington, and grabbed Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil. I've been intrigued by this book for a long time, but never managed to pick it up. I do like a good Southern Gothic, and this had all the elements. Often non-fiction reads a bit too much like a dry newspaper article. Midnight reads like literary fiction, and that's a high compliment coming from me. I got home to the shock high humidity, and a book about Savannah was an excellent accompaniment. Now I want to see the film. I think it's important for you to know that I never see movies. Can't be bothered. So actually wanting to seek one out is pretty rare.

I've had 1984 on my bookshelf for years now, and never got around to reading it. Being without any new reading material, I finally cracked it open. Good timing, as The Guardian just did a little article on it being voted as "the definitive book of the 20th century" by its readers. I have this crazy idea to read some Joyce next (filling up all those "classics" I never did in high-school or Uni). I'm just not sure I really want to tackle something like Ulysses with my head being so scattered. Though it may make for good distraction. I'll likely buy a used copy, hopefully with someone else's notes in it, and see where that takes me. One of the things I have always loved about used books, is the anonymous thoughts you sometimes find in the margins. I always get out my pencil and respond.


mattilda a.k.a. matt bernstein sycamore said...

Well, I just happened to do a technorati search at the right moment, thanks for the lovely compliments on Nobody Passes! And for discovering an earlier version of the introduction in my archived Maximumrocknroll columns (at first I thought: wait, is the introduction really up on my site? but I see -- in some ways it is).

In any case, I couldn't ask for a more glamorous assessment than: "Nobody Passes should be the primer of third-wave thought. "

Thank you thank you thank you -- and keep in touch!

Love --

Panic said...

My gosh, mattilda, how amazing to hear from you!
I did think "Hmmm I remember the intro being longer." Heh. I'll edit the post to reflect that it's an early version. It came up pretty early when I did a google search for "Nobody Passes."
Thanks for the great work!!

Cameron said...

yay second-hand books

gifted typist said...

Well, what a pleasant find, this blog. Saw you on RTK and took a chance. Could say tonnes, but eyes are falling off face at the mo, so I'll leave it at that for now. But I look forward to coming back.

gifted typist said...

Second hand bookstores. I could spend my entire holiday in those places. Their beauty lies in the fact that there is no marketing pressure. They are just books now, on shelves or in bins, from now and back then, authors you've sometimes never heard of, just waiting to be picked up and discovered or flipped through. I keep only those books that are really important to me - the rest I return to second hand stores to keep them in circulation. Most of my "books kept" are from second hand stores.

People say "1984" because they know it, but Brave New World would be a better pick for definitive 20th century fiction...

Panic said...

A good deal of my collection is 2nd hand too. And I love that you find these weird old/foreign editions in used bookstores too. Makes the shelves more interesting to look at.

See, we did Brave New World in high school, so the very thought of it makes me shudder (and they made us watch some odd movie adaptation that had John Candy in foil... come to think of it, that's where the shuddering may come from). I'm coming to Orwell untainted by cookie-cutter educational models. Interesting though, that your also pick is also dystopic.

Panic said...

Your also pick?
Hi, I've been at Book Expo all day, and my brain is not so worky!