“Selling books on the web wasn’t why she opened a book store.” –January 19, 2003

The good news is that one less of a precious endangered
species, Avenue Victor Hugo bookstore, is not going the way of the
dodo. The Johnson Paint Store, a little further up the avenue (Newbury
Street), another neighborhood institution, will be renting out its
commodious second floor to Vince McCaffrey, thereby providing life
support to a valued destination in the peregrinations of local readers
and book worshippers. The bad news—ah, the ying and the yang
of it—Jody Malone’s House of Sara over in Cambridge’s
Inman Square shutters permanently on Valentine's Day. Jody explained
that she just wasn’t into running a bookstore in which she
would get Internet orders from Beacon Hill. In other words, selling
books on the web wasn’t why she opened a book store. So it
goes…

John
Dufresne
recently alerted me to the newest edition
of Gulfstream!ng,
the literary magazine he co-edits at Florida International University.
The Fall/Winter issue contains a short story by Boston homey Steve
Almond and an interview with another Boston homey Dennis Lehane—who
has yet another novel due out this spring—and some writing
on writing by John and poems by editor/novelist/poet Jill
Bialosky
. I must say it’s a pleasure to get off
the beaten track.

I recently sent out an e-missive with the following
postscript:

Am I dreaming or did I really read that the Secretary
of Defense observed that the fact that we couldn't find any evidence
of weapons in Iraq was evidence that the weapons had been hidden?

I received this answer from Julio:

Great, Robert!

You Americans should try to stop this military
threat. We, non-Americans, Europeans or else (sic), can do very
little, or nothing. Maybe you can do something. But you should
know that the rejection for this "preventive war" (Herodes
style) here in Europe is almost unanimous. Bye, Julio Monteiro
Martins

Don Julio is a correspondent of my recent acquaintance.
He was born in Brazil and spent some time at Iowa City in the International
Writing Program and teaching at Goddard College. He is currently
living and teaching in Tuscany at the writing school he founded.
I suppose this serves as his credo (and evidence that the maestro
can write a cogent long sentence):

"The world needs stories. This need has never
been so strong as today, especially because, in an era of enormous
changes, some of which may be considered achievements, while of
others we merely suffer the consequences, our stories must be
able to tell of those things we no longer want, and if possible
define those which we do want for our children, in an acceptable
hypothesis of the future."

Julio Monteiro Martins is also the editor of what
appears (as I have no Italian, I can only go by the table of contents)
to be a nifty literary journal, Saragana.
In fact, Julio was kind enough to alert me to the publication of
the newest issue, #10.

As I received my new friend Julio’s anti-war
message, the war drums were sounding loudly. And I am sensing the
hoof beats of the other Horsemen of the Apocalypse: KRONOS, CASPIAN
and METHOS. In preparation for these dark days, I did read Bob Woodward’s
flight of fancy Bush at War. Now comes the anomalous David
Frum (how else to see a Canadian Jew and speechwriter in the Bush
2.0 White House) with his insider view, The Right Man: The Surprise
Presidency of George W. Bush
(did no one sense any irony in
the sub-title?) and Texanian Michel Lind with his insider-outsider
view, Made in Texas: George W. Bush and the Southern Takeover
of American Politics
. This unexpected new required reading
may put a dent into the progress I am making on my own memoir, Rat
in the Cathedral
, but then any excuse will do.

Checking around the literary press (there must be
a more accurate designation) I am frightened by the fact that I
seem to be reading the correct books:

Samaritan by Richard Price
Dancer by Colum McCann
I Should Be Extremely Happy To Be in Your Company by Brian
Hall
Memory of War by Fred Busch
A Box of Matches by Nicholson Baker
Drop City by TC Boyle

On the other hand, It would seem that all the nice
publicity people are doing their jobs well, not to mention that
these books have been well worth reading. The damn trouble is that
this required reading makes it harder to get to some enchanting
looking books like:

The Hazards of Good Breeding by Jessica
Shatuck
The Coffee Trader by David Liss
When The Messenger is Hot by Elizabeth Crane
The Commissariat of Enlightenment by Ken Kalfus
The Good Patient by Kristin Waterfield Duisberg
Yoga for People Who Can’t Be Bothered to Do It by
Geoff Dyer
Next American Essay edited by John D’ Agata

And it may delay my annual rereading of either A
Hundred Years of Solitude
or Love In Time of Cholera.
Maybe.

richard price

Richard Price
© Robert Birnbaum 2003

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