Thursday 18 February 2010

The Sarazens head without New-gate: in which Bookphilia is revealed to be the first and only known victim of a not entirely unsexy new malady

Nothing so glam as being a vampire in the first years of the 21st century
I have finished Romola but need some time to gather my thoughts as well as to muster up the energy to do those scattered thoughts justice; I will blog on the third and final volume of Eliot's, I think, least known novel in a few days. In the meantime, a revelation for you: being a book-seller can be bad for your health, and I don't mean because of the paper cuts, allergies, and bad-smelling people, although these are regular problems.

No, friends, as the result of my first year and change as a full-time bookseller I have turned, not into something so glam or sexy as either a vampire or a succubus; I have just become your garden variety Canadian with "dangerously" low levels of vitamin D. I don't feel or look nearly so bad as a poor Rickets baby from 19th-century London, but I don't look or feel good.

I look and feel like someone who hasn't really seen the sun since the summer of 2008 because...I haven't. Since taking over the shop, I can count on one hand the days I've been outside between the hours of 11 and 9 for more than 5 minutes at a time. Two of those days occurred last summer when I went to my friends' cottage in northern-ish Ontario. Two more occurred in September at a food fair. And another occurred back in the Fall when hubby and I spent the day cycling in and around High Park. Other than that, I can't think of any. I never thought I could get outside less than I did as a grad student, but the fact is, I could then go outside whenever I felt like it. And apparently I felt like it at the right times.

I've felt off for, well, forever, but if forever begins in grad school then perhaps it's not surprising that a year of not being in grad school passed before I noticed that not only was I still really tired all the time, but more so than before! And in the morning I feel like a 78-year old man with arthritis and feet that have been broken 15 times each. So, it got looked into and lo and behold I have what will henceforth be known as "The Disease Which Afflicts Super-Sexy, Not to Mention Super-Smart and Incredibly Funny, Canadian Booksellers". Which, thankfully, is entirely fixable with supplements and fortified drinks of your choice.

But yes, I need to go outside more. A lot more. And with fewer clothes on.

Good timing
Before I found out that I am Ricket-y, hubby and I decided that we needed to hire a part-timer to do weekends for us. We've been working weekends ourselves but haven't been finding enough time to deal with other aspects of our lives (like our 5 cats and 2 bunnies, the latter of which especially, are bloody shit loads of work! Literal shit loads. Not often in their litter box. Sigh.)

So, we've had a sign up in the store, outside the store, and on our website for over a week now and have gotten resumes from a few good prospects. But it's striking how people who apparently love books and want to work in a bookstore don't read. The sign says "Hiring" and then provides a short list of the things I want in an application: resume, cover letter, list of favourite books. More than half of the resumes I've received haven't included the latter two requested items. I just wonder - when these people read the part that says "Hiring" why do they ignore what's directly underneath it? Needless to say, perhaps, but such applicants don't get interviewed by me.

As for the list of books, I ask for this for two reasons, one personal and one professional. Personally, I'm always looking for ideas and this is a sneaky, lazy way of getting some. Professionally, it's shockingly easy to tell who is actually a reader and who is just listing the stuff they had to read for their first-year English class. The latter always list the usual suspects: Austen, Dickens, Milton, Shakespeare, etc.

It's not that "real" readers wouldn't list some or all of these authors, but it's never all that they list. The kind of committed readers I'm looking for might well list a whole bucket-load of classics, but they'll also include things that are just way out there - like du Maurier's Trilby or Zola's least known work (i.e., not Germinal) or Hoffmann's The Life and Opinions of the Tomcat Murr or Mishima's The Sound of Waves or R. Murakami's Coin Locker Babies. You know, the kind of "out there" books that'll make you quietly exclaim "Oh!" and raise your eyebrows because you're impressed and maybe a little intimidated. By "you" I mean "me", of course.

So, soon, I will hopefully no longer be working for the weekend.

It's the most nail-biting time of the year
February is a shitty time for book-selling; in fact, it's the very worst month of the year. You'd think January would be ultra-terrible but in fact, it's a very good month for us; in January, besides the kids buying textbooks, it is my belief that everyone's buying themselves the books they wanted but didn't get for Festivus.

By March, people are almost feeling normal again, and hopeful about reading on outdoor patios because Spring doesn't seem like such a cruel joke at that point. But in February, people have no books to buy for school or belated Festivus gifties for self, but they may still be feeling the financial pinch of the holidays. Also, February, not April, is the cruelest month for it's then that we look in the mirror and see a pale, tired shadow of ourselves looking back and don't want to go out to the bookstore, but also when we notice that we've got a bunch of books already we really should read. By "we" I mean "we" who live in the northern hemisphere, which according to the Google Analytics which I recently re-installed, is where the majority of Bookphilia's readers reside. (Hi!)

Good news for book-sellers and book-readers in Toronto
In sharp contrast to the news that seems to come almost monthly about indie bookstores shutting down, a new indie bookstore will be opening up here in March. I don't have more details for you at this point but I will provide as they come along. Opening an entirely new store in a city that pays lip service to indie booksellers but isn't as good as it should be at actually supporting them takes real chutzpah. To the new booksellers I say: Keep on rocking in the free world! KEEP ON ROCKING IN THE FREE WORLD!


Unknown said...

Ah, February. Burning sun all day,(almost) every day.

Of course, being English, I avoid it as much as possible :)

By the way, I think you meant the other Murakami for 'Coin Locker Babies', not Mishima ;)

raych said...

This is only quasi-related. Ok so, Joel's class had just finished their dermatology block (sidebar: I am pretty pale and very freckly and, while I can dye the red out of my hair, I cannot dye the redhead out of my skin) and Joel comes home one day with a bottle of Vitamin D and hands it to me all, Here, start taking these because you are never going in the sun again.

Sun! How can you be both so good and so bad for me?

Bookphilia said...

Tony: D'oh - thanks for pointing out my mistake. It's fixed.

I don't really burn but I suspect I would burn in Australia. Eeek.

raych: The sun is like a boyfriend I had once, in its simultaneous badness and goodness...

No seriously, I don't envy the redhead thing. My dad is a redhead and he once got tiny sunburn dots on his head because he wore a straw hat outside and the sun made it through its minuscule gaps between strands...Yeesh.

I am not pale. Well, not usually. I think my relationship with the sun should be less complicated than yours as I am a brown-haired, brown-eyed, beige-ish person...but somehow it's not anymore. Sigh.

Unknown said...

Glad to help :) I suspect if I was applying to work in your shop, the choice of books on my list would take more time than the CV and covering letter put together (compiling lists is a serious business - as Nick Hornby showed in High Fidelity...).

Heidenkind said...

Dear Colleen:

Hello, I am applying for the position of part-time sales associate at your independent bookstore. Although I love books, the only retail experience I have is the one week I worked at Dillard's before I quit. Actually, I only lasted a day; the rest the week was training. I do make sure to spend time in the sunlight, however, despite my lack of a tan. And I can balance a cash drawer fairly easily.

My last three jobs were: boat inspector, adjunct instructor at a university, and a research assistant for an art exhibit in a major museum (my full 5-page CV is available upon request). I have a useless master's degree in art history, a doubly useless BA in art with a minor in French, and an AAS degree in business management (! I know, that was a weird period in my life). I'm also somewhat proficient at German and Spanish, and working on my Italian. Plus I have several academic publications, copies available upon request or even an expression of vague interest (e.g., Oh really?).

My five favorite books are very hard to choose. I would say:
-Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte
-The Age of Innocence by Edith Wharton
-The Queen of Attolia by Meghan Whalen Turner
-The Ivy Tree by Mary Stewart
-Archangel by Sharon Shinn

List subject to moody edits at any time.

Celine said...

Dear Rickety Sunless Bookseller. I'd love to work in your bookshop, I'm really great with people, I could organise the hairs on your head, I'm honest and straightforward and very very obliging - however I'm afraid to talk to you because you think I should have read all sorts of shizz that I ain't never heard of.

WAH - could have been a match made in heaven. I could have taken over while you went on two week holidays in the sun, you could have broadened my literary horizons.


willing to work for minimum wage.

Bookphilia said...

heidenkind: You speak a number of languages and know stuff about art - you're hired!

Celine: If you're afraid to talk to people, it won't work out no matter what you have or have not read. See previous posts of Sarazens head for people here you should really be afraid of talking to about books.

Celine said...

dear sunless,

It's ok. I got me a job at Ikea.
They let me sleep on the beds and use the desks in my spare time.


with dental plan

J.G. said...

Gosh, my comment is ultra-boring compared with the wit on display above. Neverthess, I soldier on.

I used to feel about 3 times my age until a friend recommended that apple cider vinegar and honey tonic drink. She swore by it, and now I do, too. When I sit crosslegged, my knees don't freeze up anymore. That alone makes it worthwhile, at least for me.

Stefanie said...

Poor Colleen! Rickets! I know that tired, sad, pale face in the mirror quite well. I've had one for most of February. I know spring is on the way which makes this month so much harder as the temperature flirts with going above freezing. Hang in there!