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.
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!