Guest Posts

Guest Post: Bookshop Movies

This is a “guest” post by my friend and fellow bookstore owner, Pamela Grath.  Her store is in Michigan, but her blog, Books in Northport, is linked from my Books Blog under “Blogs I Follow.”
Back in 1996, Pamela came to our site, and I had the pleasure of helping her join and learn the ropes.  She and I have never met, but obviously, we enjoy many of the same things – including our April Fools' Day birthdays! – and we have remained in contact over the years.

You will see when you go to her blog that Pamela is an enthusiast – about books, about animals, about nature, and about her part of the world – and her photographs are often so stunning that you want to get on a plane and go there immediately! For now, though, we’ll have to content ourselves with her blog.

But the best description of Pamela is the one she uses to describe herself on her blog:
Blogger, bookseller, philosopher, photographer, writer. Negligent but devoted gardener.  Good cook when inspired. No kind of housekeeper at all.
Here, without further ado, is Pamela’s post.  Enjoy!

Bookshop Movies 
Harold groaned when she told him to read everything again. He thought he’d be bored out of his mind, going back and reading the same books he’d already finished. He was stunned to find that the second time through they were different books. He noticed entirely different points and arguments. Sentences he had highlighted seemed utterly pointless now, whereas sentences he had earlier ignored seemed crucial. The marginalia he had written to himself now seemed embarrassingly simpleminded. Either he or the books had changed. 
– David Brooks, The Social Animal: The Hidden Sources of Love, Character and Achievement
I maintain that the same is true of movies, that you can never watch the "same" movie twice, an assertion that shocked the Philosophy and Film instructor whose teaching assistant I was one semester. In our house, David and I are re-watchers as well as re-readers. The other evening we re-watched a wonderfully witty Hugh Grant and Julia Roberts movie, “Notting Hill.” The number of great almost-throwaway lines in the script had us hooting aloud. 

The bookstore [someone's big chance: the real bookstore is now for sale] doesn’t play a huge role in “Notting Hill,” but naturally it’s part of the attraction of the movie for a bookseller, and that got me to thinking about other films with bookstore settings. The one that leaps to mind first is the obvious, the popular “You’ve Got Mail.” With Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan, who can resist? And the movie has a happy ending, too, with the out-of-business bookstore owner turning children’s book author--probably not the fate of many bookstore proprietors who have gone out of business. Please note that “The Shop Around the Corner,” starring Jimmy Stewart, the film that inspired “You’ve Got Mail,” was set in a leather goods store, not a bookstore. Whole different kettle of fish, from a bookseller’s perspective. How's the market for leather goods these days?

The movie version of “84 Charing Cross,” definitely a bookshop story, was nowhere near as good as the book, but I’m sure it’s hard to make a movie out of years of mail correspondence, with no face-to-face encounters and no action, nothing but the requesting and receiving of books mailed across the Atlantic. Perhaps it ought not to have been attempted. 

The Amy Irving character in “Crossing Delancy” works in a bookstore, and, as the organizer of author events, she enjoys the touch of literary glamour on the fringes of her job. The focus of the movie, however, is her search for Mr. Right; as in “Notting Hill,” the bookstore in “Crossing Delancy” is not the main setting of the movie. On the other hand, it’s more than just a brief scene.... Scene? Seen? (Synapses fire, and the mind leaps.) Have you seen “The Answer Man” with Jeff Daniels? Now there’s a film that covers all the bases, from a writer’s life and secrets and his agent’s agonies through the vicissitudes of publishing to the struggles of retail bookselling. I found it riveting and hilarious. 

Poking around, I have come up with a couple of movies I never heard of before featuring bookstore themes. Anyone know anything about “The Bookstore” or “Heaven’s Bookstore”? Both are foreign films, the latter Japanese, neither listed on Netflix. I’ve added “The Love Letter” and “Read You Like a Book” to my queue. Will I be disappointed? 

Here’s what’s really on my mind: What I'm dying to see are film versions of Christopher Morley’s two classic novels about the bookselling life, Parnassus on Wheels and The Haunted Bookshop. “Could they be updated to a modern setting?” David asked. No, no, a thousand times no! They are period pieces! They are, as I said, classics, iconic works for American booksellers, especially those of us who sell used books and grew up on the Morley dreams. Roger Mifflin must drive the countryside from farm to farm in his horse-drawn gypsy-style wagon in the first story, and the second absolutely must be set in the World War I era. Anything else would be heresy. Please, someone make these movies--but for God’s sake don’t screw them up! 

The Philco-Goodyear Television Playhouse, which ran from 1948 to 1955, apparently presented "Parnassus on Wheels" in 1951. I wonder if it was any good. Why has no one since produced film versions of these stories of the eccentric bookseller from Brooklyn? As printed books become objects of nostalgia, surely the time is ripe, and America is ready, for a movie that would dwell lovingly on this important part of our cultural heritage? 

Postscript: If you don't know Christopher Morley, introduce him to yourself with this short essay on the thrill of visiting bookshops with an explorer's attitude of discovery, and you'll see why we booksellers with open shops continue to adore this writer as the world whirls by our doors.

Guest Post: Reading "Rules"

Everywhere one looks, it seems that bookstores are closing or becoming cafés, or that they are selling things other than books:  book things, but not books themselves.    There is a constant lament from booksellers, publishers, writers and the media about the death of the book, the end of reading.  These lamenters tell us we prefer video and film and interactive games and books on tape to actually reading silently to ourselves.

Most recently, this sentiment was expressed on the cover of the NEW YORKER – one of several they’ve published over the years heralding the end of book selling, book reading, and book buying as we know it.  (Not funny!)


But if you were to spend a little time “surfing” the web, you would be forgiven for thinking that the naysayers are not paying sufficient attention.  There are thousands of books sites on the web.  Practically anyone who reads puts up a blog about their book likes and dislikes; there are book review sites in which books are reviewed by committee; there are book discussion sites; book club sites; book seller sites; book author sites; “modern” book sites; “classic” book sites; science-fiction book sites; mystery book sites; chick-lit book sites; book-a-day sites; library sites; and even book sites which review other book sites!

It is daunting.

I said in my very first post, What I'm Planning, More or Less..., that I am a very slow reader, and that I couldn’t possibly read all that there is to read, let alone all that I want to read!  Even dipping into these book sites takes more time than I can comfortably manage!

But help has come my way….

Since 1985, Judy Pollock – a close friend of mine for more years than I care to mention! – has been president of Language at Work,  a communication skills training company.  Judy has been a reading teacher, a professional actor, and a public speaker; and she has designed many courses that help others communicate more easily and confidently.  Her clients range from private individuals to businesses and government agencies.

But Judy has had a “hands-off” policy when it came to her friends, and it is only since I began this blog and have been whining to her about my slow reading that she has finally come to my rescue.  While I can’t say that I am now a speed-reader, I can say that I read much faster than I had only a few months ago.

I am posting here one of the things she sent me that was helpful; I hope it helps those other slow readers out there, as well as those who want to supplement their reading skills.  If you have questions about this post or other communication concerns, you can email Judy directly; or check out her web blog to see what else she has to offer.

Happy reading!
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Reading “Rules”

Reading is wonderful, but not for everyone. What I frequently hear is, “How I can get through all the things there are to read?  I’m such a slow reader.”  Or worse: “I don’t have time to read fiction.” 

Slow readers can learn to read faster, and all readers can improve their skills. Contrary to what we’d like to think, efficient reading requires some work, and most of the strategies are appropriate for non-fiction.  But, if you can step up your non-fiction speed, you’ll have more time for luxuriating in your fiction!

Here are some things to try:
1.  Silence the voice that says you have to finish reading anything you start.  I give books 100 pages to convince me.  If you’re slogging through books you don’t like, no wonder you don’t have time to read anything else.  And how can you be excited about starting a new book if it means a mandatory sentence of 300+ pages! 
2.  Don’t think you have to read every article in the magazine.   Look for articles that you might want to read.  Tear them out; throw the rest of the magazine away.

3.  Don’t read every article in the same way.  Some will yield their treasures to you with a quick skim.

4.  Identify your reading places: watching TV, in bed, by the phone, in the kitchen.  Here is where you should stash potential reading material. 
Match the material to the place: some things you will skim quickly; some you want to read carefully; some you just need to review; some you want to curl up and read for enjoyment; some you have to work at.  

Now you have a stack of quickies by the phone to whip through while you’re on hold.  You have magazines for previewing in your TV watching chair. Your current book is by your bed, and the latest gobbledy-gook about your health insurance is on your desk where you will presumably be clear-headed and sitting up straight.
5. Preview everything you can.  Look at the title, subheadings, captions, side-bars, table of contents, index.  Many of us begin reading by starting at the first word and plodding along until we either forget what we’re reading or get to the end.  If you take the time to preview your document, you will actually SAVE time because: 
You may decide not to read it; 
If you do decide to read it, the previewing will make the reading easier, and your comprehension and retention will be greater.
6.  Try skimming as an alternative to a thorough reading:
Read the first few paragraphs.  Often the first paragraph or two will contain a little story meant to whet your appetite; skip quickly thru the little story.

Read the last few paragraphs if they’re short; just the last one, if not.

Read the first sentence of each paragraph. And maybe the last sentence.
While your eyes are skimming down the page, be alert to any Stand Out words.  These are words that relate to the subject.  They can give you clues about the general idea, or even specifics.
 7.  While you’re reading, pay attention to the structure.   To untangle long sentences, look for Agent, Action, and, if offered, Object.  Who did what to what?  Try this sentence:
The tired farmer, although a mainstay of the economy, a model of persistence and tenacity, and a symbol of hope to those who espouse a simpler lifestyle, today, in spite of his dogged efforts, faces some difficult choices.
Many a valiant reader would be tired herself about halfway through this thicket.  If you see a hard road ahead, latch onto the agent. In this sentence that would be the farmer.  Now skim across the word weeds until you spot a nice action for him:  Aha! “faces”….and, helpfully right next to it, the object.  
This seeking of the Agent, Action, Object activity will help power you through long passages, and if you feel later that you missed something, it won’t be hard to go back and find the missing pieces.

8.  Look for key words that direct the traffic for you.  Read along in whatever direction you and the writer are going, but look out for signal changes. Words such as but, however, finally, therefore, also, indicate a change in direction.  When you get better at this you can mutter little summaries to yourself as you go – great for comprehension and retention.

9.  The speed-obsessed usually want to know how they can increase reading time.  One drill is to practice on easy material, reading at your normal pace for 2-3 minutes, then at a reallyfastpace for 2-3 minutes.  Repeat for a while. Eventually your reallyfastpace becomes your normal pace.

10.  Finally, when you finish reading, recite a review of what you read.  The first few times you try this you might be horrified to realize that you are not able to summarize your reading, or even – gasp! – to say what the main idea was.  Carry on.  With practice, you’ll get better.  With more practice, this will become automatic (well, easier).  And – not surprisingly, your comprehension and retention will improve because you’ll be in the habit of reading for that little test.
Above all, reading should be fun.  If you employ improvement strategies in your non-fiction reading, you should be able to gain some fiction-reading time.  

And that rules!