Maple Street Summer Reading Contest 2012 Wednesday, May 30 2012 

Summer is here! It’s time for swimming, sunscreen, sno-balls, and books, books, books! Whether you’re reading by the pool, on the porch, or even on vacation, we want you to share with us your progress. Starting June 1st and continuing through August 11th, we’d like you to keep track of the books you’ve read (or that you’ve been read if you are not yet reading on your own) by filling out a book review form, which you can print from home or pick up at any of our locations. Along with your book review form, you’ll receive a Maple Street Summer Reading card. For every book you read and for which you complete the brief book review, we’ll stamp your reading card. Please turn in your stamped Maple Street Reading Card to us by August 11th (by the end of the business day). Prizes will be awarded to readers for participation in our program, as well as to the reader from each grade-category (listed below) who reads the most books. Prizes include Maple Street swag, as well as gift cards to local businesses like Plum Street Sno-Balls, Prytania Movie Theater, and of course, to our store, Maple Street Book Shop.

We ask that participants be between the ages of 3 and 18 and/or fit into one of the grade categories listed below:


  • Pre-K/Kindergarten
  • Grades 1-3
  • Grades 4-6
  • Grades 7-9
  • Grades 10-12

What We Have Tuesday, May 29 2012 

On a few occasions  per week my work is peppered with a certain odd interruption.  I will be squinting at a faded ISBN, or trying to remove the ugly residue that Borders’ stickers leave on a used book, when someone approaches the counter, holds up an object that is shrink wrapped to prevent further inspection and clearly not a book asking me, “What’s this?” Each time this happens I shift my focus to I see what it is and I find myself explaining, it’s a pack of note cards printed with funny Freudian references on them, or it’s a notebook designed to look like a used copy of The Big Sleep that costs about eleven dollars more than an actual used copy of The Big Sleep, or it’s a packet of English Breakfast tea with an appropriate English author’s witticism garnishing the packaging, or… and so on. The the reaction to the explanation comes, anywhere from “oh…” to “OH!” and no matter the level of enthusiasm for the product itself, I always so suddenly find myself transported to some of the stranger territory many booksellers traverse today in which we wonder, “What the hell is all this crap that I am surrounded by?!”

The independent bookstore has long been a venue for odd accoutrements. The French Quarter’s Crescent City Books‘ eclectic array of prints is a fine example. On our shelves, the handmade post and greeting cards by (our very own) Sara White and Lee Kyle similarly occupy this realm. These offerings though, are small objects vying little for attention and require nothing in the way of explanation, fairly bookish in themselves. However the aforementioned goods, like the goods depicted in the (Dan Clowes) New Yorker cover above,  juxtapose these. Despite any bibliophilac product design, stamped on literary references, the loud proclamation these accessories attest of the owner, “I READ,” come somewhat castrated. There is a disconnect between these items and the quite personal service that the actual act of reading facilitates.

Now I’m not saying that there’s anything wrong with Virginia Woolf’s face on a t-shirt, a grip of stickers promoting a love of literacy, or a notebook made as like passport hailing from More’s Utopia. At least not per se. What I am saying is that the flash-bang of these fun items are of a different sort. They’re new in the grand scheme, and to the curmudgeonly bookseller (who, me?), already contending with corporate conglomerates, web stores, and ebooks infringing on the field, they represent a high water mark. Their arrival into the store, though a profitable necessity, alters the landscape of a shop in which was once a destination to consume information, into a place in which one merely consumes. So the question begs, loudly in this year 2012, how long till the modern bookstore cease to store books??

I suppose that’s up to all of us.

Meanwhile Maple Street Used & Rare still carries holographic bookmarks depicting wiggly animal babies. They’re on display somewhere between the Proust and the titles on theater analysis. A gap poetically bridged!

Descanse en Paz Wednesday, May 16 2012 

I hate to follow memorandum with memorandum, but after nodding to Sendak’s recent passing I feel compelled to offer the same toward yesterday’s death of renowned Mexican author, Carlos Fuentes. I haven’t personally read any of his novels, but hailing from a border state with a Mexican population of serious import as I do, it seemed inappropriate of me to forgo an honorable mention altogether. I am still aware that his work has been recommended to me a number of times, and so, May being National Short Story month, I’ve decided to clear my nightstand of the two other books I’d recently begun exploring (almost coincidentally also short stories, The Collected Writings of Joe Brainard and Nesco’s Amsterdam Stories, but more on those another time) and pull a used copy of Fuentes’ Constancia and Other Stories for Virgins. I have a good feeling about it.

Descanse en paz Señor Fuentes.

Read his obit via the LA Times, here.

Hope You Are Good Where You Are Tuesday, May 8 2012 

Goodbye Maurice. And thanks.
June 10, 1928 – May 8, 2012

Romanticizing Alphabetizing Sunday, May 6 2012 

The used bookstore by nature is  doomed to a certain clutter. I’m not specifically referring to OUR used bookstore, though the clutter held with in the confines of the Maple Street’s Used & Rare Shop’s walls is undeniable clutter indeed, but all used bookstores in a certain capacity. Long standing used bookshops become practically archeological in their volumes, and for the curators of these businesses a dizzying sort maintenance takes place. The task is to set a balance between Borgesian fantasia and just plain and simple form and function. You’ll never find the works of Erich Fromm if the psychology section isn’t properly put aside in some semblance of order, yes? Well, I took a couple of hours to do just that today. So to extend the previous metaphor, I found a couple of treasures in the labyrinth as it were (and some Fromm too).

How freakin’ good is this cover for a book on narcissism?? If I were playing a game of Pictionary, a weird one perhaps, in which I am asked to illustrate self obsession personified, I’m not sure I could ever pick out an image this excellent. I don’t know if it’s the face or the lute or the absurd garb that does it for me, but this is self centered wacko incarnate to me. No doubt. I love it.

When I pulled this out I seriously thought Roland Topor had done the cover for a second. I mean, it looks like it right? I looked into it though, and it doesn’t seem to me that he or Szasz had any affiliation. Aw well, it’s an epic bit of design nonetheless. In fact it reminds me to ask, anybody got a used copy of The Tenant they want to sell to the shop? I neglected to pick up a copy when it was re-pressed a few years back and it looks like I’ll forever regret it! I returned the copy of Fantastic Planet I’d rented from the downtown public library on time the other day. Does that do anything for me karmically? Respect for a free service? I guess I’m probably on neutral ground, huh? Maybe next round I’ll find a book full of ideas on how to analyze that.

Rockwellian vs Orwellian Tuesday, May 1 2012 

If I could I’d take the Rockwellian vision I mentioned in the last post over the Orwellian reality we face just about any day. Hats off for the moment, to the authors, publishers, and booksellers of the world still surviving in these strange times, and hats off to their importance on a global, socioeconomic level. It’s a big deal. Something I need to remind myself to stop and appreciate more than just once a year.

Happy May Day, all. Hope you had the day off.

Dog Mummy Monday, Apr 30 2012 

This quote, which I’m mostly certain was coined by Norman Rockwell, “If your image does not work, put a dog in it. If it still does not work, put a bandage on the dog.” has been tumbling around my head for the last week or so. It’s a fun one to mull about in a certain way. On its surface level it is purely advice on how to create a successful image. Everyone loves a good doggy of course, but if that good doggy doesn’t prove to be enough then a poor hard luck story doggy on path to a speedy recovery will surely tug the heartstrings proper. True? And if so is it disingenuous sentiment? Is the translation something like- give the fools a crowd pleaser, sell based on their where their obvious sympathies will lie and be gone with stuffed pockets? Hmm.

These musings stem from a departure from the shop. Longtime (more than just an) employee Mary Allen recently made her leave of the store, off to Ohio to pursue library science work,  and in her wake she’s left us with a number of  oversized and very well kept after Rockwell illustration retrospectives.  Upon setting them in my hands for trade last week she made a comment that amused me, that as a young girl she’d always thought Rockwell’s work to be satirical, a lampoon of then modern American culture. Whose life really resembles a Saturday Evening Post covers? Reminded of Harry Crews’ comments on Sears catalogs, we chatted for a bit, how once this misconception was dispelled the interest in Rockwell’s images was abandoned. Where was this America coming from?

Leafing through these collections, I don’t think the images dishonest. Fantastic perhaps, but Rockwell had a hopeful vision for something of a utopian America. It is however, and esoteric utopia. The patrons of venues I tend to frequent probably hold a much more dyspeptic visage in mind, akin to The Air Conditioned Nightmare as opposed to Little Heathens-esque sentimentality. But it’s a matter of locale and lifestyle in this big land, isn’t it? From immovable blandness to exponentially more frenetic occurrences (sea to shining sea), Rockwell certainly couldn’t have drafted it all, but these collections of his now in the store are amidst countless other national portraits. Closing his now, I’m wondering which book to open for an accurate depiction (or hell, even an abstract) of Ohio. When Mary Allen stops back by for a visit I’ll have to be sure to ask her.

The Work of Lee Kyle, Now at Maple Street Uptown Wednesday, Apr 18 2012 

The other day local artist Lee Kyle was kind enough to stop by the Maple Street Uptown location(s) to drop of some of his work in the form of post and greeting cards. Each card is individually hand printed and packaged by the artist himself. The image content ranges from the tourist oriented, focusing on New Orleans architecture and cuisine, to the more appropriately categorized as  “local interest” cards, which turn the light to what I think of as our ambivalent relationship with certain local, er, pests.

So if you happen to be in the neighborhood doing a little book browsing, take a look at Lee’s stuff while you’re at it. It’s pretty work and painstakingly done, there’s plenty more designs that I’m not posting here to save some mystery of exploration, and, while I hate to close a post on some kind of trite “only in New Orleans” jazz, you really just can’t get them anywhere else. Fact.

Authors Lacking Tuesday, Apr 17 2012 

ImageShelved up an illustrated medical dictionary this morning, though not before thumbing through it and glancing over the little labeled diagrams of limbs and organs. My mind began to wander shortly after, and from my mental rolodex I’ve settled on this bit of trivia to ponder for the afternoon- authors missing extremities. How many can there be?

WELL, so far I’ve got…

Blaise Cendrars, the famously lauded “one handed poet,” in fact missing a whole arm (pictured above, note the one flaccid coat sleeve).

Robert Creeley, who prominently displayed his hollow eye socket on the covers to his poetry collections.

– And Jame Thurber, a cyclops as well.

– Oh, and while I’m thinking lacking eyes I’m totally counting James Joyce‘s failing eyesight a pertinent (eventual) lack, his one eyeball resting behind that patch of his.

– Hm, and in the case that I may be reaching perhaps we can include Ayn Rand and her missing sense of altruistic compassion? Or am I delineating from the original concept too far?

Any other mutilated writers? This is just the tip of the iceberg, about five minutes of seri0us(?) thought. But hey, what have you got for me?

Triple Entendre, Consuming Friday, Apr 13 2012 

Fruit of thought:
The Edible Book Fest is tomorrow! It’s slated to take place in a number of locations around the world but most immediately (considering time zone differences), locally in the Alvar Library Garden (913 Alvar Street). Expect a lot of bizarre literary puns involving food, that after judgement, get to be gorged heavily upon like what? Infinite Jest, perhaps. Learn more from the fine folks at SIFT, here.

Thought on fruit:
This whole edible book deal drew this to memory; a few years back I became weirdly obsessed with writings in which a single concept was taken and then dashed to bits at its furthest extreme. I can’t remember how the obsession originated. Maybe it was wordplay in some poem I’d read at the time, or perhaps an insane analytical Zizek rant I’d listened to (I was going through a phase). In any case, I discovered at some point that while a lot of this “type” of writing exists in all fields from politics to sports, my primary satisfaction was found only in the deepest fathoms of minutia, and food writing seemed to reach those depths effortlessly. Whether it was a Ruth Reichl memoir or some speculative meditation of Calvin Trillin on all possible angles of the bagle, I could not pull my eyes from this stuff. I began with a collection of food writing from The New Yorker and went from there, it being not long before I started to really think hard about what I was looking for. What was I reading about when I was reading about food? As it turned out, just about everything. These literary meals were, in fact, all consuming.

As ubiquitous and necessary to the human experience as the weather or the toilet, food became infinity to me. I read bestselling classics penned by the likes of Alice B. Toklas (Gertrude Stein’s lover), unearthed obscure metaphysical dealings Murakami has had with spaghetti, and breathless Proust ramblings on that smell it makes when you pee after eating asparagus. Food has mass beyond what it takes to fill your gut and it’s weird. Religion, war, fashion, class, love, science, politics, and all things make up each plate… I learned way too much about milk. God, ask me about THAT sometime.

Fruit, and other goods, for you:
In any case, before I get all starry eyed and and lay upon you my ideas of gastrointestinal spiritual discovery, I’ll stop myself short and just say this: Our cookbook section is good. We residents of Louisiana are privy to unique, sought after regional cuisine. Furthermore, the access to ingredients and guidebooks on how to implicate them, creating dishes impossible to duplicate in other parts of the world. Obviously crawfish boils that happen here do not happen with the same je ne sais quoi in California, Canada, Russia, etc. But that’s important. It brings us together. Speaking of which, it’s going to get real hot here real soon, and it is never too soon to start preparing for that. May I suggest this, or perhaps, this.

Did I just sound totally crazy? Oh well. Hope to see you Saturday!

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