Saturday, January 3, 2015

New Local Bookstore - The Novel Neighbor

One of the saddest things to happen in the 21st Century is the demise of local independent bookshops.  My favorite nearby local bookshop, Puddn'head Books, closed a year or so ago.  Then the downtown branch of Left Bank Books closed. I still go to the original Left Bank Books in the Central West End but not as often as I probably should because, well, I don't live in the West End. 

As I said when Puddn'head Books opened:  "The bookstore of my imagination is small, with a friendly proprietor who likes the kind of books I like, in an easily accessed location with a lot of books that excite me." 

I am excited to tell you that Webster Groves has a new independent bookstore called The Novel Neighbor at the corner of Dale and Big Bend.  I missed the announcement but my sister had heard about it from a friend of hers so we went to check it out last week.  It's a charming little store that sits on a street corner and has decent parking.  It's not only a bookstore - which is probably good in this economy.   As its website says:

The Novel Neighbor is a unique concept and space that carries new adult and childrens’ books, unique works from local artists (including our own “artist(s) in residence”). We offer an amazing community space for book clubs, classes, author events, after-school activities, tastings, parties, showers, and more! We also, include cozy areas for reading – and a fantastic kids’ section with plenty of materials for little ones (and those grown) to read, experience, and explore.
We met the owner, Holland, who was just lovely.  And passionate about what she is doing.  She realizes she needs a business plan built on diversity to bring people into the store.  It worked with us because my sister heard about the store from a local photographer-friend of hers.  The shop has a nice community-use space and they plan to have some really interesting speakers in the evening.  I'm definitely going to check that out. 

The selection of books is not incredibly large (which is very wise of her) but in looking through the shelves, they were "my" kind of books.  So I know that I'll never have trouble finding something there.  And she'll order what she doesn't have. 

One thing I loved is that she is partially funded through kickstarter and she allows some of her funders to have special shelves where they can tell the world what kind of books they like.  I have to say that her backers have the same taste in books that I do!

I really hope the community supports this store.  I don't live in Webster Groves but I live nearby.  If any community in the St. Louis area should be able to support a local bookseller, it should be Webster and environs. 

Check it out:  The Novel Neighbor, 7905 Big Bend Boulevard, Webster Groves Missouri 63119
7905 Big Bend Blvd. Webster Groves MO 63119

Friday, January 2, 2015

Welcome 2015

I hope the blog reading world had a safe Happy New Year celebration. We're still within the 12 days of Christmas so I won't act like the holidays are over yet.  For Christmas my sister surprised me by giving me a book made up of many of my blog posts.  I've had fun reading through it and seeing what interested me at the time. 

That made me realize that it has been ages since I've posted anything.  There are probably many reasons for that including general laziness.  From time to time I've thought about writing something but that thought usually occurred in the midst of some other general craziness in my life and I would decide not to do anything.  I knew I had enough time to think up what to say but I just didn't feel that I had time to "maintain" it after posting.  I'm not sure I ever formulated an idea of what it means to "maintain" my blog but I think I just wasn't in the mood to keep checking back on it or thinking about what I wrote after I wrote it.  That seems like the antithesis of what a blog is for.  So I always chose not to write anything.

But it's a New Year and it's My Blog and, hey, I can set My Own Rules.  For 2015 the rule will be that I will write when the spirit moves me but will never check back in.  I will not allow comments so that I don't have to moderate them.  But I do check my Twitter feed regularly and I have an email address that blog readers use from time to time (and apologies to those emailing people to whom I never responded in the last few months - I'll try to be better this year.)

I'm excited about 2015 mostly because I really want it to be better than 2014.   See you around!


Saturday, August 9, 2014

Hearing Voices

This week The Guardian asks the following questions:

  • Do you ever hear characters’ voices when you are reading? If so, how often?
  • Do you have visual or other sensory experiences of characters when reading?
  • How easy do you find it to imagine a character’s voice when reading? How vivid are these voices when you read?

Here are my answers:

Yes, I hear characters' voices when I'm reading - all the time.  In fact it isn't a reading experience for me if I can't hear voices, including the narrator's voice.  I even hear a voice (not my own) when I'm reading non-fiction.  I have a very definitive idea of what each character sounds like.  I think this might be why I don't particularly like to listen to books being read, hearing someone else's voice detracts from the experience for me.

I have only miminam visual experiences of characters when reading.  If it is important for a plot point (and it has to be REALLY important) I will have a specific idea of hair color, eye color or other physical characteristics.  But in general I have only a vague idea of what a character looks like - a big man or a small man, a tall woman or a short woman, etc.  In my mind they are fairly generic.  I think that's why I never get very worked up about actors who are cast to play parts in adaptations of books - I figure wigs and contacts and makeup can do a lot.  But I'm constantly surprised if they don't SOUND like how I imagined the character sounding.

I just watched the first episode of the new Outlander television series based on the novels of Diana Gabaldon.  I read the first Outlander book long ago - so long ago that I have a hard time remembering it.  And after the first few books, I gave up on the series.   But I remembered really liking the first novel.  Watching the series I was having a hard time getting into the character of Claire but once Jamie was on the scene I thought - oh ,yes, he's a good Jaime.  After it was over, I realized that the actor playing Jaime sounded exactly as I imagined Jaime would sound whereas the actress playing Claire had a much more .... unemotional .... voice than I imagined Claire having.  (And that was a real problem for me since there was so much voice-over of her thoughts.)  Maybe if I see more episodes she'll grow on me. 

Another good example is The Game of Thrones.  When I read The Game of Thrones, the first novel in George R.R. Martin's epic series, I heard Tyrion with a specific American accent.  I read enough fantasy novels that are set in quasi-British settings that I usually hear the characters with British accents, but I heard Tyrion with an American accent.  So when I heard Peter Dinklage's interpretation of the character with his (somewhat) British accent, I thought "huh".  I got used to it after a while because he was so good.  But I wondered if I would continue to hear HIM when I read later books.  I found that I didn't.  "My" Tyrion still has an American accent when I read.

What I've found interesting is that when I tell people this, they don't seem to truly understand that the voice in my head has nothing to do with my visual impression.  I searched my recollection to figure out who "my" Tyrion sounded like and I finally came up with Robert Reich, the former US Secretary of Labor.  When I tell people that, they pause and then say "Well, I guess that makes sense because he is kind of little."   Which I find both annoying and somewhat hilarious.  I mean, I don't see Robert Reich when I read about Tyrion.  I have a somewhat generic idea of a dwarf man in my head.  These days I may even see Peter Dinklage more often or not.  But I still hear a voice similar to Robert Reich's.  But it seems that some people can't even imagine choosing a voice for a character that is not connected with their physical being.

Not only do I find it easy to imagine a character's voice, I find it essential.  Most novels that I grow bored with tend to be ones where the voices do not come me.  This often happens when I encounter novelists who "tell" and don't "show".   Even the narrator (even if it is a third person omniscient narrator) needs to have some kind of aural presence for me or I start to lose interest.