“You ask whether your poems are good. You send them to publishers; you compare them with other poems; you are disturbed when certain publishers reject your attempts. Well now, since you have given me permission to advise you, I suggest that you give all that up. You are looking outward and, above all else, that you must not do now. No one can advise and help you, no one.
There is only one way: Go within. Search for the cause, find the impetus that bids you write. Put it to this test: Does it stretch out its roots in the deepest place of your heart? Can you avow that you would die if you were forbidden to write? Above all, in the most silent hour of the night, ask yourself this: Must I write? Dig deep into yourself for a true answer. And if it should ring assent, if you can confidently meet this serious questions with a simple, “I must,” then build your life upon it…progress quietly and seriously in your evolvement. You could greatly interfere with that process if you look outward and expect to obtain answers from the outside – answers which only your innermost feeling in your quietest hour can perhaps give you.”
It had been 11 years since I last visited this tiny, beloved bookshop and when I rolled into town I was afraid that it would be gone – converted into something like a hip wood-fired pizza place – its demise a result of the Great Recession. (And I refused to look it up online because I was so horrified at the thought that I decided that the best course of action would be to act like an ostrich.) But, thank goodness, Drury Lane Books is still standing.
I glanced over the books displayed on the shelves and my leading thought, as my eyes moved around the room was, “Oh, I’ve always meant to read that and that and that and that…”
I quickly made a teetering pile of books to purchase, struck up a conversation with the bookseller about what an excellent selection they have and how much, much bigger bookstores don’t come close to having such an amazing selection.
She said that she hears that a lot and she thinks it’s just because the booksellers and the people who live in the area enjoy the same books.
I replaced our copy of Antler, Bear, Canoe by Betsy Bowen which had fallen apart due to countless readings. I found the sequel to the Laura Ingalls Wilder series of 7-9 books that I’ve been searching for. A cookbook that has been on my wishlist for a few years finally made it home with me. Another book, Paddle to the Sea by Holling Clancy Holling that I’d only heard about, I got to hold in my hands, examine and then buy. Finally, they had a row of Willa Cather books done by Vintage Classic and I just couldn’t resist her Complete Stories.
And I left with so many Christmas gifts purchased and gratitude for places like this.
Long live Drury Lane!
This is not a children’s bookstore, though it did have a small corner set aside for kid’s books. But none of the kid’s books looked very appealing. It’s as if the person who selected the books set out to buy only children’s books that are strange, hip and odd. (There is a strong, though small trend of such books being championed not because they are excellent, but because they are weird. Weird for the sake of being weird. Bah. See: Rules of Summer by Shaun Tan.)
When I visited I experienced the uncomfortable phenomenon of being surrounded by thousands (thousands!) of books and not finding a single book that tempted me to buy it. I don’t think I even picked up a book. Nothing, nothing beckoned me.
Underlying this disorienting occurrence, I keenly felt that I wasn’t hip enough to shop there. This combination of finding no books to buy (or touch) and not feeling hip enough must not be overlooked. There is something important lurking in that junction.
To be fair, there was a really fantastic display of books with blue covers and a sign within them that said, “I can’t remember the title, but the cover was blue.” And it made me smile… and that’s something.
Continuing our independent bookstore tour:
Things here are relaxed and quiet and calm and clean and happy.
A small, but important detail at this bookshop: the shelves are arranged in such a way that it is easy to keep track of kiddos. Because “sometimes it feels like bookshelves are arranged in such a way to best accommodate kidnappers,” said the paranoid Mama.
I love going to Red Balloon and letting my kids sit on the floor next to me with their own stack of books knowing that the floor is clean (enough). And I love not having to raise my voice to ask a question of one of the booksellers and then strain to hear a response (like I may have to do at a bookstore that rhymes with Mild Gumpus). I love the little chairs and tables just right for kiddos.
The staff has chops and are genuinely happy to talk books. At my last visit, they quickly retrieved a towering stack for me. And didn’t flinch when I only bought two of them.
After reading Miss Rumphius by Barbara Cooney about a million times, we finally made it to Como Park Conservatory.
Now, it is clear to my little reader what a conservatory is and why they are so glorious (especially in the dead of winter) and what Miss Rumphius meant when she said, “This is almost like a tropical isle,” said Miss Rumphius. “But not quite.”
Also, I’m thinking that I should investigate whether lupines will grow in my zone. I think planting trees would be the most awesome way to make the world a more beautiful place (that and writing books), but lupines seem more manageable.
I can’t exactly wander around in a swingy, colorful cape, my palms filled with saplings that I fling over glen and dale.
“When facts become so widely available and instantly accessible, each one becomes less valuable. What begins to matter more is the ability to place these facts in context and to deliver them with emotional impact.”
I devoured ”Delancey” by Molly Wizenberg when it finally arrived after waiting for about a month in my place in the reserve line.
I shamelessly dog-eared quotes and recipes that I wanted to revisit. (I was out of sticky flags.) And then I dropped it in the return bag with every intention of retrieving it to make notes before I returned it. You can see where this is going. I didn’t take notes, try my favorite recipes.
I returned it.
And when I realized it, I panicked and got online and reserved it again. In the interim I made notes about the particular quotes and recipes I was interested in, having no idea of where they were in the book, thinking I’d have to skim/read the whole thing again. They read: “Kerouac, Madame Baker?, winter salad”
And then the book arrived and the most amazing thing occurred: the same copy, still dog-eared, was returned to my hands.
This post is supposed to be all about how we read some great Matisse picture book biographies, went to the Matisse exhibit at the Minneapolis Institute of Art, were deeply moved by the art, made Matisse-inspired art back at our kitchen table and blah, blah, blah.
But that didn’t happen.
We went to the Matisse exhibit and then somewhere in the first gallery, the inner tube in the wheel of the stroller that I was pushing EXPLODED. Have you ever heard an inner tube explode in an echoe-y gallery with 20ish-foot tall ceilings? It sounds a lot like a shotgun would sound, though I haven’t tested this. And to all the security guards working that day, it sounded like that as well.
So, once the inner tube exploded we were mobbed by security and in the blur of my tears (crying in public – yippee!) and transferring of copious gear and my giant baby into a small, wonky loaner stroller and weaving through the crowd with a stroller that mostly just splayed and didn’t do much strolling while making a quick trip to the museum shop where we discovered that ALL the Matisse postcards were sold out we left the museum as quickly as possible.
We didn’t see much Matisse. ahem.
Which is why it’s so great that, you know, BOOKS!
Because, odds are you didn’t make it to the Matisse exhibit either.
But hey, read “Colorful Dreamer” by Marjorie Blain Parker and “Henri’s Scissors” by Jeanette Winter and read about Matisse in “Discovering Great Artists” by MaryAnn F. Kohl and Kim Solga (and do the art activity), ask your husband to overinflate your stroller tires until they explode and you can call it good.
riding a Willa Cather wave over here. Reading The Professor’s House, O Pioneers!, The Song of the Lark and have some reserves waiting for me at the library. I am in love with this woman’s writing. And I am so upset that most people are introduced to her via My Antonia, which is a fine book but not my favorite. I cannot get enough Cather. Last month I purchased a collection of her short stories as a Christmas stocking stuffer for myself and it is taking all my willpower to not read it now.
also reading: The Essential C.S. Lewis which is really great if you’ve been meaning to read more C.S. Lewis – beyond The Chronicles of Narnia, that is. Finished Writing Down the Bones by Natalie Goldberg (again and again). Also, Driftless by David Rhodes and am in the midst of Don Quixote by Cervantes. Finally finished reading all the Newbery winners.
and I just watched the movie Sweet Land. I know, I know, this is not a blog about movies. But, this is such a beautiful movie. It left me renewed but also wondering about a lot of things and resolving even more. And I think that there should be many, many more films like this. If there were, I’d actually go out to the movies again. It was based on the novel A Gravestone Made of Wheat by Will Weaver. (see? book connection!)
What Writers Can Learn From Goodnight Moon
To Lure Young Readers, Nonfiction Writers Sanitize and Simplify
A Quiz on Children’s Books You Can Do in the Car
have you heard that the AWP conference is going to be in Minneapolis this year?
Something told the wild geese
It was time to go.
Though the fields lay golden
Something whispered, – “Snow.”
Leaves were green and stirring,
But beneath warm feathers
Something cautioned, – “Frost.”
All the sagging orchards
Steamed with amber spice,
But each wild breast stiffened
At remembered ice.
Something told the wild geese
It was time to fly,–
Summer sun was on their wings,
Winter in their cry.