October 1, 2018

Libreria Acqua Alta in Venice

Libreria Acqua Alta
Calle Longa S. Maria Formosa, 5176/b, 30122 Castello, Venezia VE, Italy
It is a bookshop that could only exist in Venice. A black gondola sits marooned in the middle of the narrow store, as though it had been pulled out of the canal a few steps away with its cargo of novels. Outside more books are held in baskets and wagons.  The Libreria Acqua Alta, as its name expresses, knows full well the danger its wares are in from the sea.  In its courtyards, towers of moldering, waterlogged books serve as a staircase to the street.  Books and water do not mix, and yet this shop sits below street level in a sinking, often-flooded city.

Being inside, looking at the stuffed shelves and barrels makes me uneasy, as I can't help but imagine the nearby sea rushing in and drowning all of it. Like everything else in Venice, the Libreria Acqua Alta's very beauty lies in its ephemeral nature. It is something that should not exist, but does.

A book that only exists in Venice.

September 24, 2018

Book Review: Ghosted by Rosie Walsh

When Sarah meets Eddie, they connect instantly and fall in love. To Sarah, it seems as though her life has finally begun. And it’s mutual: It’s as though Eddie has been waiting for her, too. Sarah has never been so certain of anything. So when Eddie leaves for a long-booked vacation and promises to call from the airport, she has no cause to doubt him. But he doesn’t call.

Sarah’s friends tell her to forget about him, but she can’t. She knows something’s happened–there must be an explanation.

Minutes, days, weeks go by as Sarah becomes increasingly worried. But then she discovers she’s right. There is a reason for Eddie’s disappearance, and it’s the one thing they didn’t share with each other: the truth.
Source: Urban Dictionary
You’re going to think that you have the whole thing figured out close to the beginning – like I did. And perhaps debate on whether or not to read on. DON’T STOP READING. Just when you think you know exactly what happened – why Eric didn’t call Sarah – the book will flip the script on you.  Come a certain point I had to reread a bombshell of a sentence three times. Then a bit further on, just when I was really invested, I cried out loud, “No! Why are you playing with my feelings like this???” 

Ghosted didn’t quite break my heart – but it certainly came close to it. And if you’re like me, you will want to settle in for a good chunk of time because you will not want to stop for anything to get to the truth. I read all night – and it was worth it!

Yes, this book is wish fulfillment fantasy reading for anyone who’s ever been ghosted and left wondering. You might have even done some mental gymnastics to explain why he didn’t call – he got in an accident and broke both his hands, as well as his phone, and had temporary amnesia, etc… Just as Sarah does in this book. You might have shrugged off your friends' gentle piercings of your bubble, sure of the undeniable chemistry between the two of you. And just like Sarah you might have done some cyber investigating, looking through social media to find clues as to what ever happened to the guy who inexplicably disappeared from your life.  

However, the typical ghosting situation probably doesn’t have the complicated backstory in this book. So, I hate to break it to you – but he probably just wasn’t that into you.

September 17, 2018

Book Review: I Met a Traveller in an Antique Land by Connie Willis

Jim is in New York City at Christmastime shopping a book based on his blog—Gone for Good— premised on the fact that “being nostalgic for things that have disappeared is ridiculous.” Progress decides for people what they need and what’s obsolete. It’s that simple. Of course, not everyone agrees. After Jim bombs a contentious interview with a radio host who defends the sacred technology of the printed, tangible book, he gets caught in a rainstorm only to find himself with no place to take refuge other than a quaint, old-fashioned bookshop.

Ozymandias Books is not just any store. Jim wanders intrigued through stacks of tomes he doesn’t quite recognize the titles of, none with prices. Here he discovers a mysteriously pristine, seemingly endless wonderland of books—where even he gets nostalgic for his childhood favorite. And, yes, the overwhelmed and busy clerk showing him around says they have a copy. But it’s only after Jim leaves that he understands the true nature of Ozymandias and how tragic it is that some things may be gone forever…

Ozymandias by Percy Bysse Shelley

I met a traveller from an antique land,
Who said—“Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert. . . . Near them, on the sand,
Half sunk a shattered visage lies, whose frown,
And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command,
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,
The hand that mocked them, and the heart that fed;
And on the pedestal, these words appear:
My name is Ozymandias, King of Kings;
Look on my Works, ye Mighty, and despair!
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal Wreck, boundless and bare
The lone and level sands stretch far away.

I expected, after reading this neat novella, to have been persuaded to the opinion that print is sacred and that e-books are evil, as the aforementioned radio host declares.  The media of the present can become degraded over time; therefore, the digital books of today might be unreadable tomorrow which means that its contents, if not backed up, would be forever gone. 

I'm not sure what message, if any, Willis was trying to prove.  But whether in print form or digital - books are precious to me for their content. Yet, Jim's journey through the vast expanse of Ozymandias, which is full of books he has never heard of - "rescued" from fires, estate sales, and other disasters - fetishizes the printed word. The demise of any physical book is portrayed as tragic. But most of the books in Ozymandias have titles such as How to Remodel Your Patio, No Effort Weight Loss, a 1928 Brooklyn phone book.  In other words - they are not worth saving. The vast wasteland of forgotten books doesn't inspire as much sadness as I thought it would. Like Ozymandias of the Shelley poem - these books are the last vestiges of a dead empire.