Monday, August 3, 2009


What a lonely week! Both employees gone...Debbie in Brazil, and Terri out for a few weeks. Steve and Karen are on a crazy motorcycle trip to California. Karen called with a travel update earlier this week, and I found an obnoxious message from Steve on my work phone this morning. Was it intuition, dumb luck, or skilled lawyering that told him I might be a John Steinbeck fan? If I were forced to choose a single author to read for the rest of my days, it would be Steinbeck. From the contents of the snarky message, I assume that Karen and Steve are in the Salinas Valley since he announced they had nothing better to do than tour the Steinbeck museum. Jeepers! California has nothing else to offer, so they are stuck looking at a has been writer' s typewriter? Life is rough...although there are some who would be moved to tears by that typewriter. Did I ever tell you about the complete breakdown I had standing in William Shakespeare's bedroom? Not a pretty sight, but when no one knows you, hysteria is permitted, right?

Being friendless for a few weeks prompted me to reacquaint myself with an old friend, Arturo Perez-Reverte. Actually, it has been almost twelve years since I first stumbled across him, and I found him by chance again a few weeks back. When the store first opened, my friend Brad would stop by almost daily before going to work at a nearby pub. We were both fascinated by the mysterious cover of a book called The Flanders Panel. The foreground shows the beginning stages of a chess match, but a couple of the pieces are askew. The background is cloudy, that is until you look closely enough to see there is a skull in the clouds. We both bought the book based on the cover alone. That was a good decision. Reading it was as well.

The plot revolves around Julia, a young art expert living in Madrid. Those foreign setting always mean added intrigue, don't they? Her speciality is the restoration of paintings about to be auctioned. When the book opens, she is working on a 15th century masterpiece depicting a chess game between the Duke of Ostenburg and his knight. A lady in black velvet sits in the background. What makes this project different is the hidden inscription Julia discovers in the corner... "Who killed the Knight?" Her hunt to find the answer leads her into a modern day game of sin, betrayal and death, all calculated with deadly precision.

Last week our book discussion group got a little off topic, and the subject of (you guessed it) Johnne Depp came up. I mentioned one of his movies "The Ninth Gate", and a new group member said it was based upon a book called The Club Dumas. The movie had an interesting premise, but the delivery was uneven. The first half was brilliant - a book related mystery, set in the underground world of rare book collectors. Then came the second half where it just turned creepy, and crummy. It was as if the director walked off and was replaced with the director of "Eyes Wide Shut," a movie that still gives me the creeps just thinking about it. Sure, I understand the whole concept about the man being intoxicated by danger and all, but it was creepy - come on, admit it.

Now, Club Dumas, I discovered, was written by Perez-Reverte. Such a coincidence! And, it far surpasses the movie. Lucas Corso is a book detective, a mercenary hired to hunt down rare editions for wealthy and unscrupulous clients. When a well-known bibliophile is found hanged, leaving behind part of the original manuscript of Alexander Dumas' The Three Musketeers, Corso is brought in to authenticate the fragment. He is soon drawn into a plot involving occult practices, and a cast of characters bearing a suspicious resemblance to those of the Dumas' masterpiece.
There's something compelling about books translated into English. To me, the seem steady, more deliberate. The ornamention is sparse, and the language is precise. I am not a fan of similes on top of metaphors, puntuated by alliteration and personification. When some writers kick into high gear, they start tossing in the fancy-pants figures of speech like metonymy and litotes. Don't get me started on how much I adore The Shipping News by E. Annie Proulx. I know it won a Pulizer, but come on, a story about a man dragging a house across miles of ice...all wrapped up with pretty little phrases...too many pretty little phrases for my taste. Give me a book that tells a good story in a straightforward manner. That's not to say that I don't appreciate exquisite language, and admire controlled rhythm and flow. I just don't like it hiding beneath layers of billowing verbiage.

Enough...on to something fun. These are some of our new
Ugly Dolls. Aren't the cute? These little critters defy explanation, but they sure are a hit. The Obama girls love them which explains their recent popularity. A 2008 article in the New York Times says that boys love these huggables so much that NYC's toy giant, FAO Schwartz, displays them right next to the National Football League action figures.
Each of these little persons has a name and a personality. the teal blue guy is OX. Here's his description:
" What kind of name is OX? No, not the animal..OX - as in HUG and KISS! How can he hug you with such short arms? OX uses his ears! He's not a very good listener, but he puts his ears to good use in many other ways! OX is great at magic, and his best trick is turning your stuff into his stuff. His best buddy Wedgehead call that stealing, but OX just want to borrow things from you for a few hundred years. He promises to put everything back when he's done." week, I'll tell you all about our children's show at UW-Manitowoc, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. The might even be picture for you.

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