Category Archives: Big Stone Gap

The Monday Book: The Girl in the Spiders Web by David Lagercrantz

Jack and Wendy started listening to The Girl in the Spider’s Web by David Lagercrantz on the way back from Wyoming. They tried to finish it back home. This guest blog by Jack is the result.

I got the distinct feeling that this was an unfinished story by the original series’ author Stieg Larsson that had been finished off by Lagercrantz.

The first two thirds of the book is just as gripping as the previous books in the Lisbeth Salander series, but then it fairly abruptly drifted off into a plotless limbo. I never thought I’d end up forcing myself to finish it simply to find out what happened to one of the characters. And the characters! How many do you need to keep introducing? Reporters, magazine executives, IT experts, gangsters, movie stars, psychologists, US intelligence agents and on and on – – . Many of these appeared as the plot was beginning to lose direction, so thank you Mr Lagercrantz.

Enough, already!

The basic idea of taking something that most people have a vague knowledge of, in this case the genius savant,  and then stretching it to its limits and building a gripping conspiracy around it, got the book off to a pretty rollicking start. It’s just a shame it shifted into neutral and started coasting.

It hasn’t put me off going back to re-read the original books by Stieg Larsson, but I won’t be rushing to buy Lagercrantz’s next epic.

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Filed under Big Stone Gap, book reviews, bookstore management, Little Bookstore of Big Stone Gap, out of things to read, publishing, reading, Uncategorized, writing

A guest blog from TWO BEARS FARM

This blog is from Lisa, who blogs at twobearsfarm.com, about her visit to our bookshop. Thank you, Lisa!

A while ago my mom loaned me a book called The Little Bookstore of Big Stone Gap.  A memoir, it sat on my bookshelf for a while before I read it and discovered it was so much better than I ever expected.  I fell in love with the quirky used bookstore in Big Stone Gap, and suggested to my parents (who both enjoyed the book, too) that we go there.

Big Stone Gap is waaaaayyyy down in the deep southwest of the state.  It took us a while to get there.  On the way we stopped at a farm to table restaurant in Meadowview called Harvest Table where I got the best grilled chicken sandwich ever.  I never even knew chicken could taste like that. On homemade focaccia with a remoulade sauce, it was the most tender, most flavorful chicken in existence.  If you are ever out that way (and you probably won’t be), be sure to stop in.

Eventually, we made it to Big Stone Gap, deep in the Appalachian mountains.  The bookstore didn’t disappoint.   The boys had a blast exploring all the rooms and carrying around the six (!) foster kittens in residence.  We all found a few books we needed.

On the way home we took a little detour through Lebanon so I could see the area where my grandfather’s family lived.  I enjoyed seeing his old stomping ground, imagining him as a young boy there with his siblings.

It was a lot of driving for one day, but included unique experiences, and I got to see some beautiful areas of the state I had never seen before.  Plus, that chicken sandwich?  Totally worth seven hours of driving.

Readers – have you ever gone out of your way to see a place from a book or a movie?

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Filed under Big Stone Gap, book reviews, bookstore management, humor, Life reflections, Little Bookstore of Big Stone Gap, small town USA, VA, Wendy Welch, YA fiction

The Monday Book: SOME GIRLS SOME HATS AND HITLER by Trudi Kanter

This first-person memoir came into our bookstore and I thought the title was intriguing, so took it on holiday with me. It turns out to be a self-published book from the 1950s that went out of print. Someone who worked for a publisher bought it in a second-hand bookstore, and the rest is reprint history.

Girls Hats Hitler is fascinating, because it’s pretty much the first person memories of a woman who expected to have a very normal life–and a fairly vapid one at that. Velvets and dances and moonlight, oh my – but she was Jewish and her husband was Jewish, and in 1930 Austria that changed everything.

What’s so interesting about the book is its sense of play by play, the feeling of wondering “What would I have done” as Trudi has the opportunity to stay in Paris and be safe, then to get out but not take anyone with her, and then to decide how to get out. She isn’t equipped for this kind of decision making, but she learns fast. Being rich helped, too, but more than that, she took seriously what was happening around her. Many of her friends and extended family didn’t.

Perhaps the most devastating part of the book is she’ll recall what happened at a particular party or event, the gestures and looks and petty jealousies, and then she’ll say “He died in Auschwitz. She took poison.” That kind of thing.

The book is frustrating, because there are some parts where she only says “And then we got visas,” not how they got them, who they bribed, what it took, etc. Sometimes, when you think the story is about to get deep, it just stops. She self-published this, and I can kind of see why an editor didn’t want to work with her. On the other hand, when she does let go and tell what happened, you see so clearly what it was like to be just one person caught up in and trying to survive one of the worst things in living memory.

Including the moment when as a Jewish emigree, her husband is interred as a German enemy combatant in London. It’s just plain crazy sometimes, the world in which they lived.

I highly recommend the book, but be prepared to be in parts frustrated, in parts confused, and in parts laughing at how someone in danger of imminent death can be jealous because her husband is flirting with the person who can save their lives. It’s a very honest book when it’s telling the whole story.

 

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Filed under Big Stone Gap, book reviews, Hunger Games, Life reflections, Little Bookstore of Big Stone Gap, post-apocalypse fiction, Wendy Welch

Porter Sculpture Garden

porter sculpture garden 011Coming across South Dakota, we saved a couple of things to do on the way home so we’d enjoy the drive back as much as going out. Going out we did a lot of detouring and blue highway-ing, but coming back we went straight across I-90 in order to catch a few fun things.

We stopped at Wall Drug – AIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE! The only reason to stop at Wall Drug is to say you’ve stopped at Wall Drug. And to get donuts. Best donuts ever but we were so freaked at all those people after a week in the wildernesses of Wyoming, a sympathetic shop assistant took one look at us and asked what we wanted to buy. Then she led us through the whole place cutting a swathe through the bodies with her uniform and air of authority, until she found the buffalo jerky we’d stopped for. (To be hauled out at the next CAH game at the bookstore.) We thanked her profusely, purchased, and fled. (Please note Oxford comma.)

From there we stopped at Chamberlain for a picnic at the rest area and some photos of the gorgeous Missouri River. And then we went to Porter Sculpture Garden. This place is so much fun. From Bambino the Guard Dog to Charles P to the chocolate-spoiled gophers (they sit outside his hut during the day and he tosses them Hershey Kisses) we had a blast. Here’s a few of our favorites.

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Filed under between books, Big Stone Gap, bookstore management, humor, Life reflections, Little Bookstore of Big Stone Gap, small town USA, Wendy Welch

Where it Hurts and where it Heals

Medicine wheel 075The place where I made Jack sleep in a tent was about a mile and a half from a Japanese internment camp from World War II. Lightly advertised, the place, and if Rod our Air B&B host hadn’t said something about what it was, we might have misunderstood and dismissed the Heart Mountain Historic Site sign.

But he did, and we went. We are used to touring painful places in American history. We went to the Minuteman Missile site. I’ve backpacked through Dresden. Jack went to Vietnam. We get that the “never again” resolve coincides with tourism and there’s something a little too soothing, too white privilege in the mix. Sometimes I think that George Satanyana guy got it wrong. History doesn’t repeat itself when it’s forgotten, but when it’s spun into information overload that numbs and soothes. If you see it enough, you become inured.

photography was at first forbidden in the camp, but as the time stretched, the regulation went lax. Which is why some of what happened and how it looked is now documented. Fear the camera, fear the journalist. Good.

photography was at first forbidden in the camp, but as the time stretched, the regulation went lax. Which is why some of what happened and how it looked is now documented. Fear the camera, fear the journalist. Good.

I don’t do politics publicly, so I’m only going to say that reading the information, written by people who were in the camp, was surreal in today’s American political climate of economic fear hidden behind anything we can think of to hide it behind. Creepy is a childish word. The edge of terror? Sick to the stomach? Too much drama. Surreal will have to do.

After we toured the Camp, we drove on to the Medicine Wheel in the pass off Highway 14a. The Medicine Wheel is still used, and  several signs at the beginning of the mile-and-a-half hike to it said, in essence, if someone of indigenous heritage is using the site, you’re going to wait, respectfully, without taking pictures. Accept this before you walk up there, because some of the prayers and ceremonies may take awhile.Medicine wheel 125

Medicine wheel 132 Medicine wheel 127 Medicine wheel 139No one was, so we walked widdershins around the circle, looking at objects left.

One place where the world hurts, one where it heals. Neither about white people like me. Except maybe that white people could have stopped one, and can honor the other. “The Courts Failed Us” interpretive sign was one of the most moving at the Camp. Another was the unexpected Dr. Seuss cartoon, anti-Japanese people. And how very reminiscent it is of certain attitudes in America today. At another site we visited more than a week ago, the Laura Ingalls Wilder birthplace, I remembered “Ma” and her favorite saying “A body makes its own luck.” Do we make our own enemies? Or was that Pogo the cartoon possum comic strip right: the enemy is us.

 

Theodore Geisel's unexpected contribution to the cause

Theodore Geisel’s unexpected contribution to the cause

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One of several artworks on display in the textile storytelling exhibit, from local women who created story quilts based on the camp. All were from Wyoming. None of the camp residents were allowed to remain in Wyoming after the camp closed. Adults were given $25 (equals $330ish today) and a bus or train ticket to the destination of their choosing. Some went back to LA or the Pacific Northwest, where they found their stored items stolen or vandalized. Many went East for work. Medicine wheel 049

There was one white woman at Heart Mountain, Estelle. She was married to a man who had to report to the camp. Estelle made $19 per day sketching scenes for newspapers. After the camp closed the sketches that didn’t make the newspapers began to circulate.Medicine wheel 018

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The question of the century

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One of the stalls in the ladies’ bathroom was fitted with mirrors and a warning sign. It said this stall was set up so you could see what the camp bathrooms were like – the toilets and showers had no doors. Communal or not at all.

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One of the things the museum makes clear is that the Japanese Americans ordered to report were confused, angry, yet compliant. Among all the weird things – including that at least one person was shot and killed at Heart Mountain for getting too close to the barbed wire fence, and some children were arrested when their homemade sled went past it on a back road – were that boys who turned 18 in the camp were required to register for the draft. Some went into the Armed Forces. 68 refused unless granted their freedom first, and they went to federal prison for 3 years.

The camp organized things for the kids to do because family life was chaotic, family units not eating together in the mess halls, children running about bored getting into mischief. Community leaders set up Boy and Girl Scout troups, and every day the Boy Scouts raised and lowered the flag in the camp where they were held prisoner by order of the American government.

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Medicine wheel 114There were many prayers at the Medicine Wheel. I’m not a fey person, but you could feel some of them capturing bad, some of them releasing good. We’re all praying for something.

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Filed under Big Stone Gap, Life reflections, Little Bookstore of Big Stone Gap, small town USA, Wendy Welch, writing

Scots in Tents

Wyoming 048When Jack and I were courting he assured me he loved nothing more than to go for long hikes in the wilderness and view the charms o’ nature.

Men say all sorts of things while they’re courting.

He did take me on a nice trip to Skye where we slept in the car and dipped our toothbrushes in the nearby running burn (that’s a creek to you and me). Just above the fossilized sheep shit, that brush dipping. But still, it seemed very rustic and a fun portent of things to come.

After we were married, we slept in motels and hotels and the houses of friends. When I talked him into hiking the West Highland Way, we walked off the trail every night to stay in trailside hotels.

So when Jack said to me, “You plan the accommodations for our trip to Wyoming, and I’ll be happy,” I saw my chance.

camp 1I’d always wanted to do more with Air B&B in America, having had fun with it in Chile and Portugal. So I hopped on and discovered that Wyoming in July is a popular destination and people start planning early. Eventually I stumbled across a site in Powell that offered some unique alternatives. Permanent tents.

Jack has a sad history with tents. His last time was as a cub scout, when he got puked on by his tent mate who had discovered the joys of picking wild berries and eaten too many of them that day. Rather puts one off the experience. He never wanted to go tent camping again, and that was sixty-five years ago.

So I booked a tent with wifely sneakiness, but forgot that the confirmations went to Jack’s email. Half an hour later Jack phoned me. “There’s a picture of a Confederate encampment with teepees on my emails. It says we’re staying there?”

camp 2Well, Rod and Lynn Morrison’s Quiet Rest Campground features some teepees and some tents and a sheep herder wagon. And when we arrived, it featured two sweet Border Collies named Lily and Dragon, and a running creek behind the tent that lulled us to sleep.

Which Jack did pretty well with. We enjoyed a tour with Lynn and settled in with books to listen to the running stream and sip libations, cooked supper on the camp stove, and snuggled into the duvets we’d brought instead of sleeping bags. All quite comfy.

I got up in the middle of the night to view the stars, and they were glorious. The Big and Little Dippers, Draco, and Cassiopia I could spot quickly. I went back to bed thinking I’d get up and look again in an hour, but when I did the moon was so full and bright it cast shadows. I shook Jack awake to view the glories of the night sky with me. This did not go well.camp 3

The next morning, as the hosts served the camp community beer-batter pancakes and delicious camp stove coffee, I asked Jack what he thought of the experience, and whether we might look into similar ones for the future.

Jack looked me in the eye. “I’m very glad we did this, and I never want to do it again.”

Translation? My Scot-in-tent has no intent of repeating the intense experience of being a Scot in a tent.

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Filed under between books, Big Stone Gap, humor, Life reflections, Little Bookstore of Big Stone Gap, small town USA, Wendy Welch, writing

Black Bears in the Black Hills

We’re traveling across Wyoming today. These bears were NOT traveling across Wyoming, but at Bear Country, back in South Dakota. It’s a glorified zoo, but the bears literally walk up to your car and stare at you. They’re swapping license plate sightings or something, probably steal hubcabs when the owners aren’t looking. I’ve rarely seen bears this close, except at that garbage dump in Appalachia. :]

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Three feet from the car – check the video on my FB timeline for when he got two inches from the car.

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Union says the bears get breaks. He wasn’t waving at nobody until he’d had his cigarette.

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Filed under animal rescue, Big Stone Gap, Little Bookstore of Big Stone Gap, small town USA, Uncategorized, Wendy Welch