Time for a Change

porter sculpture garden 011Do you ever just feel it, that change is coming? You’re not even sure what it is yet, but the air vibrates with it. You raise your head and sniff into the wind, like an excited hound about to hunt.

My husband pointed out you could also be a rabbit sniffing danger, but he doesn’t like change.

Anyway, it’s not just my sporty new short haircut. It’s not that our town is getting a new manager and a few of the paradigms that boxed small businesses in may have shifted. Something big is on the wind. I don’t know what it is, but I’ve owned a bookstore long enough to know when the books are restless. They sense it too.

You think this is fey jesting? Surely you’ve read Terry Pratchett’s Discworld series with its amazing live libraries and orangutan librarian. L-space: where things are bigger inside than out, and hide more secrets than Horatio ever dreamed of ignoring.

Days of Awe and Wonder are seasonal for Jewish people, but an unexamined life at any time is not worth living. Maybe I’m just taking stock of what works and what doesn’t, how many simultaneous thirsty threads are sucking from the 24 allocated hours of the given day, and which ones need to go.

I don’t know. But on this first day of the autumnal months, the books are restless, and so am I.

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

The Monday Book

Jack’s guest Monday review (on Tuesday – just) –

Ian Rankin – The Rebus Series

Not so much a book review, as an author review this week –

I’m not usually one for novels, preferring biographies and memoirs for the most part. But I do have just a few novelists I like and one of those is Rankin. I hasten to add that it’s not that I like every book he’s written, but the Rebus series do stand out, in my opinion.

It’s probably because both Rankin and his character have their roots in West Fife (my home territory) but are resident in Edinburgh (a place I know well). In the series Rebus frequently revisits Fife and the Edinburgh that forms the backdrop to most of the books is very lovingly and accurately portrayed.

The books are well written, full of believable characters and with plots that grip you to the last page. This is noir detective with a Scots accent and firmly in the world of Philip Marlowe.

The Edinburgh he describes is a mixture of the historic center after dark and the run-down housing schemes on the outskirts. His plots are always relevant to the times and clearly involve  a lot of careful research.

Rebus is a complex guy with a troubled personal life, who is looked on with suspicion by most of his colleagues and especially by his superiors. During the course of the series he moves from being a regular working cop to the branch that deals with internal matters such as bribery and collusion with criminals and gangs.

All the books except the last one have been made into TV dramas, with half being done by the BBC and the other half by ITV. The casts were different for each series and, although presenting contrasting interpretations, both were excellent.

I have read other novels by Rankin that were not part of the Rebus series and didn’t find them as compelling I’m afraid.

 

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Tell me Story – –

 Jack’s Wednesday guest blog on Thursday –

One of my favorite bloggers is Andrew Tickell (Lallans Peat Worrier), who’s normal subject is the oddity of Scotland and the rest of the UK having completely separate and different legal systems. His posts are always interesting and frequently hilariously funny.

But a few days ago he wrote a guest column for The National – a Scottish daily newspaper, that was completely different. It was a tribute to his Great Grandfather who had been a family doctor on the West coast of Scotland and who had been diligent in making sure that little trace of his great humanity and service to his community would be recognized after his death (even insisting on being buried in an unmarked grave).

I was very moved by Andrew’s tribute and also by his plea for family stories to be guarded and passed on.

When Wendy and I first met she was working as a community storyteller in Kingsport TN with folk living in a housing project using the power of stories to help them deal with a range of personal issues. After we married she continued  with this use of storytelling, both in Scotland and England, and with groups as diverse as single mothers, school-kids, relatives of terminally ill children, refugees and asylum-seekers.

During that time I became more familiar with storytelling as a specific tool and also as a popular entertainment. That’s where I begin to have difficulties, though – –

My first experience of story as a ‘cousin’ of songs and music was in a domestic setting. The home of the famous ‘Stewarts of Blair’ was the place and the family were famous as tradition-bearers and much recorded by folklorists. Despite their popularity at festivals and concerts they were always at their best in small intimate settings. Much later I would accompany Wendy to storytelling festivals, in Ireland, England, Scotland and the US. The biggest, of course, is the famous one in Jonesborough TN, with lots of marquees and thousands of attendees.

What I take from this?

I definitely do believe that family stories should be preserved and passed on. I also believe that there’s a real skill in telling stories and that they can serve a powerful educational purpose. As entertainment on a big stage? Maybe not so much.

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Filed under folklore and ethnography, Life reflections, Scotland, small town USA, Uncategorized

The Monday Book: THE BEAR WENT OVER THE MOUNTAIN by William Kotzwinkle

Okay, I hate magical realism. Why I picked up this book, I cannot tell you, but I’m so glad I did. It is laugh out loud funny. I read so many parts of it out loud to Jack, he finally told me to stop, he’d read it later.bear

Aesop’s Fables meets David Lodge in this book about a bear who finds a novel in a briefcase, and decides to turn himself into somebody. Which means going to New York, becoming the toast of the publishing and talk circuit world, and buying a British title. Also lots and lots of pies, cakes, ice cream, pretzels, and potato chips. He’s a bear. He names himself Hal Jam, because there’s nothing nicer than jam, and he can remember how to spell Hal.

People involved in the publishing and/or cult of celebrity world will shriek with recognition at some of the antics of this bear and his team, but everyone is going to love him on some level. If it gives you any insights, the book culminates in a lawsuit about copyright.

Here’s one of my favorite quotes:

The bear looked out the window at the city. “Mine,” he thought. Of course he’d need to shit around the perimeter and subdue some females, but time enough for that.

When I wasn’t annoying Jack by saying, “Wait wait, listen to this!” I was laughing out loud, startling the dogs as they lay by the bed. This book is so very, very funny. It skewers the publishing experience and a few other things besides. And it never lets up.

So when I finally realized I was indeed enjoying a magic realism novel, I thought it had to be because the author was such a good writer. Simple, fast sentences with complex nuances, floating between bear brain and publisher brain. He’s good, this guy.

Yeah, well, William Kotzwinkle wrote ET. Yes, that ET.

Two unopposable bear claws up for THE BEAR WENT OVER THE MOUNTAIN.

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Filed under book reviews, bookstore management, humor, Life reflections, Little Bookstore of Big Stone Gap, publishing, reading, Uncategorized, Wendy Welch, writing

Ariel Chats with the Crowd

arielHi! I’m Ariel! I’m an Appalachian Feline Friends foster cat, which means I have a safe place to stay while my furrever family finds me.

I’m really glad to be an AFF cat, but I’m getting kinda bored, y’know? I mean, don’t get me wrong, I know good and well what COULDA happened – don’t think I don’t. It’s just that I’ve been waiting about six weeks now and I only get out to play once a day and it’s just flat boring.

Peggotty, the cat in the pen next to mine, she’s a good conversationalist and sometimes we talk. About the places we’ve been, the hard times we’ve seen, the kinda homes we’re hoping to have. She wants a big place where she can run around up and down stairs, and a nice soft bed to sleep on indoors at night.

Come to think of it, so do I. I’m a real sporty girl, love to run and play, and when I do get my paws on that jingle ball, baby, it’s mine. But I also have a warm side. Shoulder rides are kinda… you know, nice.

What I really wish is I could be captain of a volleyball team, really a beach volleyball team, but the people who work here say they don’t give those jobs to cats. Which is a shame. We’d have won those Olympic thingees for y’all.

But okay, so I have to do cat jobs. I’ll take care of your mice, and I’ll keep my litter box and my bed neat as a pin, and if you have other cats around I’ll play nice with ’em. I’m not too familiar with dogs, but hey, they should be easy for me to train. Never had any trouble teaching the kittens right from wrong, and they’re smarter than dogs. No kittens for me, though. I’m spayed.

Not that I’m prejudiced, mind. Live and let live, that’s my motto. Except for mice. That’s different.

So if you’re looking for a sporty girl with some high energy love to give who would just love to curl up against your shoulder at night for some quality cuddle-n-purr time, look no further. Call AFF and ask for Ariel.

Oh, and yeah, Peggotty’s here too. She says hi.

 

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Filed under animal rescue, bookstore management, small town USA, Uncategorized, VA, Wendy Welch

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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Hadley Marie Hemingway, Spooksfeline

Windsome hadleyHi everybody. You all know me. I’m Hadley Marie Hemingway. I’m famous.

sotto voice, offstage: Hadley, please….

Oh, right. I gotta job to do. A couple months ago Mom got with some friends and they started a cat rescue. Like they did for my brothers and me a couple years ago. They save kittens that are gonna get left alone or taken to the shelter. Big cats too. There’s been a lotta cats through this place. Some of ’em are nice, and some of ’em I’m glad they left. They were bigger’n me.

Mom and all the other people are working hard, and I guess that’s good, but sometimes the kittens come downstairs and sleep on the bed. With us. Near Mom’s face. Where I like to be.

whispers: Tell them about the fun you have playing, dear.

And sometimes they play with the dangly mouse on the cat tree. Which is mine. Or hog the sunbeam in the mystery room. If they do that I sit on them, though, so they usually move.

HADLEY! YOU PROMISED!

I mean, I like that mom an’ the lady who smells like bacon, an’ Fuzzy Daddy an’ the other people who work here – or maybe they live here, I don’t know – anyway, I like that they help the little kittens. I was a little kitten once.

Two of the kittens here now are really scared of everybody, so they’re hiding up under the bathroom sink. There’s a hole at the back of the cupboard that lets two or three cats get in there at once. Mom calls it “the Scaredy Cat Flat.” Sooner or later they all come out to play, though. There used to be three from this group, but Frosty – she’s a white cat like me with spots; we look so much alike people ask if we’re sisters. We’re not. I’m the only cat who’s like me.

*ahem*

Anyway, Frosty came out for wet breakfast after a couple of days, an’ now she’s my friend. We play jingle catch together with the feathery ball. That’s kinda fun, an’ I’m glad she’s safe an’ away from the shelter an’ all, but I’m not sharing my dangly mouse. That’s mine. We can share the sunbeam. It’s a big sunbeam.

Mom says I’m a good lil sister to the other cats, which is funny ’cause I’m older’n some of ’em, but that’s okay. An’ she says I get to be the spookycat. Um wait, the spookscat.

stage whispers: Spokescat, dear

Um yeah, you know, the cat who talks about the other cats. I get to have my picture on the FacePage an’ all.

FaceBoo-oh, never mind

So you can go look at me. I’m the cute one, above the blue button that says “donate.” Mom says that means “help us get the cats tutored.” I wasn’t gonna do it at first, but Mom says if Nate gets enough money, I can have my own sunbeam. That would be nice. Here’s where my spookscat picture is: https://www.facebook.com/appalachianfelinefriends/.

Mom says that spells “adorable photo of Hadley Marie Hemingway.”

Anyway, I’m Hadley an’ I improved this message.

Approved, dear

That’s what I said.

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Filed under animal rescue, bookstore management, humor, Little Bookstore of Big Stone Gap, small town USA, Wendy Welch, writing