Perusing my old writing files last night, I rediscovered the book reviews I used to write for my college newspaper. Since I’m short on time to write today (I have a promotional job in East Lansing to get to), I thought it might be nice to share one of my reviews with you. I still would recommend this book for those, who like me, mourn the declining number of bookstores and record stories.
(I wrote this review back in 2007 during my junior year of college.)
Discovering New & Used
Every book discovery is important; it sets the mood for our experience of its contents. Most of my books are pieces of a place, captured moments in time that capture more time. When I travel I don’t take pictures, I buy books. Some are crisp new editions with captivating cover art from large chain stores. Some are faded used copies with simplistic covers from the cramped shelf of a privately owned shops. The first encounter is important, whether it was a gift from a friend, or found on a sidewalk.
Like many of my book finds, this last one was by chance. I was researching grad schools online and got sidetracked by a link to the school’s art gallery. A photograph from Marc Joseph’s recent book New and Used was featured on the main page along with a blurb about it. It was described as a compilation of color photographs take in and of independently owned record stores and book shops across the U.S along with a collection of personal essays, prose, poems, and short fiction selected by Joseph and co-editor, Damon Krukowski.
Interested, I ordered the book.
New and Used has 53 of Joseph’s colorful photographs. There are shots of old record covers, comedic excerpts posted on store windows or walls, interesting displays of used and new items, etc. Once finished, I had the sense that I’d walked through the stores myself. Any record collector, music lover, book fanatic or artist will appreciate the novel and nostalgic appeal of Joseph’s photography along with its occasional irony and humor.
The pieces of literature, slipped in among the record albums and book covers, meld perfectly with the main melody. Like most compilation, some of the works are better than others. Krukowski’s poems that both begin and end the book are brilliant. While Lydia Davis’ “Going South While Reading ‘Worstward Ho’” and “Southward Bound, Reads ‘Worstward Ho’” are examples of the disappointing result of a poet attempting fiction. Shelley Jackson’s questions and answers about the nature of books and readers will challenge your definitions of these terms. Ian Svenonius’ unique perspective of the recording processes in his short science fiction story may enlighten you.
My favorite piece was Jonathan Lethem’s “The Used Bookshop Stories”. In it, he lists a string of memories from working in various bookstores as a clerk that left me envious. Most of all, I love the characterization that runs throughout it of both clerks and literature fanatics, who feel that the bookstores they frequent belong to them “because I love it more than you” (56).
The juxtaposition of Joseph’s photography with these pieces of literature reminds readers of the undeniable charm and allure of our local literary and musical haunts.