Monday, July 25, 2011

Lament to Borders

I moved to Albany in August 2006. This will be the 5th year I have lived here on the 23rd. I took my last few remaining bucks and headed for Crossgates Mall to find a job one of the first days I was here. I wandered up and down and I saw that there was a darkened bookstore waiting to open -- I vaguely wondered if it was the same store I had applied for a few months back but ultimately didn't get hired for.

A week later, it opened. I started working at the store across the hall from it, New York & Company. As a result, I spent a lot of time inside. I tried many things to save myself money, but I could never resist the bargain books. Or the ridiculous amounts of coupons I would get.

I know I was known on sight by the booksellers, even if they didn't know my name. One of the shift supervisors always knew I worked in the mall, even when I moved over to Colonie Center. It was nice -- I always was able to go in, browse, and just be left alone with the books.

When Borders instituted their paid rewards program, I was the first to jump on it. I don't regret that decision in the least. I always felt far more comfortable in Borders than in any other bookstore, and the Crossgates Mall bookstore more than any other one -- even the one back home. I never felt the same spirit of camaraderie that I did there with Barnes and Noble, Chapters, you name it.

Borders is closing its doors now, and it is so weird, because like I said, it came here at the same time I did. We ventured into Albany at the same time. That's why losing my bookstore, even if it is a chain, hurts. And I have worked liquidation sales before (I worked for Ames at the time they closed) so I know what the booksellers are going through.

I went there today, and I didn't expect the ridiculous amounts of people wandering through. I didn't feel comfortable, and while I left with a bag full of books as per usual, I didn't find it as relaxing as I usually do. I don't know really what I expected -- the scavengers come out to play and panic when a liquidation sale is announced. There are plenty of books, and at 10% off, it's not the greatest deal. I'm very grateful to Borders for letting me still use my member discount until Aug 5, which is why I did buy a couple more books than I usually do.

When Borders finally closes in September, I will try to dip my toes into the bookstore waters again. But I don't think I'll have that odd sense of kinship with it. It's like a door closing on my story of Albany.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

If you're gonna cry history, use the logic.

Okay so I don't know if y'all recall me talking about how Chile exhumed Salvador Allende's remains to determine if he died from self-inflicted gunshots or not.

Well, the inquest resolved the other day and they said it was suicide.

Okay, sure, I can accept this. I went looking for an English language source on the story (gee I don't know why the US news doesn't find this important) and I found this article: The Left's Big Lie on Allende. Yeah, I don't know why I clicked either.

The first line led me to write this post.
History: President Salvador Allende of Chile really did commit suicide in 1973, an inquest concluded on Tuesday. Now will the Left stop saying the U.S. and Chile's army did him in?

History is correct. He did kill himself, according to the inquest. Wanna know why he did it? Because the US Funded coup -- tanks, munitions, guns, ammunition, paid off soldiers and generals were storming the presidential palace to kill him and over throw his government. So, yes President Allende took his own life. But not because he wanted to do so. I'm fairly certain he didn't wake up that morning and say "hey friends, I'm gonna kill myself, k bye." Clearly he tried to defend the LEGALLY ELECTED GOVERNMENT that the military should have been supporting and at the last desperate moment, when he could no longer salvage even his own life, he took his.

So no, US. We are not off the hook for Allende's (and those of the thousands of desaparacidos that followed) death. Good try though.

Monday, July 04, 2011

June books

I am 1% ahead of my pace for the year -- trying to read 100 books this year. Here are June's:

47. Decoding the Heavens: Solving the Mystery of the World's First Computer, Jo Marchand.

Marchand tells the history of the Antikythera device -- a forgotten artifact discovered at the turn of the century by sponge divers. She goes back through the history of the historians trying to solve the case, and it's an interesting look. It's very obvious that she's a magazine writer -- the transitions are jarring, and the language is a bit off, but it was well worth the dollar I paid for it. However, all the math did give me some headaches.

48. Lucrezia Borgia: Life, Love, and Death in Renaissance Italy, Sarah Bradford.

Clearly my love for the television series The Borgias led me to this, but it was definitely well worth the read. Very academic. Bradford digs Lucrezia out of the dungheap of history, and like Alison Weir did with Isabelle of France and Eleanor of Aquitaine, helps repair her reputation using good scholarship.

49. Speaking of Weir... Captive Queen: A Novel of Eleanor of Aquitaine, Alison Weir.

Okay, remember how much I didn't really like Innocent Traitor and The Lady Elizabeth? Forget them. Weir finds her voice in Eleanor. Maybe she's better at writing middle-aged women, because this look at Eleanor's turbulent life with her second husband just worked better. I didn't want it to end.

50. The Greatest Knight, Elizabeth Chadwick.

Heh, I was on a definite Middle Ages kick. This book novelizes the life of William Marshal, the stalwart man who rose from humble origins to the confidence of Queen Eleanor and her sons. This too was a very good read. I finally liked a historical fiction book about a time period that I know well. You should be impressed.

51. Unbearable Lightness: A Story of Loss and Gain, Portia de Rossi.

de Rossi is brutally honest about her struggle with anorexia and bulimia. She writes with humour and grace about subjects that were clearly difficult for her to discuss with anyone -- going about her job and hating herself every single day for who she was pretending to be. I found this book mesmerising. Clearly there are trigger warnings for eating disorders in this book.

52. One Hundred Years of Solitude, Gabriel Garcia Marquez.

This book I definitely need a re-read, but I liked it! Marquez pretty much leads the magical realism "genre", and I love books with that sort of trope. I see now why Isabel Allende gets compared to him, not only for being a South American writer -- the story of a family through several generations through an entire book. I still think The House of the Spirits is better, but I respect this one.

Right now I am reading the 4th book in the Parasol Protectorate Series, Heartless. This book is by Gail Carriger.

This meme is based on books read so far this year.

favourite book: Hunting Eichmann, Neal Bascomb.
This was un-putdownable -- gripping and intriguing even though we knew the outcome.

most powerful book: Shake Hands with the Devil, Romeo Dallaire.
Oh god, where to begin. This is Dallaire's memoir of the Rwanda genocide in 1994. Simply stunning.

brilliantly funny Esperanza's Box of Saints, Maria Amparo Escandon.
This seemed like a particularly predictable prose, but Esperanza's journey is comedic without being pratfallish and is consistently entertaining.

best ache-y, heart-breaking, tear-jerker read: We'll go with fiction only in this one: Jellicoe Road, Melina Marchetta.
If you haven't read this, you need to do so.

most beautiful story Ash, Malinda Lo.
The love story in this book is simply spellbinding.

delicious rainy day comfort read Better Part of Darkness, Kelly Gay.
This urban fantasy is a quick, fun, entertaining read. Charlie's awesome.

adrenalin-fuelled, unputdownable award: I wasn't going to duplicate, but Hunting Eichmann defintely fits here. I kept putting it down and picking it back up over and over.

the beautiful prose award: The Thirteenth Tale, Diane Setterfield.
Oh my gosh, this was deceptively simple and yet well-written.

most atmospheric and vivid setting: A Northern Light, Jennifer Donnelly.
Turn of the century rural New York town. She does my land justice :)

i-so-want-to-go-there award: Neverwhere, Neil Gaiman.
I don't even really like Gaiman all that much and I loved Neverwhere.

most original and imaginative: Body of Work, Christine Montross.
Montross writes of her time in medical school -- the hours spent with her cadaver Eve, and contemplating all that is implied with a cadaver.

best under-appreciated, hidden gem book A Little Bit Wicked, Kristin Chenoweth.
A cute book, a lot of chuckles, and a bit of sweetness and light. Just like I imagine Ms Chenoweth to be like.

i-had-no-idea-i-would-love this-so award: Captive Queen, Alison Weir.
Weir's fiction has always been problematic to me, but her latest effort blew me away. She did well!

most haunting story: Jellicoe Road, Melina Marchetta.
Read it!

outside my comfort zone but gosh how i loved it: Blue Nude, Elizabeth Rosner.
I didn't think I would find the story of an Israeli model and a German painter interesting -- I usually don't like "arty" books. But this was a page-turner.

series that i'm loving: Charlie Madigan series (Kelly Gay). there are only 2 books so far, and I liked both of them a lot. Urban fantasy set in Atlanta, with a single mom cop character.

most memorable voice award Tipping the Velvet, Sarah Waters.
Nan has stuck with me even now, months after I finished the book.

completely awesome premise award: The Chess Machine, Robert Lohr.
A midget, a chess-playing machine (shaped like a Turk), murder, mayhem, and 18th century politics.

would make the best movie Definitely the Charlie Madigan series.

want to re-read already: One Hundred Years of Solitude, Gabriel Garcia Marquez.
I just finished it, but I definitely want to re-read this. I think it's one of those books that requires re-reads.