What to buy when you’re in a Japanese Bookstore

Literary Tourist in Tokyo:

As noted in my previous post, while there are quite a few interesting English books to be had in the Jimbocho bookstore neighbourhood of Tokyo, there are obviously a lot more in Japanese. And I was able to get lots of shots of them, and the stores that sell them, but, do you think I could convince any of the owners to pose for the camera? Fat chance. Given their reserve, the trick, I’m convinced, for next time, is to plan things far in advance, get the approval of someone in authority, and be accompanied by a wise old dealer known to all, or perhaps an official from the local booksellers association!

Still, I was received very politely; just not, as is often the case in North America, with open arms.

But, on to the stores. First off, I was amazed by the number of post-it notes,

or whatever

they are, that these merchants use to display their wares. Also surprised that there wasn’t more Manga for sale. The only really good selection I saw was at this store:

Isseido Booksellers has a decent foreign language section on the second floor with a good number of books in English, mostly archeology and history, but the Japanese books, though incomprehensible, were much

more attractive

One thing that isn’t incomprehensible is the beauty of Ukiyo-e Japanese woodblock prints. They flourished between the 17th and 19th centuries. Subjects included female Continue reading “What to buy when you’re in a Japanese Bookstore”

You can find bookstores and scorpions on the same street

Beijing’s Wangfujing Dajie is your typical high-end capitalist pedestrian shopping street filled with glittering international brand name stores; so it was with some surprise that I encountered

the government-run Beijing Foreign Languages Bookstore along side Gucci, Chanel and Under Armor. The store itself is pretty spartan: glaring fluorescent lights, warehouse-style shelving – dust all over the place. As for stock, the most prominently displayed title, in line with who owns the shop, was of course General Secretary Xi Jinping’s auto/biography

Half the main floor was taken up by English language books, and at least half of these were Penguins – red

white and black spined.

A little further along the street you’ll find a McDonald’s (it sells bubble tea!), and next to it this shopwhere, once again, Xi greets customers at the door

Upstairs, in a limited ‘imported titles’ section, you’ll find books on Steve Jobs and this titan

Across the street, if scorpion on a stick appeals to you(now imagine how appetizing these look when they’re moving) check out Snack Street. It’s crammed with Continue reading “You can find bookstores and scorpions on the same street”

Literary Tourist City Guides

Photo Credit: Chris Wood           Wonder if this streetcar is named desire?

Some years ago Poets and Writers started running a great series of articles detailing literary life in cities throughout the United States. Specifically, “they asked  those in the literary community—authors, booksellers, publishers, editors, and the like—to take us on a tour of their city of residence: to the places they go to connect with writers of the past, to the bars and cafés where today’s authors give readings, and to those sites that are most inspiring for writing.”

This of course describes very well the plight of the literary tourist. Although some of the articles date back to 2011, and thus may be slightly out of date, for the most part these pieces serve as terrific literary ‘City Guides.’ The inside scoop from those in the know.

I plan to visit San Francisco soon and so am particularly interested in reading this. Here’s a link to the whole series. 

I’ve already lined up an interview with Andrew Hoyem, typographer, letterpress printer, publisher, poet, and founder of Arion Press, for my Biblio File podcast. Also plan to talk to someone at The Book Club of California, and am working on Dave Eggers, publisher at McSweeney’s.

Judging from their tourism webside alone, San Francisco is one happening town. Should be a blast!

Wales meets Peterborough, W.W. E. Ross and Hugh Kenner

If there’s one thing you’ll find in a bookstore it’s connections…like the one made here

in Thea’s Books and Violins in Peterborough. I’m was in town to do a literary audit of the region, and what a delightful segue from my recent trip to Wales the owner provided.

Turns out his father, just like Dylan Thomas’s father, read Shakespeare to him at an early age, instilling in him a life long love of poetry. Bill gave me a copy of “A Book Lover’s Guide, Antiquarian, Rare & Out of Print Books in the Kawarthas…Peterborough, Lakefield, Cavan” and as warm a welcome to the area as anyone could wish for. Reminded me of the time I arrived in Dublin late one night. Cutting through a darkened park on the way to my hotel I encountered an old man lying on the grass. As I walked past him he raised himself up and exclaimed ‘Welcome to Dublin!’ the last thing I’d expected to hear. Set the tone for the entire trip.

Thea’s is a lovely, tight mess of a shop. Just the way I like it. Lots of interesting older titles. I found this one, Shapes & Sounds, Poems of W. W. E. Ross.

Ross was born in Peterborough in 1894 and is credited as Canada’s leading Imagist of the time, taking as his subject matter the Canadian landscape – birds and trees and such – describing them in short lines, with direct diction, movement, clear images. Interesting coincidence that one of the world’s great Ezra Pound scholars, Hugh Kenner, also hailed from Peterborough.

Theatres and bookstores abound in Peterborough, Ontario

I’ve been focusing attention on Peterborough, Ontario lately, scouring the ‘bushes’ for local literary ‘things to do and places to visit’. First point to make is that there are way more theatre companies here than you might expect, four at least. One of them, the Peterborough Theatre Guild has in fact been entertaining local audiences since 1965. The only troupe in the region to own its own building, the Guild traces its roots back to the work of Robertson Davies and his wife Brenda. According to Michael Peterman, professor emeritus at Trent University, the two were theatrical power-houses in the community during the 50s and 60s, writing, directing, and performing in many stage productions. Sometimes they even did makeup!

Another company, 4th Line Theatre, presents Canadian plays, “written by and about Canadians, from small town stories to Continue reading “Theatres and bookstores abound in Peterborough, Ontario”