Sunday, 11 November 2007

If I could Save Five Things......

At the Hallowe'en party at Patricia and Victor's on Oct 27, all the dinner guests were asked a question: what would you save if a fire was approaching your house, and you had two hours to pack your car and could take five things? Spouses and children were automatically understood to be included. I came up with:
1 - my Goddess statue (and other items on my altar)
2 - my cat Bandit
3 - my tarot cards
4 - my photo albums (most are still in a box since coming from England 6 years ago)
5 - fill a box with books

Afterwards, I was very surprised that I didn't say my writing, or my computer, or my jewellry, but on the whole, the items are picked are irreplaceable. And books, well, I've learned that whatever I give away or lend, unless I hated the book, I usually end up wanting it again sometime later. Almost everything else in the house can be replaced, except for my collection of teapots, of which one is very old and already survived coming from England. But again, while I love them, I can live without them. I can't live without the things on my list. So there you have it, Patricia said it was a quick way to get to know someone - now what would you save, Gentle Reader? And does your answer surprise you?
Oh, and I never said how BIG the box was I was going to fill!!!! VERY large!!!
i finished Have Mercy on Us All last week by Fred Vargas, and I very much enjoyed it. I like the characters, I like how the detective is set up - Detective Commissaire Adamsberg is intuitive, which annoys his immediate underling Danglard who is often frustrated by this kind of thinking, but has been with his boss long enough to give him space (if he can), trusting by now his boss's gaps in thinking that produce miracle connections - but Adamsberg can't remember names and faces of his new staff, 25 officers, so he has a memory book! The crimes are chilling, and the mystery is a mystery - not easily solved - all in all, very entertaining and a good read.
I am currently reading James Lee Burke's Cadillac Jukebox, which was one of the three books Burke names as his favourites with Dave Robicheaux. I had read quite a few of the early books in the series, and then stopped reading him in the last decade. I thought I'd try this one, and I'm finding it slow going. I can't figure out why - I like the character, I love the southern setting, I think i find the evil people - and there are truly evil people in this book - too nasty - there are good people to balance them out, but I think I am annoyed that Robicheaux is taking on a case that isn't a case, for a man who may not have done a crime but no one wants solved by him. I will stick with it for another 100 pages or so, as I still hate to give up on a book, so we'll see. I hope it improves as I just picked up one of his latest, Pegases Descending, for Christmas.....
For my American readers, in the book business up here there has been quite a controversy since our dollar is worth more than your dollar (temporary, I'm sure!). We still pay the Canadian price, which is more than the American price, even though we should be paying what you pay! Now I've worked in bookstores in the past, and I know our price difference is not just because of the dollar - in fact, that has little to do with it. It has much more to do with shipping costs, publishing costs, market size, etc. One of my favourite independent bookstores, Collected Works, is offering books at par with US prices. I am proud to say that I continue to pay the Canadian price. The owner still has to make up the difference on his bills, and I'd rather support my independent book seller any day, than get a book cheaper(unless our Canadian dollar stays high and the publisher's prices become equal......hmmm, I can dream!) For all their size, our Chapters and Indigo stores do not carry the amount of midlist and backlist stock that they should. If you want book 2 in a series, or often book 1, you still have to order it! I go in to scout what books are new (because they can carry a bigger quantity of new releases), and then go to Collected Works and order the books if they don't have them in. Normally they do, and for a small store, Collected Works packs more than enough selection and variety that they often carry books Chapters doesn't! I love the idea of having a bookstore be the size of a library - but if Borders (US and UK) and Chapters can't carry a multitude of titles to match their space size, then it's not likely to happen soon. Which is a shame, and I've always thought that Chapters/Indigo (now owned by Heather Reisman so same company really) missed the chance to be one of the most amazing book companies in the world. But, that lets Collected Works exist, and Prime Crime, and Folio's in England, and all the independent bookstores that you and I treasure, Gentle Reader. Anyway, this was meant to be about the dollar difference and how it is affecting books in Ottawa (and most likely the rest of Canada), and supporting my local bookstore! My friend Patricia (same one who gave the very fun Hallowe'en party mentioned above) works at Coles, which is part of the same chain as Chapters- owned by Heather Reisman - and she has been regalling us with horror stories the past month, of customers coming in and throwing books at her and the other staff because they can't get it for the US amount. It's been really awful, and it's not Patricia's or any other bookstores' staff's fault. Chapters and Coles have begun offering bigger discounts - 30% off the top twenty bestseller list, etc - which takes the price below the American price -but that is not on all the books in the store, though. I suppose the key thing is the range of mark-ups in books is very low - the price is on the book when it's sent by the publisher, so it's not like in other retail stores where the price is inflated for a profit (clothing retail stores are among the worst for this) far beyond what it takes to produce the clothing. Head office can set the price to whatever they like. In books, the price is right there; there is some margin for profit or there would be no bookstores! But the profitability has never been great enough to make a fortune at it. Almost everyone who works in books does it out of love. And though I no longer work in books (the aforementioned low wages!), I can certainly support my local bookstore by buying there and paying the Canadian price!
Ok, my LSS is waiting to start watching Frost on TV......someday I have to read the books I have, that the series are based on.......RD Wingfield is the author.....but now it's relaxing time on this Sunday evening. It's Remembrance Day, and as Patricia said to me earlier today, let's pray for peace today, even as we remember and honour the heroes and the wars and the dead. As always, come home, our soldiers, safe and sound.

No comments: