A friend of my mom's is going on a trip to that country behind the Iron Curtain, so I am sending a handful of books along for her to give to Alexei, seeing as how he has finished the ones that I gave to him for Christmas. So a few days ago I went on a search through used bookstores to find some nice titles en espanol. Alexei is VERY particular about the novels he reads. His philosophy is if the book doesn't challenge you in some way or teach you something new, it's not worth reading. And he doesn't like any books that are obvious choices. When I told him in December that I thought he would like the books I gave him, he secretly dreaded that I might give him some Gabriel Garcia Marquez titles (so common!). Well I didn't. Last year the highlights were A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man and The Unbearable Lightness of Being.
My favorite place to find used books in Spanish is Dog Eared Books on Valencia and 20th. So it was there that I found the following books for my beloved picky reader on the island with no literary choices:
The Sorrows of Young Werther by Goethe
Madame Bovary by Flaubert
The Blue Dahlia, a screenplay by Raymond Chandler
The Real Life of Alejandro Mayta by Mario Vargas Llosa (anti-Castro writer from Peru, undoubtedly banned in Cuba!)
While I was at Dog Eared, I figured I would take a moment to peruse the stacks to see if something jumped out at me for my own collection of books. I believe I found a real gem. In the poetry section, I found a hardcover of Rimbaud's A Season in Hell with photographs by Robert Mapplethorpe for eight dollars! Rimbaud wrote this collection of poems after ending his passionate love affair with fellow poet Paul Verlaine. Some light reading for a change!
Yesterday, I walked into Cookin', the antique cookware store on Divisadero and Oak, and chit-chatted with the owner for a good 20 minutes about Paris. Apparently she visits France a few times a year to stock up on her inventory at the broderies and flea markets. She asked me if I noticed that there seemed to be a commercialization happening all over Paris, that small mom-and-pop independent stores are losing their leases and being replaced by larger chains (sound familiar?). I can't say that I had noticed this unfortunate trend while I was last in Paris (perhaps I was too enamored with the mere notion of being there again), but today I read this posting about this very issue on a very interesting blog called The Bookstore Tourism Blog. I recommend checking it out!