Thursday, February 16, 2012

Who knew They were Bibliophiles?

In the "I am amazed" category, here is a tidbit from the wonderful Shelf Awareness about celebrities who buy antique books or out of print books for their collections. I would expect something like that from the very bright and delightful Whoopi Goldberg, but Johnny Depp and Sarah Michelle Geller, aka Buffy the Vampire Slayer?

"Johnny Depp collects first-edition works
by Jack Kerouac, Arthur Rimbaud, Dylan Thomas and Edgar Allan Poe," the
Hollywood Reporter noted in its preview of last weekend's California
International Antiquarian Book Fair at the
Pasadena Convention Center, which drew 200 booksellers.

Among other celebrities "afflicted with bibliomania" are Whoopi
Goldberg, Kelsey Grammer, Sony chief Howard Stringer, director Charles
Shyer and Sarah Michelle Gellar, all of whom "can find themselves
committing serious cash for the hard-to-find, out-of-print books," THR

"I'm about to have a meeting with a gentleman who's nominated for an
Oscar this year," said Mark Hime, owner of the appointment-only Beverly
Hills shop Biblioctopus "He's going to buy a book for $125,000. The last one I sold him was $200,000."

I find myself in total agreement with Anne:

from the blog of author Diane Chamberlain,
who invited historical novelist Anne Clinard Barnhill to share some
thoughts about her recent book tour in North Carolina for At the Mercy
of the Queen.

"I love bookstores," said Anne. "Always have, always will. There is
nothing more exciting than wandering in, gazing at the colorful books
arrayed in the front window and on the tables, looking at posters or
photographs of my favorite writers adorning the walls. When my children
were young, they became adept at luring me into a bookstore because they
knew I could not refuse to buy them a book. Toys, I could turn down;
candy, a definite NO. But a book--I've always been a sucker for a book.

"Over the past few weeks, I've had the privilege of visiting several
bookstores across North Carolina. I love the different personalities
I've discovered in each one--I even love the sameness of the big chains
like Barnes & Nobles. But I confess, it is the indie bookstores that
really captivate me."

As an Unshelved fan of the past several years, I'd like to wish the authors of this wonderfully funny comic strip a Happy 10th Anniversary!

Congratulations to Gene and Bill at Unshelved, which celebrates its 10th anniversary today!
We're not sure how to do it, but we hope to catch up to you guys
sometime. Thanks for a decade of library laughs, which all started with
the strip above.

I've just finished the first of my lovely stack of Valentines Day books, which were a gift from my husband with full knowledge that I prefer books to flowers and candy or jewelry.
"The Flight of Gemma Hardy" by Margot Livesy is a "modern" (ie 1960s) retelling of Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte. And while often retelling or "rebooting" a story, as they say in films, is a disaster in which little of the charm of the original tale survives, that is not the case, thankfully, with Gemma Hardy.
The story begins with Gemma living in Scotland with her aunt and two evil female cousins, who, though she's only a child when her uncle dies, treat her like a slave, but with less regard or kindness. As soon as Gemma is 10, her Aunt sends her to boarding school, where, since she has no money, she's expected to be a "working student" which translates to more slave-like treatment and more abuse at the hands of the other working girls and the staff. Though she does make one good friend while there, the friend dies of asthma and Gemma is left out in the world once again, alone and without help, until she finds a position as an "au pair," the modern equivalent of an English governess, to a wild little girl whom all the adults seem to indulge instead of trying to make her behave and learn. Her uncle, the mysterious Mr Sinclair, has taken her in and her aunt Victoria, her mother's sister, also cares for her. Gemma, having learned rebellion early for survival reasons, soon has Nella, the wild child, learning, bathing and behaving herself. Yet when she meets a young man in town and others nearer her age, she plays cards and gets along with them, but is shy of any sort of romantic entanglements, for some reason we are never told. Still, when she meets Mr Sinclair, who is more than twice her age, she seems gradually smitten with him, though there isn't any real reason she should be, other than trying to find a father figure who will provide her with security, since her parents are both dead and buried in Iceland, where her father is from (her mother is Scottish). It turns out that Alison, Mr Sinclair's sister and mother of Nella, was crazy, and that Hugh Sinclair sold his name to Alisons lover, a huge farmer and thug who took Sinclairs turn as a "Bevin Boy" in the mines during the war because Sinclair had a horror of small spaces due to some children's abuse when he was a young man. All of this doesn't come to light until he tries to marry Gemma, of course, and then the farmer thug breaks things up and Gemma flees, thinking that she can never be with a man who lied and cheated in a cowardly fashion during WWII.
After nearly perishing when her purse is stolen and she has no money, Gemma is rescued by two Scottish lesbians and their brother Archie, the postman. Archie, it turns out, was a classical scholar and teacher and he and Gemma begin a relationship based on a mutual love of books and birds and an interest in Iceland. Unfortunately, though we are never told for certain, it appears that Archie may also be gay, yet he wants to marry Gemma and honeymoon in Iceland. When Gemma tries to get Archie to even kiss her (and he's also almost twice her age) he runs away, fully embarrassed and appalled. So Gemma steals money from her employer, (a woman named Marian who has a small son Gemma cares for) and flies to Iceland to see once and for all if she has any living relatives, so she can establish where she came from. In Iceland, she meets an Aunt (who is blind) and a cousin, sees photos of her mother and father and herself as a baby, and reasserts to herself that she's not alone in the world.
One the plane home, Mr Sinclair sits beside her and tries to persuade her that he still loves her, while she has come to the realization that she still loves him, too. The two toast with champagne, kiss, and that's the end.
I was hoping we'd find out what really happened to Archie, and whether or not he is gay and just can't bear the thought of being alone, and what his gay sisters think about what Gemma did by just leaving them a note. But, despite that, the prose of this novel was finely wrought, the plot paced well and straight as an arrow, though it was borrowed from Bronte, and the characters keep the reader hooked and wanting to learn more throughout the chapters. I would recommend this to all Jane Austen and Charlotte Bronte fans, as well as to those who enjoy a good 'reboot'. A solid B+

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