Thursday, November 1, 2007

Browsing Glendale: "The Reading Room"

I rarely get to spend an hour in a book or record store. Remodelling drove me out. I fled yesterday and today to Rockaway Records on Glendale Blvd. dredging up CDs-- at least the ones I could sample. And due credit to the clerk in charge, Amy. Although she didn't let the other clerk let me open the shrinkwrapped promo, at least when I bought the three CDs today which I'd found last evening, she was more gracious than the other two long-timers. Both had been rude to me in the past and caused me to rank the customer service at the level of the (late, note) Aron's. This year's a record low for buying-- the costs of home improvement have added to my thrift. Abetted by a dearth of incentives. Added to Great Lake Swimmers, Shalini (still wrapped so she better be good), and The Minus 5: akin to The Grateful Dead without Ritalin, Quasi's "Hot Sh*t." Bluesy perhaps in the fashion of Hot Tuna. Any rock fan even me who never listens to that sub-genre of head-jam-white boy now gray haired (I should talk) blooz knows how the duo had picked Quasi's non-asterisked title as their original name post-Airplane.

Perhaps out of a cruel test of Layne's tastes, but given her unfortunate taking to heart of The Hold Steady, this may float her sonic boat along with The Minus 5. To be fair to her, I found the band's site and the song about the Chill Tent at the concert did tell a memorable story well. I introduced her to as a reference.

Not sure about GLS-- probably too somnolent for her? One of my first memories, musically, was L. reacting to my recent purchase of Neil Young's "Legacy." I had bought the triple vinyl used, more for the Buffalo Springfield-era than "Cinnamon Girl," "Cowgirl in the Sand," or, hey hey my my, his worst ditty ever, "A Man Needs a Maid." Dour Canadians. Nearer south, at least from Portland, I have a couple of Quasi's late-90s records. I liked Sam Coombe's old band Heatmiser, if not ex-wife Janet Weiss' Sleater-Kinney. The couple joins the ranks of White Stripes as rockin' lovers post-split, alongside Sonny & Cher? Ornate keyboards and drums with studio trickery ambles with equal mimicry and minstrelsy. How the post-punk Mic City duo take to the Souls of Black Folk may cause my wife to puzzle over my carefully chosen-- well, it was only $3-- CDs. She has taken to leaving them, however, in disarray all over the car's floor; my Yo La Tengo discs look dangerously scuffed and fingered amidst the cans of diet soda and tinned mints.

Over the Victory (1918) Bridge and the sun-facing Hyperion to Glendale, I arrived at Pacific Park branch. One of those stacks split half-kids, half-adults. But some architect smartly built it in a V-shape, so the grown-ups did not face the tots. Recalling an April 9, 2007, Bruce McCall New Yorker cartoon "The Reading Room." It's of a library with no books except those a bum shuffled through marked at a dollar in a cardboard box, in front of the gleaming racks of CDs, DVDs, video displays, and endless terminals of computers and pop cult detritus. An old lady gets ejected for trying to patronize the facility in the old-fashioned way; one shelf section's B-as-in-Britney. I too roam among pop music books, but rarely find decent titles. Like sports and film, these tend to be dog-eared; often titles exist in the catalog only as "lost" or "missing" entries.

This blog does not reproduce the cartoon; nobody does on the Net. But at least it mentions it and "Niamh" (that lovely name again) provides a Sony e-book context:
See also Library Journal:

So, imagine my surprise to find in this Armenian neighborhood both Don Snowden and Brendan Mullen's (thin) chronicles of LA punk, and Steven Stark's "Meet the Beatles," a cultural history of the band. Others on the Dead, Stones, Kurt, and Jimi. I took only "Meet," judging my time did not need to be spent even on the bus with the oral recollections of Tomata du Plenty, Su Tissue, Alice Bag, or Geza X. The Stones hold no allure for me; "My True-Life Adventures" with the band as penned by some grad student turned journalist was enough, although Shawn Levy's "Ready Steady Go" intrigued with the allure of "Performance"-vintage Mick dancing with Mr D but always stepping back in time as the abyss claimed less agile mates. As for the Dead, again socially they interest me, but not musically. The road goes on forever, as does the solo.

Not even a Fab fan per se, although I gave a closely detailed Amazon US review to Bob Spitz' book that I read over the winter break last year and am on the waiting list for Jonathan Gould's recent "Can't Buy Me Love." However, I am fascinated by the band's impact on changes in the 1960s. Hearing them by osmosis growing up, I never listen to them except when randomized on my iPod, and I have taken great pleasure in never having to hear again at least under my power, "Yesterday" or "Michelle." Not to mention dozens of other Beatles tunes. I admit, nevertheless, astonishment at their mastering and production-- their songs, digitized and scrubbed with who knows what budget, sparkle like no others. I only wish the early Who, late-decade Kinks, Yardbirds, or classic Fairport & Steeleye shone so brightly. Yet, homage must be due the band that started it-- or them-- all.

The other choice, the book that sent me there for the first time, was Georges Bataille's novella, "The Tears of Eros." Erotic intellectualism in fascist France. Typical choice of mine. Another odd selection for this 2000-era New Federalist-meets-Mayan edifice, adjoining a school and rec center, amidst fading tract houses and rinky-dink apartments from the 50s. Then, nearly a nice walk but not for me-- I drove past the enormous post-Grove monstrosity the high-end retail and entertainment (with a hotel, I guess for all the visitors from Yerevan) Commons that the city's voters foolishly, if narrowly, approved. What this'll do to the traffic can only be feared; perhaps the sales taxes will generate more obscure titles for the shelves. I do fret about how this'll affect the main library's parking in its tiny lot nearby.

That main branch (Brutalist pre-fab slab early 1980s vs. graceful Olde Pasadena's 1920-era counterpart)had my copy on hold of producer Joe Boyd's memoir, "White Bicycles." Serpent's Tail was too cheap to provide with a copy for me to review despite the editor's appeal and the fact that the editor's on-line store at carries many Boyd-related British folk albums. Speaking of Fairport.

I also found Michel Faber's new story collection, and figured, finding Michael Patrick McDonald's sequel "Easter Rising" to his Southie coming-of-age narrative "All Souls" (and this being All Saints Day with All Souls tomorrow; Stocaí Dearga abu!), to find-- under "MacDonald family" on the shelf, the earlier book to read in tandem. Finally, a trip back on the way from Brand Bookshop reminded me to dash in for Raymond Carver's "Where I'm Calling From" stories. (I got home to see it looking on me on L's shelf. I knew she had it, but due to the construction that drove me out of the house, I figured it was AWOL.) I figured Faber'll pale by comparison, the latter's fine novels "Under the Skin" and "The Crimson Petal & the White" (talk about two utterly different tales) notwithstanding.

I knew that, despite no WorldCat library data outside of the industrial wasteland pastorally known as Santa Fe Springs listing it locally, that there had to be a copy of Bataille's "Erotism." After my experience in the stacks of Claremont over two decades ago, when I must've read him after a mention in either my myth-crit or Modernism seminar, I looked forward to another bout with the Gallic gnomon. Borders loomed nearby, but I resisted The Man.

An hour in the ordered and always engrossing stacks of Brand Bookshop came up empty. Still, I could not leave. I went, one more time, back to the Philosophy shelf. Sexuality, Mythology, Anthropology, Cultural Criticism, Religious Philosophy, Christianity, Counterculture, Mysticism, Catholicism, saints, and French literature all: no luck. Yet, my sixth sense persisted.

When I went back to the shelf I'd earlier scanned, desperate, there the City Lights reprint nestled, high up near the abecedarian start, near Bacon. Pencilled $7.50 over an earlier, other store's 5.50-- its reader may've sold it back in frustration at the author's arabesque style. Unmarked, spine strong, in better shape than the 8.50 copy at The Bodhi Tree. Better than the one "pages stained" and "acceptable" for 5.35 plus $4 s/h on Amazon that was the cheapest I could find. And, I swear, it was not there earlier. The stock date: 10/07. Fresh! Had it had appeared in the hour I had spent there today? I went home happy, with plenty to read at bedtime and on the train and bus. Reviews here will follow duly. Not yet Bataille, as he takes concentration, but the likes of John, Paul, George and Ringo, if not Georges, will do nicely.

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