Monday, February 11, 2008

Book Exchange

I've been trying to attend a book exchange book group in Seoul for several months now, but this group always seems to meet on the same Sunday at the same time of day as BOOKLEAVES. On Saturday, Shy Kenneth sent out a heads-up message on Facebook: The exchange would be in Itaewon on February 10. Kenneth's not much on talking, but he knows how to make an impact.

The sensible part of me (What? THREE trips to Seoul THREE weekends in a row?) wrestled briefly and valiantly with the bibliomanic part before she was body-slammed and carried unconscious from the ring. Aaron and I exchanged messages and figured out a meeting place in Itaewon. His girlfriend, Charlotte, would join us to provide a clear, reasonable perspective and, as it turned out, to carry books.

After lunch at The Pita Place, the three of us walked over to The Wolfhound, an Irish pub where the book exchange was taking place. Nice pub. If getting hammered is your thing, The Wolfhound is a nice place to do so. I'm so used to the unrelentingly bleak interior of Psycho, a favorite expat watering-hole in Gumi, that I'd forgotten that a pub could have ambiance. What truly won my heart over was a tall bookshelf in the corner chock-full of books. Also, food was being served all around; it looked and smelled delish. Charlotte spotted a plate of fish and chips on someone's table and pointed it out to me. Together we ganged up on Aaron and got him to agree that we'd return to The Wolfhound and have dinner there that very evening.

Anyway, back to the book exchange: Nice turnout. Several people. Nice books. There were also a few CDs and DVDs. One guy who looked a little like Anderson Cooper (shock of white hair, boyish face, nice smile) brought a good-sized suitcase full of books.

Here's what I brought to exchange:

Cash: The Autobiography - Johnny Cash [My brother and his family gave me another copy of this for Christmas. Actually, during lunch, I previewed to Aaron what I was going to swap and well, Cash never made it onto the table at The Wolfhound.]

Worth More Dead - Ann Rule

Terrorist - John Updike [I love you, John -- but I feel like I've read it all before.]

Lisey's Story - Stephen King [I love you, too, Steve -- but this wasn't one of my favorites.]

Who Put That Hair In My Toothbrush? - Jerry Spinelli [I never want to read that book, hear that title or view the cover art of a single dark hair woven into a big red toothbrush EVER AGAIN!]

The Measure Of A Man - Sidney Poitier

2 Mario Puzo novels in one hardback volume. [I don't remember the novels. Neither one was The Godfather, though.]

Here's what I found:

The Road - Cormac McCarthy. [It's true that I've had a rough time with Cormac, but The Road did win the Pulitzer, and I am determined to read every Pulitzer fiction winner. This was in the Anderson Cooper -guy's suitcase.]

You Don't Love Me Yet - Jonathan Lethem. [2007 novel by Lethem. I was glad to find it because I want to start reading and collecting Lethem, and I was attracted to the graphic art cover. Also in the A.C. -guy's suitcase.]

The Duke of Deception - Geoffrey Wolff. [I wasn't sure if I'd read this book or wanted to read this book. So, when in doubt... When I got home, I checked my reading journals and found that I'd read it sometime in 1993. I had scrawled "pretty good" next to the author and title. I guess I'll try it again.]

Three Nights In August: Strategy, Heartbreak and Joy Inside the Mind of a Manager - Buzz Bissinger. [The subtitle's a little clunky, but I was pleased to find this. We'd been encouraged to help ourselves to books on the permanent bookshelf in The Wolfhound, and when I found this book by the author of Friday Night Lights, (a book about high school football in Texas) I couldn't resist. A three-game series between my beloved St. Louis Cardinals and the Chicago Cubs is the narrative hook, but it's also a study of Tony La Russa's personality, history and formidable baseball mind. Also, it looks like there's some great insider stuff about players and coaches on both teams.]

Aaron and I had a nice chat with Marie-France, the organizer of the book exchange. Although turnout was good for this event, she said that it was dismal in December. Aaron and I explained about our BOOKLEAVES conflict. We all agreed that both groups, with their different venues are equally important and should both have the opportunity to thrive. We promised to bring it up at the February 17 BOOKLEAVES meeting. Meanwhile, Marie-France started a page for the exchange on facebook, so that should help.

I was feeling smug and Spartan for coming to Seoul, trading books, getting fewer books, and not spending money on books. At that very moment, Aaron proposed a trip to What The Book? With patient and long-suffering Charlotte amiably accompanying us, we were there in five minutes. The trip was definitely worthwhile -- Aaron found the used graphics novel section! We'd had no idea it existed -- the section is two lower shelves across from the used science fiction. If it had been a snake...good job, Aaron!

I saw biographies of Margaret Wise Brown and Jane Addams that looked interesting, but I put them back, lulling myself with the "if-it's-there-next-week..." thing. At Aaron's urging, I bought jPod by Douglas Coupland. He also found How To Be Good by my lit-crush, Nick Hornby. I started zipping through it on the train this morning. Aaron's a good guy to have in the bookstore with you. Somehow, he was able to juggle in his mind his wishlist and my current obsessions while simultaneously fine-tooth-combing the shelves for Canadian authors. He's truly a whole nother level of bookworm. Check out his blog for his account of our bookhound adventures on Sunday.

Meanwhile, I was feeling guilty about Charlotte. She's normal, you know. She reads, but a half-hour tops in the bookstore is more than OK with her, and she doesn't have that mad compulsion to own every book that looks halfway intriguing. [Note to myself: Find out Charlotte's obsession. It might be something cool and interesting, and maybe there's some books about it that I could buy for her...]

I understand Charlotte's perspective; in some ways I'm more comfortable with it, because I grew up in a family of non-readers. Although I've nearly outrun my early conditioning, there will always be a voice inside that says giving myself over to absolute bookstore pleasure is a waste of time and good money. I hinted to Aaron that maybe we were being a little insensitive to Charlotte. When that didn't work, I switched tactics and began talking about ice cream. That worked. Coldstone's Creamery just opened in Itaewon a few weeks ago, and I hadn't been there yet. Brilliant stuff: The ice cream is made fresh daily, and they add in the ingredients you want while you watch. Fascinating. Delicious.

I need to stop blogging and go read. Or watch Dexter, whichever comes first. When is Blogger going to resolve the spellcheck situation? Lately, when I put up these posts, it's the same sensation one would get from going out with untidy armpits!


raych said...

Mmmmmmmm, I am so jealous of all your books. I need to look into a book exchange over here. I hate parting with books, but I have a few used-book-store impulse buys that I regret, and could easily let go (see: Black Dahlia).
So...the Jerry Spinelli book...really that bad?

kookie said...

I'm sorry, I can't relate to Charlotte. But she seems like a lovely person.

StoneCold Creamery is amazing. Their mint is the mintiest.

If I saw a man who looked like Anderson Cooper toting around a copy of "The Road", I might just be compelled to stalk him for a while. :D

Bookfool said...

How to Be Good is *the* one Hornby book I couldn't get through. I thought the unhappy woman's complaints hit a bit too close to home, as I recall, but it's still on the shelf. I can't part with a Hornby.

Sounds like you did well at the exchange. I'm curious about the Jerry Spinelli book, too. Why the strong reaction?

Bybee said...

I was happily surprised at the newish, high-quality stuff I saw at this exchange!

Aaron recommended the mint. I got Founder's Favorite.

I hope to see the AC guy again...him and his big suitcase!

I wasn't really impressed with the ending of HTBG...seemed to sag a little there, but if a novel's gonna sag, let it be there rather than beginning or middle!

the Jerry Spinelli book was a boring story, and that title and cover art makes me want to gak!

Bibliolatrist said...

You've won my "You Make My Day" award. Congrats!

(But don't feel obligated to pass it on :)