Book H(e)avens

Last week I made a pilgrimage to The Book Barn in Niantic, CT.

bbhobithole              bbcat

The Book Barn is magical. The main site is comprised of several barns and sheds packed with hundreds and hundreds of used books. It is a book browser’s paradise. It’s such a wonderful indulgence: I can be outside in the sun, in their lovely gardens, and still be surrounded by books.

bookbarnenter        bookbarn

None of the new arrivals are in alphabetical order, which I kind of love. It makes the browsing more interesting. The genre sheds are in alphabetical order, so if you’re looking for a specific book you can find it. (The fiction shed, incidentally, smells amazing. My mom found my saying this totally weird. But it smells like books and old wood, and it just speaks to my soul. Breathe deep, fellow book lovers.) I went without a plan, solely for the purpose of browsing. It’s a perfect way to spend a few hours.


And I was really good; I only bought four books. I had to remind myself that I didn’t need to buy everything right away. There will always be books. Especially used books. I love used books. I particularly love finding an inscribed used book (no luck this trip). Every novel contains a story, but every novel is also its own story. It’s lived in someone else’s home or dormroom. It’s been held by other hands, maybe even stained by other tears.

I love book people. While I was in the fiction section, I overheard a guy talking to his girlfriend about Faulkner. He told her to read Light in August because ‘it’s easy.’ And she said, ‘It’s easy, or it’s easy for Faulkner?’ I interrupted saying, ‘I love everything about this conversation.’ When he said something about ‘Absalom’ and how he couldn’t seem to find a clean copy he liked, I said, ‘Are you looking for a copy of Absalom! Absalom!? I found a copy out front with the new arrivals; I can show you.’ He looked a me and said, ‘Oh! Do you work here?’ ‘No, I just saw it and it caught my eye.’

This is partly because I love Faulkner. But this is also because I have spent years of my life as a librarian and bookseller. Even on my days off, I’m helping people find the books they need. Once a bookseller, always a bookseller.

I spent my bookselling year as an employee at the wonderful Newtonville Books. Literary Hub recently featured an interview with the owner. I love Newtonville Books. It’s so much more than a bookstore, it’s really a community of book people: booksellers, readers, book buyers, authors, editors, reviewers, general book enthusiasts. It was difficult to leave. Being a bookseller or librarian comes with its frustrations (namely, people), but it is also somewhat of a luxury to spend my days among books.


This spring/summer I hope to cross a few more off my bookstore bucket list. I welcome any and all suggestions!


For Mother’s Day

We are all unique and beautiful and should love our bodies and ourselves.


Now that that’s out of the way, really with this ‘dad bod‘ nonsense? Finally fellas, after years of the stifling social pressures from the media, and continual self-hatred for not having flawless skin or being able to fit into a size 2 or having a ‘thigh gap,’ you can rest assured that women love the ‘dad bod.‘ And how does one achieve the new standard of male perfection? It comes from a few years of picking up your babies and playing with your kids in the backyard (or, for the younger, childless ‘dad bod,’ occasionally going to the gym), while still having as much pizza and beer as you want. You go, ‘dad bods.’

Fine, yes the ‘dad bod’ praise is a positive thing. Realistic standards of beauty. I fully support this. But for Mother’s Day, let’s talk about the rather-not-talked-about #mombod.

‘Mom bods?’ Gross. You got all stretched out from carrying a living being inside your own body for nine months (give or take). Then countless magazines and fitness regimes told you to ‘Get your body back!’ as quickly (and as out-of-sight) as possible. But you’ve probably still got stretch marks, or cesarian scars, or saggy boobs from feeding another living thing with your own body for months (if not years). You’ve put your looks at the bottom of your to-do list, under loving and supporting your family, doing your jobs (both inside and outside the home), juggling everyone’s schedules, and being expected to hold your shit together. And in the midst of all of this, you’re bombarded with people telling you how you do or should look. ‘You really lost the baby weight!’ Does it actually feel good to hear that? Or, ‘You should get more sleep.’ That’s got to be helpful.*

And for the non-childbearing or childless ‘mom bod’ variety, we’ve achieved our physiques by: not being 17 anymore, discovering the joys of wine and cheese, and knowing we should probably get to the gym but resigning ourselves to the fact that there are so many other things we have to do or would rather be doing. But this is not necessarily a thing to celebrate, I think it’s what is most commonly referred to as ‘adulthood.’

Women can do what they can to celebrate their bodies and their scars, but the ‘mom bod,’ the ‘nice balance between childbearing hips and community zumba’ will not become the new feminine ideal, not in this country. The ‘mom bod’ is only lauded when it has ‘bounced back’ to its former glory. Is this backlash from us claiming we can have it all? Society has said, ‘Fine, you want it all: here it is! And all the shitty, unrealistic expectations that we’re going to load onto it!’

There is already plenty being said about ‘dad bods’ vs. ‘mom bods.‘ But for Mother’s Day, let’s toast the ‘mom bod.’ Because, truly, is there anything more amazing than the female body?(I, for one, am convinced that Freud got it all wrong, and it’s breast envy, not penis envy, by the way.) Women can CARRY LIFE inside their bodies (if they so choose). And then FEED that life. WITH THEIR BODIES (yet another Pete Holmes reference for you). I want to toast the ‘mom bods’ we inhabit, that carry us through this world, childless, child-bearing, or otherwise.

So here’s to you, ‘mom bods!’

wine toast

And an extra shout out to my own mother who carried me in her womb for nearly an extra month, because I am just that stubborn and indecisive.

*Disclaimer: I am not a mother nor do I claim to be an authority on motherhood or the pressures that come with it. I am only an empathetic, observant female with opinions.

The Heart is a Lonely Hunter

I don’t know about you, but my heart is certainly a lonely hunter. I’ve been feeling that more acutely, recently, and I think I stumbled upon this book at a very fitting time.


Can we just take a second to laud the title The Heart is a Lonely Hunter as quite possibly the best title of a book, ever. (Side note: I don’t I think I like any of the cover art I found for this novel.) I don’t know how I’ve gone nearly 28 years on this planet without reading it. My education, nay, my country has failed me! But, then, if I had read this book ten years ago, I probably wouldn’t have appreciated it the way I do now. Or maybe that’s underestimating my younger self. Either way, why aren’t people constantly talking about how wonderful this book is?

Firstly, I’m not sure how a 23-year-old could be so accurately emotionally insightful. Haven’t we all been Mick Kelly? Dressing up for a party, thinking, ‘This time things are going to different,’ and, ‘Aren’t we all such grown ups?’ only to have that image devolve into a game of tag? Discovering something you want, someone you want to be with your whole being, and trying to become that person, by whatever meager means she has, only to be struck with the thought that “Maybe when people longed for a thing that bad the longing made them trust in anything that might give it to them.” Mick Kelly, how are you so wise?

Mick Kelly is one of my favorite coming-of-age female characters, right up there with Thea Kronborg and Scout. So many of her sentiments are perfect, and I don’t want to just plop down a list of quotes here, but she is so thoughtful, I just can’t help myself. Her reactions to music are so spot-on, for me.

“This music was her – the real plain her. [. . .] The whole world was this music and she could not listen hard enough. [. . .] Wonderful music like this was the worst hurt there could be. The whole world was this symphony, and there was not enough of her to listen.”

I have felt that feeling. And it’s a beautiful kind of hurt and longing. And McCullers got it perfectly. Isn’t that the mark of a great book? The author’s ability to put into words what you’ve felt but haven’t quite been able to express? And then suddenly, there it is. You recognize yourself in writing.

Then there’s Mick’s concept of the inside and outside rooms. Not ground-breaking, but revelatory for a pre-teen/teenager. And then when Mick has to grow up and can’t access her inside room as well as she could because being a working grown-up is exhausting? Heartbreakingly real. The reader watches Mick grow up in ways Scout didn’t have to, wishing she could have been Thea Kronborg. (In my head, they’re 11-year-old fienemies.)

I’m also in love with some of Biff’s observations about love. Except, I’m also slightly confused by them because I’m fairly confident he didn’t really love his wife, so I don’t know why he is the one to have these beautiful revelations:

“Why was it that in cases of real love the one who is left does not more often follow the beloved by suicide? Only because the living must bury the dead? Because of the measured rites that must be fulfilled after a death? Because it is as though the one who is left steps for a time upon a stage and each second swells to an unlimited amount of time and he is watched by many eyes? Because there is a function he must carry out? Or perhaps, when there is love, the widowed must stay for the resurrection of the beloved – so that the one who has gone is not really dead, but grows and is created for a second time in the soul of the living.”

And later, on the same note, thinks, “And how can the dead be truly dead when they still live in the souls of those who are left behind?” How can this not just split you open?

I love these lonely hunters. Although, I don’t love their exploitation of Singer. As soon as he showed up I worried about how these people were just going to take and take and use him up. And I wasn’t ready for his end. Heartrending. But fitting.

There is so much more going on in this book than the quotes I’ve jotted down, enough to resonate with many people in different ways. A note on reading this library book, however: The copy I got had a few passages underlined, and all I could think was, ‘You’ve completely missed it!’ But we’re all searching for something different from what we read.

Yes, The Heart is a Lonely Hunter is a sad book with an appropriately sad ending.  It’s heartbreaking in a beautifully real way. Maybe I do read too many “sad books,” but what exactly is a “happy book?” (novels, not, like, cartoon collections) And is there value in a “happy book?” If no one goes through struggle, or confronts sadness or difficulty, or changes, why would I want to read that book? But, again, we’re all searching for something different from what we read.