Did You Know?

Did you know that a well-known novel, made into a popular movie starring Tom Hanks, was written in Old Town Alexandria less than a mile from our shop? We didn’t either, until recently. The novel? Forrest Gump by Winston Groom.

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Our in-store Literary Trivia Questions sometimes challenge our customers to dredge up useless knowledge they acquired as English majors (e. g., how many titles of Shakespeare plays contain place names?*) Other times more general word-playing skills are required. For example, earlier this year we required contestants to unravel book titles that were given in the form of anagrams. The titles are given below: How will you do?

Eth Sherbort Markavorza
Thiwe Ganf
Trage Pistoxteacen

Ruiscou Regego
Thetil Noemw
Het Stoorciernc
Admame Rovyab

Answers are available upon request.

*Seven. (The Final Jeopardy question to this year’s Jeopardy Tournament of Champions was similar: it asked which of the five cities mentioned in Shakespeare titles was not in Europe. None of the contestants provided the right answer, which we knew from our Literary Trivia Contest experience.)

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Orange You Glad? (aka We’re Back!)

After a hiatus that lasted way too long, we’re back!

In recent months we’re been experimenting with color-themed window displays at Book Bank, starting with “I can’t remember the title of the book, but I know it was blue!” Then we tried “Have you red these titles?” and “Recycling books is green!” Currently our window features books with orange covers under the theme “Orange you glad you found a bookstore?”

Unfortunately this approach to decoration probably puts us out of the running in the local competition for Best Holiday Decoration. Orange, it seems, no longer puts folks in mind of Christmas.  But in 19th century England it was quite a treat to receive an orange in your Christmas stocking (imported from Portugal or Spain, we think.) So call us old-fashioned.

The owner of Book Bank has ruled out “We’re dreaming of a white Christmas” as our next color-themed display. And no, we’re not going with “50 Shades of Gray”. Maybe we’ll do “We’re tickled pink to see you!” if we can find enough books with pink covers. That sounds hard, but we were surprised at how many orange books we found once we started looking.

Suggestions are welcome.


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Books in Bed

Former Librarian of Congress Daniel J. Boorstin once wrote, “A wonderful thing about a book, in contrast to a computer, is that you can take it to bed with you.” As we like to say, “Readers do it everywhere!”

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On Nero Wolfe and Others

On Nero Wolfe and Others

We are celebrating our 12th anniversary in business, as mentioned in the previous entry, and thus are entering Year 13. Cross your fingers.

When our Former Owner stepped away from active management of the bookstore, he wondered what to do with the extra free time. He doesn’t fish; he doesn’t golf; he doesn’t gamble. Why, he barely breathes! But he does read.

So one project he chose was to reread, in the order of publication, all of the Nero Wolfe mysteries by Rex Stout. As originally published in book form, this consists of 45 separate volumes. The task is almost over: one and one-half books to go.

Mysteries seem to lend themselves to extended series. Other long-running series that we have read in full are the Travis McGee series by John D. MacDonald (20 titles) and the Brother Cadfael series by Ellis Peters (21 titles).

Some authors are still at it. We read the first half of so of the Kinsey Millhone series by Sue Grafton (22 titles with W is for Wasted due out on September 10.) We’ve also read a few from the Stephanie Plum series by Janet Evanovich (19 numbered titles with Takedown 20 due out on November 19, 2013, plus four so-called “Between the Numbers” titles such as Visions of Sugar Plums).

Of course, there are longer-running series written for children (e.g., Nancy
Drew), but our impression is that most of them are written by multiple authors using a “house” name or continuing under the name of the original author. We’ve guessing the same is true of long-running Western or men’s adventure series such as the Trailsman or Executioner series. It’s a different matter when a single author has devoted much of his career to a single character.

What other single-author long-running series (20 or more titles) with one main character can you think of? Have you read all of the titles in the series? We’d like to know

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Grumpy Old Man?

The Former Owner of Book Bank Used books wonders if he has become a Grumpy Old Man.

He has considered some folks of a certain age as being prone to certain characteristic activities in lieu of having a useful life: activities such as continual muttering of the phrases “in my day” and “good old days”, constant and continual complaints about trivial lapses in services or products, pointless prolonged testimony at myriad city government meetings, shouting at the neighborhood kids playing in front of his house, and so on. Oh yes, also writing Letters to the Editor. Which brings us to the book-related part of this blog entry,

Recently the Former Owner’s attention was captured by two items concerning bookselling in consecutive issues of the free weekly Alexandria Gazette-Packet newspaper. The Former Owner is a faithful reader of that newspaper because (1) it’s free, and (2) he enjoys looking at pictures in the real estate ads of houses he cannot afford. Indeed, the principal content of the Gazette Packet appears to be such ads and pictures. The newspaper does have news articles on local matters, however, and columns, and Letters to the Editor.

It was a Letter to the Editor, and an apparently unrelated item in the subsequent issue, that sparked the Former Editor to write his first-ever Letter to the Editor. To-wit:

“To the Editor:

“I would like to comment on a letter in the May 9 issue (“A City’s Priorities” from [John Doe]). I agree strongly with Mr. [Doe]’s point that funding Alexandria’s libraries needs to receive high priority in Alexandria’s budgets, but I take issue with his statement that “Alexandria is a community where no bookseller can survive.” Book Bank Used Books, which I opened in May 2001, continues to thrive at 1510 King Street. I invite Mr. [Doe] and all Alexandria booklovers to join us at our 12th anniversary sale beginning on May 18.

“Book Bank is not the only surviving bookstore in Alexandria. Across the street from Book Bank our friends at Hooray for Books sell new books, primarily for children. I also note Pauline Books and Media on King Street, and our fellow used booksellers at Already Read Used Books on Duke Street just outside Old Town.

“Old Town has lost the independent bookseller Olsson’s but that was not peculiar to Alexandria; all Olsson’s locations closed throughout the metropolitan area. For those who miss the former Books-a-Million location in Old Town, Alexandria still has a chain bookseller in the Barnes & Noble in Potomac Yard.

“Thriving libraries and bookstores are both vital to Alexandria, and I hope that the city continues to have both.

[Former Owner of Book Bank]”

So, was othering to send this letter a sign of impending Grumpy Old Manhood? Or a necessary reaction on behalf of all embattled book-lovers everywhere? Something in-between? What do you think?

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Currently reading…

“I enjoy books. No room is fit for occupation without a lining of books. They contain the condensed experience of humanity. To live fully, one has to read widely. I do not intend tp face a man-eating lion in the African veldt, fall from an aircraft into the Arabian Sea, soar through outer space or march with the legions of Rome against Gaul or Carthage, yet books can take me to these places, to these predicaments. In a book, Salome can seduce me, I can fall in love with Marie Duplessis, have my own Lady of the Camellias, a private Monroe or Cleopatra. In a book I can rob a bank, spy on the enemy, kill a man.’

Quoted from “A Very Private Gentleman” by Martin Booth (later republished under the title “The American” as a tie-in with the 2010 George Clooney movie of that title.) Our current read.

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