Friday, March 9, 2012

A Curated Selection for the Time-Traveller

Basically my job is to buy books from people when they come in to the shop to sell them. It is a fun job. Though my exciting job of mostly repetition (Steig Larsson, Jodi Picoult, Tracy Kidder, Steig Larsson, Jodi Picoult, lather, rinse, repeat) eventually yields delicious discovery! Like last Saturday, man-oh-man I'll tell you what. I've been at this job for a year now (where was my petting zoo and pizza party?!) and days like last Saturday are few and far between. Nearly everybody who came in had rad stuff, things we were looking for, things we can always use, things I've never seen before that are magical and strange. Basically, it was a good day for buyin'. But my favorite thing about days like that, as you may be able to tell from reading the blog, is finding neat patterns in the seemingly random collections people bring in.

Like this sequence of relics from the past, titles in present tense and speculative fiction of the future:

For just $5.50, you can own a piece of Massachusetts history. The North Shore of Massachusetts Bay: An Illustrated Guide and History comes with cool, out-of-date maps, awesome engravings, and is a complete reissue of an 1881 text, so even the typeface used is old-timey. Slip into this slim volume and be transported to a time when there was no CVS in downtown Salem and tooth extraction was a mere .25, add some ether or gas for $1.00!

But nowadays, you're pathologized for living in the past; nostalgia is a sickness, those times were no good, you gotta live in the NOW. Well, right NOW is all about poetry, cool illustrations and strange superheroes. Only because I love the title of this book and when co-bookseller Jamie saw it, she oohed and aahed over it, confessing it was a personal favorite. And really, good poetry is best read as a clean slate: completely in the present, without reference to past or concern for the future.

Unrelated Individuals Forming a Group Waiting to Cross by Mark Yakich is a confluence of many great things, to appreciate here and now. The jacket copy is a handy map to the contents, "If you like poems about the sea, turn to page 49," also, "And then, there's everyone's greatest joy and incense: 'Love Poems,' which you will find, like the French, everywhere and nowhere at once, but especially on p. 64 with 'A Little Morning After Poem.'"

But, if you're like me: certifiably ADD, a terminal daydreamer, and with all but a diagnosis in-hand for restless leg, mind and eye syndrome, perhaps travelling to the future might excite your emotions. And not just any future-story, but one in which a believable, empathetic underdog is the protagonist.

I submit to you, for $6.50, The Brave Little Toaster Goes to Mars. When we pack up our earthly possessions and head to Mars for some light terraforming and condo-building, this is the novel you will need in your space-rucksack, as it offers all kinds of helpful suggestions for peaceful coexistence with our appliance friends who will obviously already be living there after their uselessness on Earth compels them to found a new civilization on the Crimson Planet. Maybe they'll teach us how to grow Mars Bars. Mmmmm.

Until next time, friends! Unless I'm living on Mars! In which case: bring kittens!

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